In James 4 he writes quite a few things that might catch us off guard, “cleanse your hands.. purify your hearts, you double minded…” and he then goes on to say that we should put our laughter aside and mourn. What does he mean? Stop being happy? Put joy aside?
I don’t think James is trying to tell us that we shouldn’t have joy in Christ, or that we shouldn’t laugh. This is one of those passages you need to read the previous verses and those after to fully understand.
James begins the chapter with where all fights and quarrels come from, namely us! Our hearts want what we shouldn’t and ask with evil intent which then creates a discontent in us that puts our wants and needs above God’s sovereignty.
There are some very strong words throughout, “whoever wishes to be a friend with the world makes himself an enemy of God”, “You adulterous people”, and many more. Take the time to read James 4 if you haven’t already.
In today’s day and age “friendship” has become a very shallow term, if you meet someone for the first time, you can find them on Facebook and become “friends”. Everyone has a lots of friends, but compared to Bible times, we all have a lot of acquaintances. Back in the first centuries there wasn’t any internet or Facebook or Twitter to follow what our “friends” were doing, they had to seek out and actually invest in other people’s lives.
So that puts a whole new definition of “friendship with the world”.
Though as a Christian I’m blood-bought in Christ, this passage still says he “yearns jealously over the spirit who dwells in us” so even a Christian can and will struggle with the woo’s and temptations of the world. But take heart! The Holy Spirit dwells in us and gives us light to see our sin and turn and seek Christ again.
And that brings us back to the main point, why so grim? Why not fight sin with joy, not mourning?
I think this kind of “joy” is a superficial joy. If the recipients of this letter had complete joy in Christ, then there wouldn’t be a point to this! So they must have had a superficial joy that stemmed from a lack of conviction and a lack of seriousness over sin.
So James is telling them and us to stop trying to be so superficially happy in the midst of struggle. If you’re not taking sin seriously, you need to mourn over it, grieve that you’ve sinned against an infinitely holy God who loves you despite your shortcomings. That sin nailed Jesus to the cross, and all we’re doing is laughing it off?
Taking sin seriously isn’t always gloomy, though initially it hurts and our hearts are pained through it, we then can see God for who He is. We read and see that He “opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” which is such a hope for us!
He gives so much grace, and because of that amazing grace, I don’t want to sin against Him, I don’t want to be friends with the world.
Why would I settle for murky sludge when I have an infinitely beautiful savior demonstrating His amazing love on a cross?
Thanks for reading some of my various thoughts on James! I wrote this because of a great sermon I heard by Matt Chandler titled “Worldliness/Godliness” click on that or the picture for the link!