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James Chapter 4

Welcome to Chapter 4

Chapter 4 continues the focus on wisdom, what it is, where it comes from, the significance of godly wisdom, as well as what happens in community when godly wisdom is missing.To make the best sense of this teaching I think we need to read from Chapter 3 verse 13, then the whole chapter 4.


Please share something from the studies and sermons that has helped you to live more faithfully as a Jesus follower. If you prefer to share in pairs and then to the group, please enable a focussed time, that sets the scene for the challenges in this piece of scripture.


The section on wise living breaks into five parts. I shall list them here, and suggest we think about the contrast between true humility and human arrogance. The results of living with arrogance are described as disorder, quarrelling, and slanderous judgment. Perhaps we can think of a few items in the news that illustrate these negative traits. Alternatively, we can focus on the good, and seek to go really deeply as we take the challenge personally.


Section 1. 3.13-18. Two kinds of wisdom: selfish ambition vs. heavenly peace-making

Section 2. 4.1-6. The source of quarrelling: a worldly attitude with inner desires

Section 3. 4.4-10. True humility: seen in the right way to approach God, with repentance (not remorse), and resistance to evil.

Section 4. 4.11-12. Sitting in judgement: is false humility. Who do you think you are?

Section 5. 4.13-17. Looking at tomorrow with arrogance, or humility.

Much of the Old Testament literature addresses the topic of wisdom and the ways that lead to life rather than death. Think of some passages that point to ‘the fear of the Lord’ which is the beginning of wisdom. eg. Deut 4.5-6; Proverbs 2.1-6; 4.23; 9.7-12; Psalm 1. What do you understand by the ‘fear of the Lord’? Compare with James 4.4-10, and 4.15-17.

Discuss the following description of wise Christians, and ask ‘how can I follow James’ instruction in my own life?’ ‘There are those who live closely to God, see more clearly into things than others do, and just know how to manage life’s varied circumstances. They are godly in character, sharp in discernment and helpful in their advice and counsel.’ Motyer 1985.p.130.

In contrast to the clique or party-spirit, that sadly we do find in our communities and our churches, the beautiful Christian fellowship ‘a harmonious fellowship of believers, …is the soil out of which grows the whole life that is pleasing to God’. (Motyer p.138). Does this remind you of a parable of Jesus?  Describe a healthy soil.


Internationally, our Archbishop of Canterbury addressed the United Nations Security Council on 29th August 2018, opening a debate on mediation and conflict resolution.

The text of his address can be read online, you may like to read aloud and move to pray.


Allow time for reflection and sorrow, leading to life-change, if that is appropriate.

James, following his brother Jesus (!) says some beautiful things about peace-makers.

Since it is ‘better to light a candle than to curse the darkness’, (Tom Wright 2011.p.24) work together to respond to Jesus’ invitation to peace-making. Light a candle, listen to some reflective music, and listen to God together. Please share with me any insights or clarity.


So What? What difference will this make to our lives?

This is the key question: is God asking us to change anything about our relationship with him, or with others?


Marion de Quidt. Sept 2018


Tom Wright. Early Christian Letters for Everyone. James, Peter, John and Judah. © 2011. SPCK publishing.
Alec Motyer. The Message of James. The Bible Speaks Today series © 1985. Inter-Varsity Press.

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