In the fourth chapter of his letter, James reminds us of an important aspect of Christian living. He tells us plainly:
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3 (NASB)
In other words, check your motives and don’t leave God out of the picture in pursuit of your agenda.
The Greek word for pleasures is hēdonē, from which comes the word hedonism, which is defined as the relentless pursuit of pleasure. One of the side effects of sin is to pursue the satisfaction of our sensual lusts and desires, seeking self-satisfaction rather than following God’s commandments, which Jesus summed up this way:
Mark 12:29-31 (NASB) Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
James says problems and conflicts arise within the church when self-satisfaction, lusts and desires are the motives of the way we live rather than a desire to obey and glorify the Creator, the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.
After telling us to examine our motives James finishes the chapter with a call to obedience and action; (James 4:17) “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
Firstly, James tells us that God’s agenda must not be replaced by our agenda. Yes, even a true follower of Christ can do that. Secondly, James goes on to write that we need to seek the Lord and receive guidance and counsel from Him according to His will. We must not just sit there and do nothing, rather, we must go in obedience and engage in doing what He’s already called us to do. If we neglect doing what we already know is right its as bad as willfully doing what is wrong.
If we seek God’s agenda through the reading of His Word, prayer and fellowship with His people, we can engage in what He calls us to do with confidence, even in challenging times, knowing that He is sovereign over all and His plan is always the best.
By Sony Falardeau