James 4:1-12

Whose Side Are You On?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35

“What causes fights and quarrels among Christian brothers and sisters?” James asks (4:1). We may think we’re fighting for a good cause because we think we’re right and they’re wrong! “Traditional music is better than loud, clanging music,” according to some. Others maintain no one should dress up to go to church; people should wear whatever they want.

James says fighting and quarreling come from the desires that battle within us (4:1). He goes even further, “You desire but do not have, so you kill” (4:2). Our fights may not come to murderous blows, but as Jesus pointed out in the Sermon on the Mount, God looks beyond our actions and examines our motives. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22).

Our motives are selfish according to James. We seek our own pleasure, our desires, or something we covet. To get what we want, we change sides. We become friends with the world. And “friendship with the world means enmity against God” (James 4:4). There are only two sides—no fence to sit on, no neutral territory.

James compares the situation to a love relationship: we’re being “adulterous” and God is “jealously yearning over us”(4:4-5 ESV). God knows we’ve put ourselves into great danger behind enemy lines, and he makes more grace available to us.

When we receive God’s grace, we can act. “Draw near and submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (4:7-8). Christians are commanded to love one another as Christ has loved us. On our own, loving can be difficult. But we have the Holy Spirit living inside us, and he gives us the love, patience, peace, kindness, gentleness, and self-control we need (Galatians 5:22).

God, reveal our heart motives and give us grace to rightly relate to one another.


Read James 4:1-3. Describe a time you had an unanswered prayer. Could it have been unanswered because of your wrong motives? Did anything happen to draw you closer to God?

Read James 4:4-12. Describe a time you became the judge and spoke against someone you judged to be wrong. What was the outcome? Did you repent and invite God’s grace into the situation? If not, do so now—it’s not too late.

How would applying Philippians 2:3-4 change a situation where you’ve been quarreling or tempted to quarrel?

Nancy J. Baker

This devotion is part of a series on the Book of James




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