“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.” (James 4:4, NIV84)
In James’ letter to the church, he is picking up where some of the OT prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea left off. God’s people were being spiritually unfaithful.
In the OT, these “spiritual adulterers” were following the other gods of surrounding nations or dabbling with idols. Here, James says the church’s idolatry is having “friendship with the world.” That word “friendship” is the Greek word phileo, which it means “love.”
What’s interesting about this statement is James’ phrase: “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world…” The verb there, “choose” is taken from the verb meaning “to receive counsel.” It describes a Christian being seduced by the world into an affair.
The irony is that the Spirit is the Paraclete, the Counselor. So, rather than taking the counsel of the Paraclete within us and standing firm, we draw nearer to the world for a closer look, or we flirt a little with sin. In a sense we counsel ourselves: “Just this one time,” “It’s not that big of a deal,” “I know I shouldn’t, but,” or “God will forgive me.”
Adultery is a metaphor in this verse. James is not talking about actual, sexual adultery – although that is obviously included – but any worldliness in which we engage. The list is great: gossip, speaking rudely to your spouse, using foul language, mean Tweets, greed, dishonesty, thinking ugly thoughts, or even simply tolerating sin.
Any time the Spirit counsels you NOT to do something, but instead you take someone else’s counsel (maybe your own!), you’re being spiritually unfaithful.
Join us Sunday, and we’ll discuss this more.