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Lesson 5: Humility

“But know this,” says YHWH: “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear open your heart, not your clothes!” Return to YHWH your God, who is gracious and deeply loving as a mother, quick to forgive, abundantly tender-hearted—and relents from inflicting disaster. 

– Joel 2:12-13  (TIB)

Devotion: Read James 4:1-10. Pride is a destructive force. Our desires do not reflect God’s desires. When we do not get our way, we quarrel and fight to obtain what we want. “Friendship with the world” refers to this mindset of desiring what the culture around us values and fighting with the world’s weapons to satisfy those desires. Christians are called to walk a different path. We are called to humility, to seek what God desires for us. When we are “double-minded,” vacillating between seeking God’s values and the world’s values, we suffer from guilt and turmoil. When we give ourselves over to God, we discover peace and contentment. Why are accountability groups so positive in helping us to stop being double-minded? Who holds you accountable? If you answer “God,” how does accountability play out in day to day terms?

Personal Worship Option: Describe your perfect day. What do you do, where do you go, who are you with? How might contemplating that day help you understand your true desires?

Dig A Little Deeper:

4:1 There are issues in the early church: trials (1:2); favoritism (2:1); faith without works (2:14); cursing one another (3:10); and here, fighting. What steps should we take when we disagree with someone in the church or dislike a decision that has been made?

4:3 Earlier the positive version of this passage is presented: God freely gives blessings to those who ask in faith (1:5-6). Here is the negative form: if you ask with wrong motives, in order to satisfy your own desires, then God will not respond favorably. What is the goal of prayer?  

4:4 “Adulterers” refers to marital infidelity, but it is used here to suggest unfaithfulness to God’s covenant. As in the Hebrew Covenant, the relationship between the community of faith and God is described in terms of marriage (Hos 3:1; Jer 3:9). So, “friendship with the world” assumes withdrawing self and loyalty from God and giving self and attention to the culture.

4:5 “Scripture” refers to the Jewish Scriptures and other writings, possibility the work of another early church writer. The passage quoted here is not found in the Hebrew Bible nor has it been found anywhere else. The original text most likely refers to Genesis 2:7 where God breathes life into humanity. The author assumes God desires unity with the spirit placed within humanity.

4:6 This quote is from Proverbs 3:34. What is the difference between “God opposes the proud” and “God allows the proud to suffer the naturally occurring consequences of their sin?”

4:7 James has led us to the idea of submission. The devil represents all temptation to evil and rebellion against God. Resist temptations which arise within you and their power diminishes.

4:8 Draw closer to God and discover the presence of God more and more. Clean hands and pure heart are requirements for coming into the presence of God (Ps 24:4).

4:9 We must reject the morally lax pleasures found in the world (“Laughter” and “joy”) and mourn our sins. When we humbly submit to God we are lifted up (1:2; 5:13). Should confessing our sin make us feel bad about ourselves? What is your experience with confession?

4:10 After reading this passage, what actions or practices would you suggest to someone who desires to humble themselves? What steps can someone take to increase this virtue?

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