You adulteresses! Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says to no purpose that the spirit which He has made to dwell in us lusts with envy?
This is a harsh but necessary rebuke to those who have forgotten their first love and have returned to their worldly habits. We serve a jealous God, a consuming fire [Deut. 4:24]. When we commit our lives to him, we enter into a relationship that He guards with fierce passion. One only need read Song of Songs for an illustration of the depth of Christ’s passion for his bride, the Church. And just as a groom desires faithfulness from his bride, God desires faithfulness from us. When we follow the world instead of God, we violate our relationship with him.
In the prior verses, James warned of the destructive fruit that is produced when envy and jealousy infiltrate the church. Here, he reminds us that our human spirits lust with envy, the sinful nature being the source of this motivation. This jealousy, however, is not the jealousy with which God guards his relationship with us. Our jealousy is the result of selfish pursuit, forsaking others for our own gain. God’s jealousy is the result of selfless love, protecting us from sin and destruction with the goal of keeping us pure and keeping our relationship healthy.
As followers of Christ, we are the bride of Christ. Our groom not only guards us jealously but also pursues us in faithfulness. We can trust that He will never stray. Although we are called to love the people of this world as Christ does [John 3:16; Matt. 5:43-48], we are not called to love the things of this world or the ways of this world [1 John 2:15]. If our love for him is pure, we will not desire to stray either. Love for God with the proper motivation will cause us to guard our relationship with him in holy jealousy as well. Father, keep us faithful to You as we live in this world, forsaking earthly and fleshly pleasures for your sake, seeking You and your kingdom above all else.