Friendship with the World (James 4:1-6)

Have you ever heard a preacher say, I don’t drink, and I don’t chew, and I don’t hang out with those who do? That’s a very bad attempt at humor, number one. Number two it makes light of, and even pokes fun at the call to holiness. As Christians, we are called to a different lifestyle, we are called to different standards, and we are called to be unspotted from the world. 

We saw last week that God’s wisdom, which we find in the Scripture, is the opposite of what our natural minds would think to do. Being a friend of God causes you to be an enemy of the world. Just as we are to think differently from the world, we are also to act differently. Now we aren’t going to get in the weeds and exegete a bad joke, but we will look at what James says is the difference between friendship with the world and friendship with God.

James 4:1-6 (Legacy Standard Bible) “WHAT is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and you do not have, so you murder. You are envious but you cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your own pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility towards God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world sets himself as an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

What is the source of conflict? Selfishness. When we desire our own pleasure, when we put our needs ahead of others, that is selfishness. And selfishness is the reason we desire and don’t have, it’s the reason we are envious of what our neighbor has, but we cannot obtain. Being envious is another way of saying covetous, and God laid out His hatred of covetousness in the law. But here’s the kicker; you ask and do not receive, and you don’t receive because you ask with wrong, or selfish motives, so that you may spend it on your own pleasures.

That is a quick summary of verses one through three, but let’s look at it a little deeper. You lust, but you don’t have. Now, we need to understand that lust is not only a sexual desire but a strong desire for anything. You desire something but you don’t have it, no matter how hard you try, you can’t obtain it. It’s the same with your desire for someone else’s stuff, and even in your prayers, they aren’t getting answered because you are praying with wrong motives.

Look at the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount; Matthew 6:25-34 NKJV “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

That is the difference between approaching things from the world’s perspective versus God’s. After James talks about the difference between worldly wisdom versus godly, he goes straight into worldly behavior versus godly behavior. So why is it such a big deal to desire and not have, to be envious and not obtain, and to ask and not receive? It all goes back to our motivation, why do we desire, why are we asking? The people James was writing to had forgotten about God, they were all about themselves, and his next words would strike at the hearts of his readers.

“You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility towards God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world sets himself as an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

Friendship here is a Greek word meaning love. They loved the world. 1 John 2:15-17 NKJV “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

God desires that we walk with Him, and He will give grace to those who humble themselves, but He will oppose the proud. Take time to think over these six verses, take a look at your own desires. Put your prayer life up next to the model prayer in Matthew six and see if your prayers are coming from the right heart. Examine your behavior and see if it lines up with Scripture. Don’t be like the world, we have been called out of darkness and into the light. Don’t buy the demonic lie, the twisting of grace and freedom that says you aren’t under law. God does not change, we are not saved by keeping the law, but it is still a guide for right living. 

Peter has this to say about false teachers in 2 Peter 2:18-20 NKJV “For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. 20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.”

Much of the freedom teaching in the Church today; twists the Scripture and actually leads further into sin. The freedom teaching encourages us to be like the world; we do not want to be religious or legalistic. In the Bible, religion is a good term, satan has twisted it, and too many in the Church have followed his twisting. Any lifestyle of holiness is now considered legalism. Friendship with the world is hostility against God; let us not take that lightly.

We cannot be the friend of the world and God at the same time. We cannot appease the world and worship God at the same time. If our churches are attracting the world and not producing inward change in the lives of people, we can be assured we are repulsive to God. Friendship with the world is hostility toward God. Trying to curry favor with God-haters is a slap in the face to a holy God. James says we are adulteresses when we are friends with the world. We need to take his words seriously and examine our hearts and lives, are we living to please the world, to have the things of the world, or are we living for God?


The Legacy Standard Bible is a translation that—at its core—seeks to be a window into the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. By translating individual words as consistently as possible within their various nuances, it allows the reader to discern the Author’s intent. In this way, the refinements in the LSB also preserve the legacy of the NASB. It is currently available in the New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs. The full translation will be released by the end of 2021. You can learn more about the translation and read the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs on the Legacy Standard Bible website, lsbible.org

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