Pride Must Be Humbled

This year in our Sunday School lessons we are going through the books of James and Proverbs to look at the Practical Living from God’s Word.  What is located below are the high level points we discussed this week.  Please use this tool to follow up with your teens and see how they plan to apply this to their life.

James 4:1-12


Ok so let’s be honest.  This walking with the Lord thing is really hard.  I mean it seems like I fall all the time.  I try so hard and just when I think I am doing well I fall.  Sometimes it seems like when I try so hard to fix one area of my life I fall in another area.  I can think of so many times in my life when it is seems that it is just easier to live in sin than to try to fight the battles to do what is right.  Where does this come from?  Why do I struggle in this?

Can you think of different areas of life where sometimes it seems like it is just impossible to live a godly life?  It is just too hard.

1.         Purity

2.         Communication

3.         Laziness

4.         Gluttony

5.         Vanity

Today we are going to address that very issue.  Today in our text we are going to see what the secret to success in those very difficult areas of life is.

I.                   Where Do Wars and Fights Begin? (4:1-7)

A.                 They come from the desires within you (1-3)

1.                 You desire and do not have (2a)

What does it mean that you desire something and you do not have it?

All through life we live the cycle of wanting something and striving to get it only to realize that we cannot have it.  This leads us to do many different things in order to try to get the thing that we selfishly desire.

a)                 You murder (2b)

Now hold on a second.  How many people do you actually know that commit murder in order to get what they want?  Sure we hear about it happening but how many times do we actually know people who do that?

So how does this apply to me?  I have not killed anyone to get what I want.

“This last statement has aroused much discussion. First, it is difficult to believe that James’s readers, whom he elsewhere addresses as Christians (2:1), were actually guilty of murder. Some, insisting that the word must be taken literally, say that James is not referring to any specific occurrences but is indicating what happens when men desire pleasure rather than God (Ropes, p. 255). This interpretation, however, does not do justice to the pointed accusation “You kill.” In the context of forceful words such as polemoi (“wars”) and machai (“battles”), it seems better to take phoneuete (“you kill”) as hyperbole for hatred. This also resolves the problem of seeming anticlimactic word order. To say “You hate and covet” is a much more natural order than to say “You murder and covet.”[1]

Matthew 5:21–22 (NASB95)

Personal Relationships

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’

22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

1 John 3:15 (NASB95)

15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Maybe it applies a bit more when we use phrases like we hate because we cannot get what we want.  If I could have a penny for every time I have heard the phrase, I hate so and so I would be rich.  Here are some.

I hate so and so because he’s a ball hog and I can never get the ball.  What is the underlying message there?

I hate my parents because they never let me do anything!  What is the underlying message there?

I hate my school or teacher because they are too ______________?  What is the underlying message there?

I hate that guy or girl because they do __________________?  What is the underlying message there?

I hate the President because _________________________?  What is the underlying message there?

b)                 You covet (2b)

To desire material possessions, particularly what belongs to another.[2]

How many times do we never get to the point of hating someone, but we sure think a lot about the things they have, the way they get to live, or the people in their life?

Have you ever said things like but so and so gets to?

I wish I had their parents?

I wish I could have that thing they have?

c)                  You fight and war (2c)

You are so consumed with getting what you want you are even willing to argue and fight with others to get it.

You want it and anyone who gets in your way is going to have to fight you for it.

This shows up a lot in homes where you start to bicker and then fight over the stupidest things because you want something and you might not get it.

This shows up with peers all the time when you have a disagreement about the way things should go and so you fight for it.

d)                 You do not even bother asking for it because you are so consumed with getting it (2d)

Sometimes even spiritually we get so wrapped up on wanting something that we forget to even ask about it.

Is this good for me?  Is it something I should have?  May I have it?

2.                 You ask for the wrong motives (3)

Okay let’s be honest this shows up all the time in our lives.  Whether it is praying for a certain boy or girl to like us, a certain electronic device, or even a certain freedoms we tend to ask God in a selfish way.  That ultimately leads to us asking God for things for the wrong motives.

“It was the desire of James’s readers for pleasures that was battling within them for satisfaction (v. 1) and even leading them to try to use prayer as a means of gratification (v. 3). They were not actually asking for gratification but for things, such as money, that they intended to use for pleasure. They wanted to gratify themselves rather than help others and please God.”[3]

B.                 They Come From Friendships with the World (4-7)

1.                 Spiritual Adultery (4)

James says that the person who is in love with world is committing adultery.

Ephesians 5:25–32 (NASB95)

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;

29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,

30 because we are members of His body.

31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

“The people of God in the OT are considered the wife of the Lord (Jer 31:32), and in the NT, the bride of Christ (Eph 5:23–32). It is reasonable, therefore, to understand “adulteress” as a figure of speech for spiritual unfaithfulness. It is a blunt and shocking word, intended to jar the reader and awaken him to his true spiritual condition. The concept of spiritual adultery was no doubt taken from the OT (cf. Hos 2:2–5; 3:1–5, 9:1).”[4]

a)                 Friendship with the world is hostility to God (4-5)

The world and God are not able to co-exist.  Either you will love the one and hate the other, or you will hate the one and love the other.

The word world refers to the system of sin that is naturally received in the world.

This system of sin is absolutely against the nature of God.

So if we become too familiar with this anti-God system then we can say that we are against God.

