Previously, we found some harsh, but true, words come from James. Here he continues so that you know that there is hope and how you can rectify the situation.
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. (James 4:7-10 NIV)
Let’s dissect this section.
“Submit yourselves, then, to God.” – Submit has such a bad taste in most people’s mouths. We are raised not to do that. We are taught not to submit because of the bad examples of it. But we are not taught the good side of it. We are to submit to authorities. We are to submit to God. Since we are so confused, what exactly does submit mean? It means to yield to another voluntarily or to have accountability with someone. That doesn’t sound so bad. When we submit to God, we are yielding to His ways and His Word. What harm can come from that? None at all.
“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The devil is powerful, yes. But he is not all-powerful and he does not have stronger powers than you, just different. You can resist him. It might be hard. It might be tempting not to. But you CAN do it and he will leave you alone. When you resist with the power of the Holy Spirit, he cannot fight you and win. He flees every time.
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” God really never moves. We are the ones moving. We move away from Him and erect barriers. We put obstacles between us. When we begin to move toward Him the gap gets smaller. He reaches for us. He wants us to be near Him.
“Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” OK, here are some more “harsh” words. We are all sinners. We are pretty much all double-minded. He’s not trying to be mean here. He is trying to get you to admit that you need to wash your hands and purify your hearts. You are not exempt from this even when you have accepted Christ in your heart. This is very important for a Christian’s walk to do this.
“Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” Remember not to take verses out of context. It needs to be read as a whole with the rest of the Bible. Here he is referring to recognizing your sin and not rejoicing in it. You need to grieve the fact that you sinning. You need to mourn the fact that you are not on the right path. You need to wail because you are not close to Him. Stop your laughing in your sin and joy in the mire. You should be mourning the fact that you are not pure to be before Him.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” Here are the hopeful words. You need to humble yourself. You need to toss away arrogance and admit that you are not top dog. When you can do that before God, He will lift you up out of that mire and you can have laughter and joy in Him.