Living right with God and people, by Rev. John Kwasi Fosu

Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg
Bible study material on James 4:8-12

In our previous studies on James 4:1-7, we focused on dealing with the enemy of true love and peace. We therefore studied about what it means to deal with the enemies of fleshly desires, the world and Satan. Today’s lesson on James 4: 8-12 focusses on essentials of true love. It brings about what the believers in Christ are to do in order to live at peace with one another. To James, therefore, living right with God and people involves drawing near to God, washing one’s hands, purifying one’s heart, humility and avoiding slander.

Drawing near to God with clean hands and pure hearts (James 4:8)
The exhortation of drawing near to God pictures the priest drawing near to God in the offering of sacrifices and prayers in the context Old Testament and first century Christians. By this description, James reminds the Christians that they were responsible for drawing near to God on behalf of the congregation. This picture of drawing near to God in prayer was only possible through a pure heart and thus pure hands or actions. To James, therefore, God will would only hear their prayers if these things were done in order.

The idea of drawing near to God may be connected to the act of coming to God in prayer of which God also does for us. A similar idea could be found in 1 Peter 5:6. By humbly drawing near to God, that is as we walk towards God, God also walks towards us. This perhaps alludes to the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.

Grief and mourn – repent (James 4:9)
James exhort the people to mourn in repentance for their sins, and so receive the comfort of closeness to God. Repentance consists of sorrow for sin and turning from sin. James’ emphasis on mourning in James 5:9 could be related to similar instruction by Jesus in Matthew 5:4. To James, therefore, God accepts genuine repentance by raising the persons up from their mourning into the warmth of his love.

Avoiding slander (James 4:10-12)
After exhorting the audience on the need for repentance, James concludes on his section about the tongue and peace in the community. Christians are called upon not to slander one another. In other words, it means we are not to speak evil about or say bad things against others. Thus, for James, therefore, to ‘slander’ implies that critical words divide the community and are not in order.

Slander is wrong because it breaks the royal law that says we should love one another. It is also inappropriate because it exercises a right of judgment that only God has.

This material has focussed on studying the dynamics of living at peace with God and other people in the community. To James, therefore, the keys to living right with God is by drawing near to God with a clean hand and a pure hands. It also entails living in humility through repentance and avoiding slander.

1. What does it mean to draw near to God?
2. Name some of the things in your life that you need to repent from.
3. Why is slander harmful and dangerous for church and community life?

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