James warns the young church in chapter 4: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” His characterization of such a relationship? “Adulterous!”
Ellicott’s commentary renders the interpretation, “ye adulteresses!”
The phrase may seem to flow naturally after the former ones, but the Received text, from which our version was made, is wrong. It should be, ye adulteresses! as accusing those who have broken their marriage vow to God.
“What If I Agree With the World?”
It’s possible for a Christian to agree with worldly endeavors, at least on the surface. Efforts to alleviate poverty are a good example of overlap between Christian and secular goals. As Christians, we often speak of “human flourishing” and cite the words of our Lord in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
While we agree on the surface, motivations of the church and world are likely at odds just below the surface. The church is motivated to obey our Lord’s command to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him. We love our neighbors. We seek to serve.
The world has different motives hence the warning found in 2 Corinthians 6:14:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
Paul’s words echo the words of James: “friendship,” “partnership,” “fellowship.”
Warning: When I Agree With the World
Church, I urge us to examine our own motives when we find ourselves in agreement with the world. Some questions to ask ourselves:
- Are we loving the Lord with all our strength? (Mark 12:30)
- Are we loving our neighbor? (Mark 12:31)
- Are we loving our enemy? (Matthew 5:44)
- Are we denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily, and following Christ? (Luke 9:23)
One ploy of the devil is to begin with God’s Word and then ask, “Did God actually say…” (Genesis 3:1). When we listen to Satan we may find ourselves in idolatrous sin. Some questions to ask ourselves:
- What is more important to me, this cause / movement or Christ?
- Do I feel led to participate in this cause / movement and follow Christ, or is my participation in this cause / movement simply me following Christ?
- If I have to choose between this cause / movement and following Christ, do I want out of the church?
Satan has millennia of experience ensnaring humans. He is an expert at manipulation. He never approaches with his end goal, he often begins with God’s Word. Peter, who experienced this firsthand, describes him thus:
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Idolatry is an easy sin. “Be sober-minded; be watchful.” Peter’s words, again. Remember:
God is just, but justice is not God.
God is love, but love is not God.