James 4:3

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. James 4:3

James just said, “…you do not have because you do not ask.” Now, implying that the person has asked, he continues with, “You ask and do not receive.” He is developing his words from one thing to the next in order to show how all things must be in accord with the will of God.

We fight after what we want and we don’t receive it. We have asked for it, but we do not obtain it because the same spirit of coveting existed in our asking as existed in our fighting for what we desired. He says that not receiving (meaning from the Lord) occurs “because you ask amiss.”

The word translated as “amiss” is an adverb which signifies that which is evil – “You ask evilly.” He then defines that by saying, “that you may spend it on your pleasures.” The intent behind the prayer is not that which is godly. Rather, it is self-seeking, and it is worldly.

He again uses the word hédoné from verse 4:1. It is a worldly pleasure with a strongly negative connotation. It is pleasure that is made an end in itself. When asking something from the Lord which is contrary to the nature of the Lord, it is obvious that the request will not be granted by Him.

In these words of James, it appears that what he says contradicts what Jesus says in Matthew 7:7, 8 –

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

However, Jesus elsewhere clarifies this, such as in Matthew 21:22. One must have faith in what they ask for. James, under inspiration of the Spirit, also now qualifies what is stated. Not only are we to have faith that what we request will come about, but we are to have our requests in line with the nature and will of God. Unfortunately, people take single verses of Scripture, such as Matthew 7:7, and they build entire doctrines around them without taking into consideration the whole body of Scripture.

Life application: God is infinitely gracious. It is in His very nature to bestow on His children the things they desire and especially the things they need. However, we tend to ask for things we do not need and with the wrong motives as well.

“Oh Lord, I really need a cell phone.” The fact is that a few short years ago, there was no such thing as a cell phone. For six thousand years, man got along just fine without them. Some people still do. Is the cell phone needed, or is the desire to have one based on a misdirected desire? Intent drives the appropriate nature of the request.

“Oh Lord, I really want to retire at 65.” Until the age of Social Security, people worked until they couldn’t work anymore, regardless of age. After that, families pulled together and took care of the elderly. People who retired at a set age, such as 65, were the exception and not the rule. Now we want to retire at 65 and spend many golden years playing golf. What is our motivation for retirement at a specific age?

Often, these aren’t true needs, but depending on how we prioritize them, they may merely be our selfish desires. The vast majority of what we pray for is exactly that, something to fulfill our wish list. Selfless prayers ask for other’s needs to be met, for peaceable living in our circumstances, and for our own daily bread. Above all, selfless prayers ask that God is glorified through our lives; regardless of level of wealth, location of home, or amount of free time to play.

In all ways, may Jesus Christ be seen in our lives and exalted in the eyes of those who see us. And, may He be the Lord over everything we have, do, and interact with. When we pray for Jesus to be the recipient of glory in the meeting of our needs, we will receive the thing which will accomplish this; in abundance. He is infinitely worthy; so at the end of every prayer of request, make sure you add in a thought that asks for Him to be glorified through the petition.

Lord, our hearts are heavy for those around us; may You bless them. Lord our stomachs need to be filled; may You fill them. Lord, our nations’ leaders have strayed from Your word; please restore them to right sense and turn them back to it. But, Lord, in all that we ask for may You be glorified above all else. Amen.

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