James wants to tell us about our selfish desires and pride that reside inside of us. We'll be seeing the source, cure, and effect of our selfish desires and pride.
(vv1-2) OUR PLEASURES: James introduces our subject; the selfish fights that we face as Christians. Let's keep in mind here that James is writing to the Jewish believers or the 12 tribes scattered abroad (James 1:1). Apparently the Jewish believers were having problems with fights and quarrels and James came in to straighten things out. The first thing that we learn is that the source of our quarrels originates from the pleasures deep inside of us.
(v3) YOU DON'T RECEIVE: This is a great verse of clarity. I personally get fed up with hearing people take verses like Matthew 21: 18-22 and saying that God wants you to be happy and wants you to have the desires of your heart. Yes, He does want us to be happy but He's not going to give us whatever desire we may have inside of us. God will give us the desires of our heart if they are according to His will. If we ask with the wrong motives we won't receive because God does not want us to spend or squander it on our own wanton pleasures. If God gave me every desire of my heart I would be a mess, so thank you Lord for that.
(V4) FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD: Let's remember that we are talking in the context of selfish disputes and our evil desires that spur them on. Well ... we have to choose here, God, or the world, there's no other option. James is laying out the seriousness of our selfish flesh and the desires of the world. What does this mean, that we can't have nice things a nice house or a nice car. Not necessarily. We can't be engaged to both Christ and the world, we have to choose who we will live for and who we will yield and surrender to. If we choose the world we are enemies of God and reject Him but if we choose Christ we reject the world and no longer serve it.
(v5) GOD JEALOUSLY DESIRES US!: This verse is very hard to translate but I believe that in the context we see the meaning. God jealously desires us! He wants to be our every desire and our fulfillment. If we choose the world over Him we are refusing the best love and fulfillment that we could ever have.
(vv6-10) HUMBLE YOURSELF: So we see the strength of our selfish desires. How could we ever escape them? Good thing that you asked because we are given the antidote here in verses 6 through 10. Humble or submit yourself to God. The word submit here is a military term which means to arrange oneself under the command of. So let's get back into the marching line. When a soldier goes off to do his own thing and not the will of the commander he is stepping out of line and now is considered an enemy of that army. We as well have to get back in line and humble ourselves under the command of our Master. This is a submission of our will to His will. Also we see that we have to resist the Devil. The word resist means to set oneself against, to withstand or to oppose, and the promise is that he will flee from us.
(vv11-12) THE JUDGMENTAL ATTITUDE: In these selfish fights brought on by selfish desires. The effect is a judgmental attitude. If you speak against your brother you have gone from being a doer of the Law to a judge of it; and since there is only one Lawgiver and Judge, it's impossible for us to take His place as unrighteous judges of the law. Practically speaking, what does this say to us, I believe that it's very simple. It all comes back to the humility or our spirit. If we are not humble we will by nature want to judge those around us. Let's humble ourselves and recognize our position as servants. Let's follow the example of our LORD GOD who created the earth and came down in the humble form of a servant to wash the feet of 12 dirty men. How humbling for us. What sinners we are!
(vv13-16) EMPTY BOASTING: Once again we come to the subject of pride and boasting is just one of the many forms of pride. We are left with the example of some business men who claim that they are going to make "X" amount of dollars on their trip. We see here the pride of man. This reminds me of the false teaching I've heard time and time again saying, "You have to claim your reality! Speak what you want into existence! Make a demand upon God and He has to give it to you!" We call this the "name - it - claim teaching". Let's just say that this is not biblical in any way. You don't speak your future into existence and you definitely DO NOT make a demand upon God the Creator of the universe. Instead, we must practice what we see in verse 15. "Instead you ought to say, 'If the LORD wills, we will live and also do this or that'". Let us again remind ourselves of the humility that we must possess because if we don't, we are practicing evil as stated in verse 16.
(v17) CAN'T PLEAD NOT GUILTY: Very simple, James says that if we know the right thing to do and don't do it that it's sin. All to say that we can't say that we didn't know. In other words, we call this the sin of omission, knowing the right thing to do and not doing it. In conclusion let us put into to practice all that we have seen and learned today.