Divided Hearts

James 4:4-6 – You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means animosity against God. Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

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This week, the Book of James is so blunt, it is scary.  James is so straightforward, and his clarity is meant to cause every one of us to examine our hearts.  James is going to tell us that the faith we have in Jesus Christ is a guarantee that we will be changed.  Having faith in Jesus is so life-changing that we will be completely different after professing faith in Him.  We will become Godlier if we have faith in Jesus, and if we do not see that change in our lives, we have a real reason to examine our hearts to see if we actually have a life changing faith or not.

Now this kind of conversation is incredibly dangerous while simultaneously being incredibly true.  Let me explain the dangerous part.  Christians loves to beat up other Christians and we like to use language like, “Don’t be a fake Christian” or “Be the same Christian outside that you are at home”.  And though I do encourage us all to be the same person out and about that we are at home, often that kind language is  used by the self-righteous to make other people feel bad.  Instead, the truth that real faith causes real change should be a cause for hope.

Our faith in Jesus’ goodness is a promise that He will gradually and continually conform our life to look like His. It is not just, “forgive me.”  It is “change me.”  “There is a real, promised hope from God that I am going to grow in trusting Jesus and overcome this sin.  I have a real and lasting hope.”  Getting to that point though is hard.  And not struggling with or abusing people with self-righteousness isn’t easy either, so let’s walk gently, but trust God in great faith. 

Let’s pause for a moment and think what the term “divided hearts’ means. First – let’s consider the word integrity. Integrity is derived from “integer” (a whole number as opposed to a fraction) and speaks of the quality of being undivided. O, to be women and men of integrity, lights shining during the darkness in such a way that the world might see our undivided hearts, and this would bring glory to God.

In Matthew 22, to trap Jesus, there was an alliance formed between the Pharisees who were strong Nationalists, supporting a Jewish nation and the Herodians, Jews supporting the Roman rule of the Herod’s. They visited Jesus and posed the question in verse “Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” As you can quickly recognize, this is a loaded question because, if Jesus says “yes” the Pharisees will regard him as a supporter of Rome, and untrue to the Jewish Nation. If he says “no”, the Herodians will regard him as a traitor and have him executed. Jesus turns this attempt to trap him, into a moment to teach the Pharisees and the Herodians by taking the high ground. He doesn’t advocate ignoring one or the other and gives a “yes and yes” answer in verse and says ….. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.” In short, he reminds them that there are two kingdoms. There was the kingdom of Caesar with earthly rules, where all needed to give as required, or face the consequences. Likewise, there is the Kingdom of God that is often ignored and has its’ consequences by our ignoring God. Ignoring God’s word results in divided hearts.

The other word is hypocrisy – which means -saying one thing and doing another. It’s an example of divided hearts. So often, we see people who will say “I’m a follower of Jesus” but then in the next breath a judgemental attitude comes forward. All of us have a hyprocital streak in us and it is difficult to control. Jesus is quite clear is saying how can we judge a person who has a splinter in their eye and we have a log in our eye.

Divided hearts are ones where integerty and hyprocisy are at a battle. Let’s see what James is saying to us.

Chapter 4 of James’ letter continues the line of thinking we have been reading about in the previous chapters. James is chastising us as we seek to honor worldly wisdom instead of following the wisdom of God as spelled out in the Bible. I think that all would agree that our society today is experiencing bitter jealousy, envy, and selfish ambition. Many of us feel that our views are the sacred views and that we are always correct. Our actions reveal that we are following the wisdom of the world and not the wisdom of God. The result of worldly wisdom is disorder and every vile practice. Following the wisdom of world not only causes ruin to ourselves as individuals, but also causes problems for our communities and society. We see Christians fighting with other Christians. Divisions, hurt feelings, tension, and strife are readily seen by outsiders. We are experiencing racism and hate is abounding. Have you seen the crude anti-Biden sign on Route 30? How about the homophobia markings on schools? We are becoming a more violent society and we all know it!

We live in a pleasure driven society. Do what you want to do! Make sure you are happy! Obey your passions and your thirst. James asks the question: Where do you think these quarrels and fights come from? The answer is that our passions are at war within us, and James is speaking in spiritual terms. In his book The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis observes that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

James’ answer concerning our separation from God is not the answer we give. The answer we give about why there is strife is because of something outside of us. We blame the other person. We blame things that were said. We blame actions that hurt us. But that is not the answer James gives. James says that the problem resides within us. Battles and fights come from our selfish hearts and our desires for pleasure. We have divided hearts.[1] We have passions that are ruling our hearts and bodies. The problem is that we have not conformed to the wisdom of God but have conformed to the wisdom of the world.

James says that we are an “adulterous” people. That we love the world while saying that we love God. This is a powerful comparison and one that points directly to all of us. We are disloyal to following God’s call on our lives. God does not want to share us with the world. We understand it in marriage. When we marry, we are leaving family and friends at second place and the marriage is where our attention rests. Something is wrong with the marriage if we are spending time with every person but our spouse. Something is wrong if work consumes us all the time. In the same way, there is something wrong if we spend our time with every person but God. We are showing our friendship with the world. We are cheating on God, rather than being united to him completely. God will not accept our leftovers. Serve God completely or don’t bother because God will not be the third wheel in the relationship.

After crushing our hearts in an effort to see that our love with the world has separated us from God, James says something that gives us hope. “But God gives us more grace.” We need to hear those words at this moment. We see that we have fallen well short of the relationship that God demands of us. We have been listening to the wisdom of the world and become friends with the world. But God gives more grace. God can overcome our sinfulness. There is always enough grace to redeem us from what we have done because of Jesus. It is not time to give up. It is time to seek grace.

This grace comes to those who humble themselves, not to the proud. There is no grace to the self-centered and those who act selfishly. There is no grace to those who continue to practice jealousy and envy. There is no grace for those who ignore God’s call and continue to be friends with the world. But those who humble themselves will find grace. Those who will admit that they have not been living in a way God demands and come to the Father seeking grace will find grace. God can and will overcome our sins if we will humble ourselves before God. Stop being self-seeking and become God-seeking. God can fix this if we will seek God.

In the process of drawing closer to God’s love for us, maybe just maybe we will begin to open our eyes so that we begin to see what the Declaration of Independence said— that all people are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. These words from our founding documents need to be honored today!

Thanks be to God.        


[1] From Third Church, Henrico VA 23229 August 4, 2019