The Pitfalls of James

James 4:1 “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?”

A pitfall can be distinguished as a hidden or unsuspected danger or difficulty.

There are many things that can be pitfalls in life, anyone that has lived has experienced their share. Bad life decisions can encompass a variety of topics, from failed relationships to devastating financial decisions, poor moral actions that lead to bad health, or things we say that ruin opportunities, the list can go on and on with the ways we can make a mess out of life.

The question is: how do we avoid these pitfalls before we fall into them?

When examining the Word of God we can find all sorts of wisdom that keeps us from falling into harm’s way. It may seem obvious but the One who created us, knows us and knows what is best for our lives. The more we understand God’s plan for our lives and the standard by which He created our world, the more we understand what walking with Him means, how to follow His plan and how His plan keeps us from self-induced trouble.

If the way seems so obvious, why do we live contrary to God’s plans?

The Pitfalls of life are specifically tied to righteousness, walking obedient to God’s commands and honoring Him in every aspect of life.

We will look at 5 aspects of what these pitfalls entail:

  1. Selfishness
  2. Friendship with the world
  3. Pride
  4. Slander
  5. Apathy

When examining the book of James, we see Jesus’ younger half-brother being led by the Spirit in revealing truth to the church. It took James a while to understand the magnitude of who Jesus was which is why we see in John 7:5, how Jesus’ brother’s did not believe in Him. It wasn’t until the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that James realized his mistake and followed Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Jesus knew James was at a disadvantage, by growing up with Jesus he had a hard time recognizing Jesus as anyone other than a sibling, so Jesus made a special appointment with James after He rose from the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:7.

We too must come to this realization of Jesus’ resurrection in our own hearts if we are going to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The attributes of righteousness come by way of belief. Following the patterns of righteousness are inherent in a life transformed by the power of God.

Selfishness

Selfishness is a trait that is inherent in sinful man. Any parent of toddlers can observe these sinful traits in their own children at the earliest of ages. One child playing with a toy can be observed dropping that toy and grabbing a toy the other toddler is holding nearby, just because it looks more appealing. This trait of selfishness is not one that will resolve itself by passive learning, the moral framework needed to teach a child to be selfless is one that falls on the parent.

James 4:1-3 “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” 

If a parent does not possess the necessary moral integrity by which to teach a child then a generational curse of sin begins it’s transcendance into subsequent generations and the trouble that follows affects those who know them. Selfishness ruins relationships, it ruins testimonies, and it reflects hatred for your brother or sister. Jesus attributed hatred for others to murder in Matthew 5, clearly He wanted to emphasize how important this is to God.

Friendship with the World

The danger of friendship with the world is a pitfall that seems contrary to christian teaching. Aren’t we supposed to love one another as Christ has loved us as it says in John 13:34?

James 4:4-5 “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

Friendship with the world is different than showing someone love. We can show someone love by sharing the gospel with them. We can show them love by not partaking in a lifestyle choices that are destructive. Our so called ‘friends’, may be offended that we don’t partake with them because they feel like we are judging them, but what they don’t understand is that we live under the orders of the Judge of all mankind. If we live by the standard of Jesus, we practice righteousness and it is this standard that conflicts with a worldly pattern of living. Ultimately, we show love to others by showing them what righteousness looks like, it is this pattern that will lead them to new life in Christ.

Pride

Almost every error we make in life has an undercurrent of pride. You might be surprised at how many aspects of life contain elements of pride.

James 4:6 “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Elements of pride include:

  • False Humility—being quietly reserved for fear of being exposed.
  • Controlling nature—manipulating the situation for your own purposes.
  • Perfectionism—trying to maintain everything in order; your order.
  • Preoccupation–not giving others your attention because you have an idea that needs to be expressed; you often believe is better.
  • Jealousy—Everything is a competition because it drives you to place yourself first in every situation.
  • Needy—my needs are paramount over others needs.

I find it interesting that James focuses on resisting the devil when it pertains to pride. The enemy knows this is a major weakness in humans, he found it to be so in the garden and continues to use it today.

James 4:7-10 “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

The process of moving out of pride begins with prayer.

Knowledge of our prideful position is key to confession, knowledge comes by way of the Holy Spirit and healing comes through repentance. It’s not easy giving up a prideful heart, it often is a position we maintain that gives us a measure of control. Our childhood may have been replete with criticism from family members or acquaintances that mocked us and made us feel unworthy or unacceptable. Our understanding as adults must grow into a maturity that reflects our knowledge of God and how He sees us.

Psalm 139:13-16 “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body

and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!

Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,

as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

You saw me before I was born.

Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out

before a single day had passed.”

We must remember who we are in Christ. We must remember our beginnings and know our end. If we keep a godly perspective of life, we will see ourselves in light of God’s position and not our own. It was God who made us, and it will be God who raises us up to the heights that He has ordained.

There is much more that can be said regarding the pitfalls of life so I must leave the rest for tomorrow, as for now, walk in the patterns of righteousness that lead to life and you’ll find yourself being led away from the trouble of this world.

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