James 4:4 warns us against “friendship with the world.” This can be a confusing verse, even though it seems pretty straightforward. Does it mean that as followers of Jesus we must separate ourselves from all the pleasures and wonderful things that Creation offers? Are we denied permission to participate and enjoy the good things of earth? No! It doesn’t mean that at all. This is not what James is talking about.
God created the heavens and the earth and pronounced them good (see Genesis 1). He is a very loving, creative God, and He desires that we, His children, enjoy what He has made for us. He feels the same way about giving pleasure to His children as we did when we took our kids to see a major league baseball game or baked chocolate brownies for them. God is delighted when we’re happy.
What James means in today’s passage by “the world” is everything that lies outside the community of God’s people. A list of those things— including adultery, greed, pride, and anger—are listed in Galatians 5. When we indulge this worldly frame of mind, we are at odds with what God wants for us. The Bible instructs us to imitate the humble character of Jesus and to live unselfish lives of service to others. When we choose the way of the world, we lead self-centered lives that often abuse others. We indulge in drugs, sex, and booze, and don’t give a rip about others. When we live by the world’s standards, it’s all about getting more money, more power to boss others around, greater status and prestige. Those things identify us and define us.
There is no accommodation of these two world views. There is no compromise available. We delude ourselves if we think we can have both. We cannot. It is our personal responsibility to make a choice between them.