James 4

Chapter 4

The Need To Control Passions.[a] 1 What is the source of these conflicts and quarrels among you? Are they not the result of your passions[b] that are at war within you? 2 You want something that you cannot have, so you commit murder. And you covet something but cannot obtain it, so you engage in quarrels and fights. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 When you ask, you do not get what you want because you do not ask for it with the proper motives, seeking rather to indulge your passions.

4 Adulterers! Do you not know that love of the world results in enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose that it is without reason that Scripture says, “He yearns jealously for the Spirit that he sent to live in us”?[c] 6 But he has bestowed an even stronger grace. Therefore, it says,

“God resists the proud,
but he gives grace to the humble.”

7 Hence, be subject to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you waverers. 9 Be sorrowful, lament, and weep. Let your laughter turn to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

11 Do Not Judge Others.[d] Do not slander one another, my brethren. Whoever speaks ill of a brother or passes judgment on a brother speaks ill of the Law and passes judgment on the Law. But if you judge the Law, you are not keeping it but passing judgment upon it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to pass judgment on a neighbor?

13 A Warning against Presumption.[e] Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we shall head off to this or that town and spend a year doing business there and making money.” 14 Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.

What is your life, after all? For you are like a mist that appears for a brief time and then vanishes. 15 Instead, what you ought to say is, “If it is the Lord’s will, we shall live to do this or that.” 16 But instead you boast in your arrogance, and all such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it commits a sin.


  1. James 4:1 Troubles, unjust and murderous confrontations, and wars are the scourges of social life, and Christians share in them. Murderous passions are given free rein even in the community, creating antagonisms and divisions. The desire to possess and to monopolize things seems to be without limits and takes over the human heart. Hence, let all Christians question themselves about their innermost affiliation and choice. Do they really opt for God or do they live under the weight of their evil passions? When someone became unfaithful to God in the concrete, the Old Testament as well as Christ designated it as adultery (see Hos 3:1; Mt 12:39; 16:4). All these evils are the result of a failure to pray. True prayer is a drawing near to God, and it requires a reversal of mentality.
  2. James 4:1 Passions: literally, “pleasures.” The author is not saying that pleasures are evil in themselves; the evil consists only in the way they are used.
  3. James 4:5 He yearns jealously for the Spirit that he sent to live in us: two other translations are possible (because James is citing a passage that does not appear in any extant Bible manuscript):
    “The spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely” and “The Spirit he caused to live in us longs jealously.” The meaning of the translation in the text is that God jealously longs for our fidelity and love (see Jn 4:4). The meaning of the first alternative translation is that because of the fall the spirit of man that was put in us at the Creation (see Gen 2:7) envies intensely—however, God’s grace is able to overcome that envy (see Ex 20:5). The meaning of the second alternative translation is that it is the Holy Spirit who longs jealously for our full devotion.
  4. James 4:11 Nothing is more current in the thoughts and conversations of human beings than passing judgment on others and slandering them. This is a usurpation. Only God can pass judgment, and it is he who has established a law—the law of love (see Lev 19:16-18; Mt 7:1-5).
  5. James 4:13 This is a warning to those people who live only for the glory of their projects, the exploitation of others, and the lure of gain (see Mk 8:36). It reproduces the theme of human weakness (see Pss 39:5-7, 11; 102:3; Wis 2:4; 5:9-14), which obliges people to put their trust solely in God and not in self.

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