Recently on The Faith Explained, Cale Clarke took a look at Chapter 4 of the Letter of James, and addressed passages within that talk about God’s jealousy. Why is God jealous? If jealousy is a sin, then how can God experience it?
“Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?
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.
You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
In this first part of Chapter 4, James is rebuking the misguided prayers uttered by the misguided pray-ers. War is nothing more than an escalation of one’s misguided desires. You want what you don’t have, so you kill and fight. You wage war to take what you desire, but you don’t have it because you don’t ask. And when you do ask, you ask for pleasure, not things that are good for you.
In Greek, James uses the word hedone, which is where we get the word hedonism. Our misplaced desires and aspirations often can be traced back to a longing for pleasure and personal enjoyment, the tenants of hedonism. Many of the perverted vices that embody hedonism come from good things given to us by God. Food, drink, sex, and personal appearance are all good things that are capable of being distorted at either end of the spectrum.
But we should take heart in the fact that everybody struggles with at least one of these sins of the world, including the saints. The desires of the spirit are against the desires of the flesh, and the desires of the flesh are against the desires of the spirit. We are imperfect, so we will struggle and fall, but our desire to repent and begin again for the glory of God is what will determine our success.
Cale encourages us to check our motives, just as James advised the Church. Early Christians and modern Christians alike often experience a hunger for power or a position of authority. But with that authority, do we seek to wield that power as the authorities of the world do, or do we seek the power to serve both Christ and others? Check your motives.
“Adulterers! 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.
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’?
But he bestows a greater grace; therefore, it says:
‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”
God? Jealous? Where does that come from? To explain it, Cale referenced an idea from Dr. David Nystrom, a professor of Biblical Studies at Western Seminary. He takes us back to Exodus 34:14, where God renews the Ten Commandments with Moses.
“You shall not bow down to any other god, for the LORD —“Jealous” his name—is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14)
God is not a sinfully envious being. A more apt interpretation of these passages is that God longs for us to be with Him forever in heaven. It’s what He created us for! Therefore, it does not please Him to witness our downfall, our perverted indulgence in pleasure, and our placing before Him another god.
“He gave us everything we have: our mind, our souls, our bodies. And He made it to glorify Him, and for our good as well,” said Cale. “But we can’t do that if we’re not on line with Him. So He wants us to come home, just like the prodigal son came home to live in the house of the father.”
It’s not a “maybe” if God will forgive us. He’s longing for us to come home and remain with Him forever. We have only to ask.
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