Verse 5 tells us God does not take this lightly. He is jealous for his people. (5) [I think the NIV gets this backward, speaking of the jealous spirit of men. But the context is God’s reaction to the behavior of his people. The ESV and NASB both translate it to it is God who is jealous.] When he made his covenant with Israel, he he told them they could not worship idols (other gods) because he is a jealous God. (Exodus 20:5) That means he demands exclusive loyalty and worship. Deuteronomy 6:10-15 states it in strong terms: if they forget God when they become prosperous he will wipe them off the face of the earth.
Jesus taught this also. He said no man can serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24) He also seek to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. (Matthew 6:33) So, he will not be pleased if you value money more than him. That is why he demanded that the rich young ruler give up all his wealth and follow. (Matthew 19:10-22) Remember that the young man declined to follow Christ and give up his property, for “He had great possessions”. If we are friends with the world, we are stained by the world and do not practice true religion. (James 1:27)
Fortunately, verse 6 tells us God gives more grace. That is, while we are humbly struggling to ascertain God’s will and do it, he gives us grace when we fail to put him above money and possessions. He does oppose the proud, though. James, here, is quoting Proverbs 3:34. He gives grace to the humble, but not the proud. If money makes you proud, get rid of it. The proper response to grace is humility.
I do not feel the pull of these things as much as I used to, but I know the temptations lurk in the shadows. I know the Tempter is always out there. James tells us to submit ourselves to God. That is an act of humility, allowing God to work in us and on us, to give us more grace to conquer our weaknesses. It is submitting yourself to his lordship. This is exactly how I managed my desire for success a few decades ago. I submitted myself to God and he worked to rid me of that weakness and sin.
So, in this deal of loving God or loving the world, you will receive temptation from the world and strength from God if you seek it. James uses one of his famous comparisons. He said, in verse 8, to resist the devil and he will flee from you. The key is you resist, not run into his arms like a lover on the beach and say give me what I want. On the other side of the coin, if you draw near to God he will draw near to you. This is not an evangelistic verse. This verse tells us if we resist the devil and his temptation and draw near to God instead, the devil will go and God will draw near and keep you from sinning.
Part of drawing near to God is repentance. If we have fallen into love of the world, James calls us double minded. This goes back to chapter 1 where James said if you ask but you doubt you are double minded and unstable. It also alludes to verse 4 of this chapter, where James called them “adulterous people”. They are folks who are embracing the values and methods of the world instead of living according to God’s kingdom standards. If you have been double minded, you must repent to draw near to God. James said it two ways: (1) cleanse your hands and (2) purify your hearts.
“Cleanse your hands” signifies repentance of outward behavior. “Purify your hearts” signifies repentance of inward attitudes. Psalm 24:3-4 puts it this way? “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”
Repentance is turning away from your sins, but also in deep regret over them. James said to be wretched, mourn and weep. This again is Old Testament language describing those under God’s judgment. In Joel 2:12, for example, God said “Yet even now, return to me with all you heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Have you ever felt this bad about your sin? You laughter should be replaced by mourning. Your joy turns to gloom. This are very strong and expressive words. In the Old Testament, one who laughs at God’s standards was a fool. Jesus dug in on this type of person also, in Luke 6:25, saying “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”
Since God hates sin intensely, so should we. When we sin, we should deeply regret it and mourn it. The idea often expressed today is hey do not sweat it, say “I am sorry” and get on with your life. That is not the picture of repentance in the Bible. David’s words in Palm 51 show genuine repentance.
The good news is the end result. God will draw near to you. And you will be blessed, as Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)