Friendship with the World

Text: James 4:4

James warned Christians about “friendship with the world.” He did not say that it was possibly unwise or potentially dangerous. Instead, he used very strong language: “Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Knowing this danger, it is important that we know what this means.

Defining Terms

  • Friendship – includes familiarity and fondness; very close relationship involving approval and trust
  • The world – not the physical creation; this refers to all that stands opposed to God

What Friendship with the World Looks Like

  • Conflict among brethren (James 4:1) – the Lord wants His people to be united (John 17:20-21); these conflicts are not about opposing error (2 John 10), but about strife among brethren; the world will hate us (John 15:18-19); when brethren turn to the world, they will hate us too
  • Uncontrolled lust (James 4:1-2) – lusts wage war in our members, leading to sin and death (James 1:14-16); more than just wishing we had what we desire, it is an uncontrolled drive to obtain it (“you commit murder“); we are to bring our bodies under subjection (1 Corinthians 9:27); worldliness is contrary to this
  • Ignoring God (James 4:2) – you do not ask in prayer (Philippians 4:6); we may ask for things that are not God’s will and we will not receive those things (1 John 5:14-15); but this is the same mentality as the Gentiles in not acknowledging God or giving thanks to Him (Romans 1:21, 28)
  • Selfishness (James 4:3) – our goal is simply to satisfy our desires; our “motives” should be to please God and do good to others (Matthew 22:26-40); worldliness follows the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16); rooted in selfishness
  • Hostility toward God (James 4:4) – if we are not with Him, we are against Him (Luke 11:23; 1 John 2:15); this is easy to ignore because the worldly-minded person is focused on worldly things, not spiritual; yet this cannot be ignored because the enemies of God will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:25; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9)

What Our Relationship with the World Should Be

  • In the world, but not of the world (John 17:14-15) – Jesus’ disciples are “not of the world“; yet we cannot “go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5:10); we must continue to work to be different
  • Not conformed to the world, but transformed (Romans 12:2) – not enough just to be different; must be “transformed” and “prove what the will of God is“; Christ should be in us (Galatians 2:20); this should be evident to others (1 Peter 4:4)
  • Shining as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15-16) – done as we hold fast (forth, KJV) the word; we let our light shine by our example (Matthew 5:16) and through our teaching (2 Corinthians 4:3-6)
  • Not unequally yoked together (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) – do not be influenced by the world; again, we cannot “go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5:10); but we must be the influence for good (Matthew 5:13)
  • Strangers and pilgrims (1 Peter 2:11-12) – our lives here are temporary (James 4:14); our home is in heaven (Philippians 3:20); therefore, we must obey God and avoid sin; this is how we can “eagerly wait” (cf. 1 John 2:28-29)


  • This world is temporary (1 John 2:17) – if we do the will of God, we can have eternal life
  • Do not forfeit that reward for friendship with the world

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