“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4, AV)
In school it was easy to make enemies by association. I mean, if you befriended a certain group people, you might find yourself opposed by another group. I remember the bully crowd. While I was in grade school in Trenton NJ, there were two boys that would wait for me after school and start a fight with me on the way home. I really do not know why and never found out. However, it may have had to do with the fact that I did not associate with these two but another group of the so-called good guys. You see, I was part of the crowd that tried to behave in class and to learn. The point is this, that with which we associate has a lot to do with making friends and enemies.
James here tells us something that is quite poignant. Those who build their friendship with the world are enemies of God. He does not specifically state the contrast to this, but those who do not build a friendship with the world are not God’s enemies. On the contrary they are His friends. You see, there is no middle-ground. You are either on the Lord’s side or you are not.
So, what does James mean by a “friendship of the world?” The first clue is in the context of the verse. The context has to do with worldliness by people given over to the passions of the flesh. James in referring to the world is referring to the world system or arrangement. It is the system instituted by Satan that is opposed to the principles and ways of God. It is that system that is designed to please the fleshly desires of mankind. It is characterized by pride, greed, hedonism, materialism, etc. Moreover, those who have not experienced true faith in Christ alone for their salvation are unknowingly in love with this world system.
Only believers in Jesus are truly friends of God, and if friends then they cannot be enemies. Believers are joined with God in Christ. As true believers, we should rejoice in this awesome relationship. It was not of our own doing that we entered it. The Scriptures indicate that it was purely by God’s grace alone that we were saved (Eph 2:8-9). Since we are part of this new relationship with God and are citizens of heaven, we now live by a different set of rules. We are no longer subjects of this world system.
However, the lure of this world system to our fleshly appetites still exists. We must be careful to understand its deceptive powers so that we do not fall into its grip. To this, John gave us this exhortation. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15, AV). True believers are not to love this world system or the things that it offers. To be in love with this is evidence that the love of God has not entered a person’s heart. Again, you cannot be divided. You either love the one and hate the other or you love the other and hate the one.
Consider where you stand today. What love do people see in your life today? Do they see the love for God or the love for the things of this world system? The friendships you make will also make you enemies. You are either a friend of the world or a friend of God.