In James 4, the writer addresses a community of believers who claim to be Christians but live and behave like unredeemed people of the world. They are self-centered, pleasure-seeking, self-indulgent, quarrelsome, spiritually unfaithful, and worldly (James 4:1–4). In a stern warning about the dangerous way they are currently living, James makes this curious, seemingly out-of-place statement about God: “He gives more grace” (James 4:6).
Just before stating that God gives more grace, James rebukes his readers harshly: “You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God” (James 4:4, NLT). James points out that these Christians are deliberately choosing to rebel against God.
True followers of Christ cannot be faithful to God and at the same time love the world: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15–17). The Christian life is characterized by submission to the will of God. Friendship with the world and obedience to God are irreconcilable.
How can these rebellious Christians remedy their perilous condition? By humbling themselves before the Lord and receiving His grace. James explains, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ 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” (James 4:6–9).
Whenever we stray from God, the only way to come clean is to humble ourselves, repent, and submit to the Lord. If we draw near to God, He comes near to us. He gives more grace.
James realizes that this call for total loyalty and obedience to the Lord may sound like a heavy demand to his listeners. For this reason, he says, “He gives more grace.” If we need more grace, God gives more grace. The New Living Translation says, “He gives grace generously.” If we humble ourselves, God will supply all the grace we need to abide by His commands (2 Corinthians 12:9; Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5).
The proud turn away from God, but the humble place their absolute dependence on Him. The self-seeking go their own way, but the humble “seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously,” knowing God will supply everything they need (Matthew 6:33, NLT; see also Philippians 4:19). God’s grace is His divine favor, and He delights in lavishing it on those who desperately recognize how much they need the Lord.
James calls his readers “double-minded” in James 4:9 because their hearts are divided between the world and God’s kingdom. They are pretending to serve God while in their hearts they are still devoted to the things of the world (Romans 8:7; 10:3; Matthew 6:24). The only solution for this dangerously divided and lukewarm existence (Revelation 3:16) is to repent and submit to God by making a fresh commitment to Jesus Christ (James 4:7–9; Luke 9:23–24).
Finally, James reiterates one of the great kingdom paradoxes: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10). Jesus taught that anyone who truly humbles himself before the Lord would be exalted (Matthew 23:11–12; Luke 14:11). Peter affirms, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). One way God lifts us up is by empowering us morally and spiritually to live the Christian life. In this manner, He gives us more grace.