You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
The hard-hitting vocabulary of James in this passage leads some to believe he isn’t talking to Christians. After all, he starts out by calling his audience adulteresses!
Not exactly Sunday school vocabulary.
But the Jewish believers reading this indictment would have immediately understood his use of the word as a reference to spiritual unfaithfulness. Israel is often referred to as the wife of Jehovah in the Old Testament.
Sin is a violation of love between us and our Bridegroom, which means that every time we choose sin over Christ, we commit spiritual adultery.
Let that sink in.
When James refers to the world in this passage, he is speaking of the ideologies of the world system. It stands for everything that Christ isn’t.
The word James uses for friendship doesn’t mean some casual relationship; it’s one based on common interests, desires, and pursuits. In fact, this is a deeply affectionate word that is often translated love in the Greek New Testament.
James is simply telling us that we can’t love the ideologies and material pursuits of this world system and love Christ at the same time.
In other words, we can’t kiss up to sin and kiss the Son, too. Judas tried that . . . and things didn’t turn out so well for him. We have to choose between the two.
There is a war between Christ and this world, and James is forcing us in this passage to ask ourselves the eternally significant question: whose side are we on?
I love how God, through His prophet Jeremiah, depicts sin. God says:
“For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).
This is one aspect of sin we so often forget.
Sometimes we see God as a cosmic Kill-joy who wants to rob us of any happiness. The world seems to be having all the fun. So we forsake God’s Word in moments of prodigality and join the party.
But the party ends and we not only wake up as unfaithful people, but we rob ourselves of genuine satisfaction and joy. Sin—all sin—is a broken cistern that simply can’t hold water. Sin is a bucket full of holes . . . a dry well filled with dead leaves, branches, and other debris.
Righteousness and faithfulness to Christ—no matter how difficult or dull or seemingly unrewarding—brings lasting nourishment as we are drawn closer to our faithful Bridegroom.
Daily abandon those empty wells . . . daily drink from the Fountain of living water.
What broken cistern are you drinking from today? What sin are you choosing over Christ? Confess it to Him now and pray for willingness and strength to destroy it before it destroys you.
Read the whole chapter of Jeremiah 2
and listen as God rebukes Israel for their idolatry and disobedience.