James 4:5 “Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?” (NIV).
Observation: In verse 4 James referred to an “adulterous” people, a people whose hearts and minds have become wedded to the world’s rewards rather than to God alone. Instead of describing lesser pursuits as coveting, he used the stronger language of a broken marriage covenant (adulterous) to describe what had happened in the heart of a man or woman seeking satisfaction in the world. As if to emphasize the profound adultery of such impoverished pursuits James reminds us that the spirit he (God) causes to live within us envies intensely.
Application: The thrust of this chapter is to expose lust after things of this world as being wrongheaded. It is the source of unending conflict among men (see vv. 1-2) and of God’s opposition to us as well (see v. 4).
The idea that the spirit within us (if we have received the Holy Spirit) “envies intensely” reaffirms a core message from both testaments: the marriage relationship is unsurpassed as a metaphor of God’s longing for intimacy with us. From the Genesis 2:18 revelation, “It is not good for the man to be alone” through the labeling of Christ’s followers as His bride (see Rev. 22:17), the story has pointed unwaveringly toward consummation of a wedding.
Becoming His bride has been the whole point of His-story. Eternal, perfect union with a passionate Bridegroom God is my destiny, and He has pursued it every day of my life, even when I have not. In the face of all my diversions and dalliances, He has been resolute and undaunted. It is no wonder that He describes the spirit He has caused to live within me as envying intensely; He is above all else my lover.
I cannot imagine slipping from my bride’s marriage bed to go serve another love, no matter how briefly, and expect to be sweetly received upon my return, no questions asked. Rather than receptive arms, I would get the boot, and deservedly so. But isn’t abandonment of the marriage bed what I do to Christ each time I pursue lesser pleasures? I covet things and put undue energies into other goals, becoming adulterous in the process.
Thankfully, the Spirit within me envies intensely. I will find perfect peace in no embrace but His, no full acceptance in any other’s gaze.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your repeated grace continually draws me back to You. Forgive my half-heartedness. Cause me to fix my eyes upon You alone, the author and finisher of my faith.