Friendship with the World

Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?
-James 4:4

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
-Matthew 11:18

Our pastor, Darren, preached from James 4 today, and primarily talked about James 4:4. What does ‘friendship with the world’ mean. His take on it was that James was talking about world systems, not people. The verse from Matthew certainly shows Jesus as a person who hung around people of the world. He didn’t seem to hang out with religious people too often though. To be called a drunkard, one would assume the guy who turned water into wine probably hung out in places where alcohol was served. Maybe he enjoyed himself a bit too much. Maybe grace was too powerful a message for those in power.

It seems a lot of systems are about power and money. What do we have to do for people to like us, to be accepted, to get what we want? Systems, whether they be cultural, corporate, organizational, or even church and family, they all help define us and shape our values. The dangerous aspect is that we are so integrated into the systems of worldly thinking that we often don’t realize it. The synthesis is too great. Thus, we’ll condemn obvious moral sins, but when it comes to not loving our neighbor, being materialistic, idolatry, greed, power, we don’t talk about these things so much. Once we learn a system, we may know how to manipulate it to a degree, may even achieve a certain degree of power. Conversely, we may feel a victim to the system. Then Jesus comes in and shakes things up by showing us a new kingdom, an upside-down kingdom parallel to this one, with values quite different. In this kingdom, it’s about letting go of power, and being humble, and not stepping over people on our self-centered quests to get what we want.

In my personal quest to get what I want out of life, I’m finding great comfort right now in grace and humility. It’s so hard to break out of the value systems around me. Sometimes it’s easy to try to ‘use’ God to get what we want in the false systems of the world, as if it’s God’s duty to help us ‘look good and feel good’ based on the world’s values, and if God doesn’t come through (as some say He should), then there’s reason to doubt Him. In truth, it’s hard to be in the world, but not define ourselves by it. It’s even harder when the false values of the world are in some ways supported by false values within the American church. For now, I pray James 4:5 for myself:

“God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”