Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Keep in mind the context of these verses, for they fall within a passage that began at 4:1 and that runs through 4:12. So far, James has talked about how we quarrel among ourselves because we have an internal conflict going on in our minds. Then he discussed how we create enmity with God by holding on to the ways of this world, and now he tells us how to “fix” the situation, to bring about a cease-fire in our own heads, stop fighting among ourselves and be reconciled to God. His solution isn’t even complicated, not that we should be surprised with a simple solution…
Submit to God; resist the devil.
If your first thought is something like, “How can I resist the devil,” raise your hand. Ah yes, I thought so!
If it were impossible to resist the devil, would James tell us to do it? Look at what he said there: Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. The devil is a crafty old bird and a dangerous opponent, but he is neither all-powerful nor all-present nor all-knowing, and there is no way he can stand up to the One who lives within, the Holy Spirit. Now you might think I’m just a little crazy, but I think this verse is not only a simple solution to the problem, it is also a very encouraging and empowering solution.
Look at the next verse and notice what happens when we decide to come near to God… God comes near to us: See ya devil!
Then James goes on to a rather curious few lines about washing hands, purifying hearts, mourning and wailing, sort of an apocalyptic bit of phrasing. He also seems to address this to “sinners” and the “double-minded”. Let’s be clear on this, he isn’t addressing this to the “lost” he’s addressing this to you and me. Remember, the ones who are in relationship with Christ, but still holding onto the ways of this world…? (double-minded)
The image that pops into my mind as I read this is that of a father scolding his children for their naughty behavior while the children try not to laugh, so hilarious were their antics in their own little minds and the father is warning them to wipe those smiles off their faces!
The message of course, is that we need to knock off the nonsense that results in fighting, arguing and holding back from serving God, and in humble submission seek forgiveness, and not only are we forgiven, but we are lifted up into His likeness. This should be an obvious and easy fix, but I wonder… is there something that could possibly hold us back from this simple solution to the problem?