New American Bible (Revised Edition)
Causes of Division.[a] 1 Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions[b] that make war within your members?(A) 2 You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. 3 You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 Adulterers![c] Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God.(B) 5 Or do you suppose that the scripture speaks without meaning when it says, “The spirit that he has made to dwell in us tends toward jealousy”?[d] 6 But he bestows a greater grace; therefore, it says:(C)
“God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.”[e]
7 So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.(D) 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.(E) 9 Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.(F)
11 Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law.[f] If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?(G)
Warning Against Presumption.[g] 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit”— 14 you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.[h] You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.(H) 15 Instead you should say, “If the Lord wills it,[i] we shall live to do this or that.” 16 But now you are boasting in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 (I)So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin.[j]
- 4:1–12 The concern here is with the origin of conflicts in the Christian community. These are occasioned by love of the world, which means enmity with God (Jas 4:4). Further, the conflicts are bound up with failure to pray properly (cf. Mt 7:7–11; Jn 14:13; 15:7; 16:23), that is, not asking God at all or using God’s kindness only for one’s pleasure (Jas 4:2–3). In contrast, the proper dispositions are submission to God, repentance, humility, and resistance to evil (Jas 4:7–10).
- 4:1–3 Passions: the Greek word here (literally, “pleasures”) does not indicate that pleasure is evil. Rather, as the text points out (Jas 4:2–3), it is the manner in which one deals with needs and desires that determines good or bad. The motivation for any action can be wrong, especially if one does not pray properly but seeks only selfish enjoyment (Jas 4:3).
- 4:4 Adulterers: a common biblical image for the covenant between God and his people is the marriage bond. In this image, breaking the covenant with God is likened to the unfaithfulness of adultery.
- 4:5 The meaning of this saying is difficult because the author of James cites, probably from memory, a passage that is not in any extant manuscript of the Bible. Other translations of the text with a completely different meaning are possible: “The Spirit that he (God) made to dwell in us yearns (for us) jealously,” or, “He (God) yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us.” If this last translation is correct, the author perhaps had in mind an apocryphal religious text that echoes the idea that God is zealous for his creatures; cf. Ex 20:5; Dt 4:24; Zec 8:2.
- 4:6 The point of this whole argument is that God wants the happiness of all, but that selfishness and pride can make that impossible. We must work with him in humility (Jas 4:10).
- 4:11 Slander of a fellow Christian does not break just one commandment but makes mockery of the authority of law in general and therefore of God.
- 4:13–17 The uncertainty of life (Jas 4:14), its complete dependence on God, and the necessity of submitting to God’s will (Jas 4:15) all help one know and do what is right (Jas 4:17). To disregard this is to live in pride and arrogance (Jas 4:16); failure to do what is right is a sin (Jas 4:17).
- 4:14 Some important Greek manuscripts here have, “You who have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Why, what is your life?”
- 4:15 If the Lord wills it: often in piety referred to as the “conditio Jacobaea,” the condition James says we should employ to qualify all our plans.
- 4:17 It is a sin: those who live arrogantly, forgetting the contingency of life and our dependence on God (Jas 4:13–16), are guilty of sin.
New International Version
Submit Yourselves to God
4 What causes fights and quarrels(A) among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle(B) within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill.(C) You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive,(D) because you ask with wrong motives,(E) that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous(F) people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world(G) means enmity against God?(H) Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.(I) 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]?(J) 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil,(L) and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.(M) Wash your hands,(N) you sinners, and purify your hearts,(O) you double-minded.(P) 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.(Q) 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.(R)
11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another.(S) Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[d] or judges them(T) speaks against the law(U) and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it,(V) but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge,(W) the one who is able to save and destroy.(X) But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?(Y)
Boasting About Tomorrow
13 Now listen,(Z) you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”(AA) 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.(AB) 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will,(AC) we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.(AD) 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.(AE)
- James 4:4 An allusion to covenant unfaithfulness; see Hosea 3:1.
- James 4:5 Or that the spirit he caused to dwell in us envies intensely; or that the Spirit he caused to dwell in us longs jealously
- James 4:6 Prov. 3:34
- James 4:11 The Greek word for brother or sister (adelphos) refers here to a believer, whether man or woman, as part of God’s family.
King James Version
4 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.
17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.