journey through James (16): twenty questions on James 4:1-12

This coming Sunday morning (Nov. 6) at MoSt Church, most of our adult classes will study James 4:1-12. We’ll use this phrase to focus our mind on the meaning of this passage: learning how to grow toward God and away from Satan, selfishness, and sin. To help you get ready for this encounter with God’s word and our discussion of it, here is the text and twenty exercises and questions.

Scripture

What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes? Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives? (2) You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight. You don’t have because you don’t ask. (3) You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings.

(4) You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? (5) Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? (6) But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud, but favors the humble. (7) Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. (8) Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. (9) Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness. (10) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

(11) Brothers and sisters, don’t say evil things about each other. Whoever insults or criticizes a brother or sister insults and criticizes the Law. If you find fault with the Law, you are not a doer of the Law but a judge over it. (12) There is only one lawgiver and judge, and he is able to save and to destroy. But you who judge your neighbor, who are you? (James 4:1-12 CEB)

Exercises & questions

1. List all of the things we know that God does or will do in light of the teaching of this text.

2. List all of the sins you see directly referenced or implied in this passage that were apparently common among the Christians to whom James originally wrote.

3. List what we know about the devil from what is directly stated or implied in this passage.

4. List all of the direct commands given to Christians in this Scripture.

5. Clearly, selfishness is a huge problem among the Christians to whom James is writing. How big a problem would you say selfishness is among Christians in our country today? Explain.

6. Given the immediate context (and other passages in James such as 5:6), would you say the reference to “murder” in vs. 2 is literal or figurative? Explain.

7. “You long for something you don’t have …” (vs.2). Good thing we don’t have that problem anymore, huh? Comment on our culture’s “cravings” and how we Christians often share the same cravings.

8. Struggle and fighting among Christians is sin and comes from sin. What sort of sins does James say fueled the struggles and fights he references in vs.1-3?

9. What does vs.2-3 teach you about prayer?

10. What does vs.3 have to say about the common teaching known as the “health and wealth” or “prosperity” gospel?

11. Given what is said in vs.4, would you say it is possible for a Christian to lose their salvation?

12. Verse 5-6b is notoriously difficult text to translate. Notice the variation in rendering by comparing the passage in several different English translations.

13. What does James mean that God “gives us more grace” (vs.6)?

14. Paul says God does not play favorites (Romans 2:11) and yet, here James says God “favors the humble” (vs.6b)? How can both of these statements be true, or can they be?

15. Given the context, what would you say might happen to a person if God draws near to them (vs.8a)?

16. What does it mean to be “double-minded?” (vs.8b)

17. As surely as we’re called to “rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 4:4), we’re also called to “mourn” our sins (vs.8-10). How can a Christian do both of these things?

18. James says criticizing, disrespecting, insulting, or mistreating other Christians is akin to put yourself in the place of God (vs.10-12). What accounts elsewhere in Scripture come to your mind when you think of people (wittingly or unwittingly) putting themselves in God’s place?

19. James is using every possible means of persuasion as he urges the Christians to whom he is writing to get their act together. Try to list the various motivations James appeals to in this text. Which do you find most powerful or persuasive?

20. This much is certain from this passage: church life can sometimes resemble be hell on earth. What advice, derived from this text or elsewhere in Scripture, would you give to a new or troubled Christians who found themselves in the middle of a selfish church caught up in civil war among themselves?

near

Come near to God, and he will come near to you. (James 4:8a DSV)

Consider this. You, his child, can approach the unapproachable God.

So, just how close do you want to be to him?

You have the power to determine the Almighty’s closeness to you.

You’re the one who determines the distance.

That’s right. You.

The closer the better.

And now is the best time to begin.

Close in.

Talk with him.

Draw close to God and he will draw close to you. (James 4:8a DSV)

Father, let me walk close to you each day. Amen.