“Verse 4, which is closely tied to v. 5 by the conjunction “or,” indicates that the believer who is a friend of the world is guilty of spiritual adultery. Although his love and devotion belong to God, he has fallen in love with the world. It is natural, therefore, to expect v. 5 to speak of God’s jealous longing for his people’s love, rather than of their envious spirit. And there are OT passages that refer to God as jealously desiring the devotion of his people. Since there is no passage of which James 4:5 is a verbatim quotation, it is best to understand it as giving the gist of such passages as Exodus 20:5 and 34:14.”[5]

b)                 Pride is completely against the humility that God’s grace gives (6)

The world is in conflict with the Father; the flesh fights against the Holy Spirit; and the devil opposes the Son of God. Pride is Satan’s great sin, and it is one of his chief weapons in his warfare against the saint and the Saviour. God wants us to be humble; Satan wants us to be proud. “Ye shall be as God,” Satan promised Eve, and she believed him. A new Christian must not be put into places of spiritual leadership “lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).

God wants us to depend on His grace (“But He giveth more grace”), while the devil wants us to depend on ourselves. Satan is the author of all “do-it-yourself” spiritual enterprises. He enjoys inflating the ego and encouraging the believer to do it his own way. [6]

II.               Draw Near to God (7-10)

A.                 Submit to God

In order to be able to draw nearer to God (the goal of every believer) we must be willing to submit to His leadership in our lives.  It is pretty silly to expect closeness with God if we are not even willing to submit to what he desires in our lives.

1.                 Resist the Devil (7)

The first step in submitting to God is to resist the Devil.

1 Peter 5:8–9 (NASB95)

8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

The problem in our lives is not that we do not realize that the devil is around and that he desires to destroy us.

The problem is that we do not resist him we just get comfortable coexisting with him.

I used to have a snake named Colby Cheese Kjaer Volbrecht Snakey that I owned with a kid in my youth group.  We used to go to the pet store to buy a feeder mouse and put him in the cage.  Sometimes they seemed to just get along just fine for even a couple of days.  The mouse would walk around and sniff the snake.  The snake would just lay there and soak up the sun, but eventually the day would come that only one of them was still in the cage.

If we let the devil stick around without us actively resisting him then we are going to be devoured.

So how do we practically resist the devil?

2.                 Clean your hands, sinners (8)

This means that we need to clean up our conduct.  We need to submit to God by changing the things that we are doing.

3.                 Purify your minds, double minded (8)

You have to get rid of the idea that you can love both God and man.

You need to go through your life and identify the ways that you are trying to mix the things of the world with the things of God.

B.                 Humble yourself before the Lord (9-10)

The key to drawing nearer to God is to humble yourself before Him.  We cannot be fighting to be god in our life and expect that He will be God in our life.

There are several ways given to help us humble our lives before God.

1.                 Be miserable (9)

The point of this statement is that the sin that used to control us must make us miserable.  In other words we recognize how awful it is in our lives and this makes us disgusted over the sin.

2.                 Mourn (9)

Our sin ought to bring us to the place of visibly being broken over our sin.  There is the difference between being sorry over a sin and being broken over it.

3.                 Weep (9)

The sin that used to bring us joy should cause us to weep over the hold it has had in our life.

III.            Don’t judge others (11-12)

So here is a common problem.  We forget to deal with our own stuff and start to judge ourselves based on our evaluation of others.

A.                 In order to judge others is actually break the law you judge them by. (11)

“James’s readers had fallen into the habit of criticizing one another, and so he says, “Stop speaking against one another.” The reason he gives is that the one who criticizes or judges his brother “speaks against the law and judges it.” The law referred to is probably the command of Leviticus 19:18: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” To speak against your neighbor is to violate this law. The person who does so places himself above the law and, by his action, declares that law to be a bad or unnecessary statute. Rather than submitting to it and “keeping it,” he passes judgment on its validity and sets it aside.”[7]

B.                 To judge others is to take God’s place (12)

“n passing judgment, this critic of his brother has usurped a position of authority that is reserved for God alone. God is the “one Lawgiver and Judge.” Since he gave the law, he is qualified to judge those who are responsible to keep it. That he is “able to save and destroy” is proof that he is in a position to enforce the law, rewarding those who keep it, and punishing those who violate it. God stands supreme as giver of the law and as its judge. The NIV’s “But you—who are you?” catches the full force of the Greek construction. With shattering bluntness, James crushes any right his readers may have claimed to sit in judgment over their neighbors. This is not to rule out civil courts and judges. Instead, it is to root out the harsh, unkind, critical spirit that continually finds fault with others.”[8]


[1] Donald W. Burdick, “James” In , in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews Through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 193.

[2] Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 242.

[3] Donald W. Burdick, “James” In , in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews Through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 193.

[4] Donald W. Burdick, “James” In , in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews Through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 193.

[5] Donald W. Burdick, “James” In , in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews Through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 194.

[6] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), Jas 4:4.

[7] Donald W. Burdick, “James” In , in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews Through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 196.

VIV The New International Version

[8] Donald W. Burdick, “James” In , in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews Through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 196.

Johnny Kjaer
Johnny is married to Tori. They have 4 children Leif, Tryggve, Kjirsti and Hroarr. He has been a part of the youth ministry at Faith since his internship began in 2010. He served as the Pastor of Student Ministries from 2013-2023 and now serves as the Pastor of Faith East Community Ministries. Johnny is an ACBC certified counselor. He also serves the church by directing the Lafayette Living Nativity.