Grant, Damien and I have been reading through James in our morning prayer times and we came across this one today, something I also shared with my kids on Sunday:
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:4-6)
One of the great difficulties I find with being a Christian, trusting Jesus as my Saviour and accepting him as Boss of my life, is being left behind compared to my non-Christian peers. They generally have way more free time to pursue their passions, many of them have better paying jobs and are able to spend more of their income on nice things they want. Particularly as a poor (both in time and money) MTS apprentice, I find it easy to slip into a ‘What If?’ mindset, where I dream of all the possibilities of what I could achieve if I didn’t dedicate my time to training for ministry, if I didn’t give so much of my money away, if I didn’t spend so much time trying to serve the needs of others. However, whenever I think that way, I am being sucked into friendship with the world.
Friendship with the world isn’t about being friends with worldly people (which Christians should be) or caring for the environment (which Christians should do) but actually signing up to be a part of The World, the system around us which elevates humans and human desires to the place of God. It is the world around us that lives like God isn’t there – people living to satisfy their own desires, instead of submitting to the sovereign God that rules the universe. It is seductive because we all used to be friends with the world, and like the Israelite slaves fleeing Egypt, it can be easy to get nostalgic of how good things used to be (not that we put it so crudely).
But as James puts it, to be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God. We cannot serve two masters – we either serve ourselves or we are to wholeheartly serve the living God. God is jealous (‘the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely’) and doesn’t tolerate any competition, nor does he tolerate even the world being a close second. If we belong to God then he gets us exclusively, boots and all.
And praise be to God, for when we start to compromise and get nostalgic about the world, he gives us his abundant grace. Whenever we find ourselves living to satisfy ourselves, instead of completely living to serve God, God is willing to forgive us when we humble ourselves. God sent his Son to secure for himself a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to Him (1 Peter 2:9) and so God is never unwilling to forgive when we come to him humbly. What an excellent encouragement to bring our hearts and lives back to God whenever we stray!