“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God!”
Translation: If you are seeking friendship with the world, you’re an adulterer.
Here I sit in a nice home. The air conditioner just clicked on and the cool air is blowing. I sit about eight feet from a refrigerator that is full of food. I have a car and a truck to get me where I need to go and I have the means to put gasoline in those vehicles. When I am sick, I can go to the doctor and I have no problem paying that bill. My house sits on two acres and I have all the equipment I need to keep those two acres neat and nice.
Nice life…but am I an adulterer? Do I love my life so much that I place it above my relationship with God?
If I do love my life with all my material possessions and I place them above God, that is what James is saying.
I am an adulterer.
How could this be?
The short explanation is God expects us to yearn after Him. Pastor Bevere* defines yearn as an “intense longing or a desire for something and God is not happy when we yearn for things” .
I have been very fortunate in life. I know what it means to fall in love. When I met my wife, I was captivated by her.** I know that sounds exaggerated but believe me, it is not an exaggeration. Maybe it was my personality, but I recall those early months of knowing I loved her. I thought about her almost every waking hour. The thoughts were very pleasant and at times thrilling as I enjoyed thinking that I had a chance at a relationship with this special person. There was so much about her that I really did love.
We were boyfriend and girlfriend but we quickly grew much closer. We knew we were not close to being able to get married but this young woman had my heart. I did not want to be with any other girl. I was so happy to just be with her.
I share all this “mushy talk” with you to illustrate the point that Bevere is trying to make.
James, in the opening of this post, is writing to Christians only and he is expressing the jealousy that God feels when we stray away. Jealousy…do you believe that God is ever jealous of us? Bevere states that God is not jealous of us; He is jealous for us. That is a major difference. God wants us to have success, He wants us to be as great as we can be, He is not upset when we have abundance. Consult Scripture in Joshua 1:8, Proverbs 4:8, Matthew 25:29 and John 15:8 for evidence that God wants the best for us. His desire is purely that He wants to be close to us. He does not want to share you and me with another “lover”.
2nd Corinthians 11:2: “For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself.”
Paul is writing on behalf of God, reflecting the feelings of God when we pursue someone or something in His place.
You might ask, why would God care?
He cares because He has given His life for us. Bevere states “He’s sacrificed everything to make a lasting relationship possible. He cites scripture from Jeremiah 2: 32-33: “My people have forgotten Me, How you plot and scheme to win your lovers. Even an experienced prostitute could learn from you! And yet you say, ‘I have done nothing wrong’”.
There is only one other time that I have fallen in love and that was twenty years ago. Twenty years ago I was born again and in a very similar fashion as with my girlfriend, I thought about Jesus Christ almost every waking moment. I had just gone through a horrible disaster in my life and God showed me that the way to a better life was a true relationship with Jesus Christ. Those times were so exciting as basic questions I had about living began to make sense for the first time. I read my New Testament with a fervor that was amazing. Once I began in Matthew, I got to Revelation in very little time. I have never had a hunger to read a book like I had when I fell in love with Jesus.
Today is twenty years hence and the chills of first love have changed a bit. Life has been up and down, but I have seen a big difference. When times were up, I knew that Jesus was right there with me but when times were down, what a solace to have a Savior in the tough times. I knew that He would lead me to brighter days ahead.
Yes, it is shocking to be confronted by the words of James. No one wants to be called an adulterer or adulteress, but he does not pull punches; he states that God wants us all. He does not want to share us with another person or another thing.
Yes, God is jealous for us…
*author of Good or God?
**actually, forty-two years later, I still am…