What does James 4:9 mean?
ESV: Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
NIV: Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.
NASB: Be miserable, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into gloom.
CSB: Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
NLT: Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.
KJV: Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
NKJV: Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Verse Commentary:
James continues to describe the process of repenting from worldly self-reliance and ambition. Thus far, he has instructed us to submit to God and resist the devil. We are to draw near to God, with the confidence that God, in His grace, will draw near to us. We are to cleanse our hands and hearts of the sinfulness and double-mindedness we had been choosing.

Now in this verse he calls us to engage in an emotional response to our sinfulness. He calls us to cry, to mourn, to be gloomy, even. He calls us to set aside laughter and joy. James is not suggesting that we embrace sadness as an ongoing lifestyle. On the contrary, Christians are to be known for their joyfulness. James himself opened this letter by instructing believers to chalk their hardships up as joy (James 1:2)!

Rather, James is directing us through a season of repentance, when we have recognized our own sin. True believers, those who claim to believe God and who have received His loving gift of salvation, ought to feel shame and sadness over their sins, at least temporarily. If we have been destructively living only for ourselves, realizing this should make us sad. We should be provoked to grieve the lost hours, days, and years spent in pursuit of worthless things.

We must not be too quick to rush on to a status of "everything's fine now." Our rebellion happened. We cheated on God. We lived as His enemy for a time while we were friends with the world. Tears are an appropriate and necessary response if the repentance is genuine—as are the end of tears after receiving God's grace and forgiveness once more. This season of grief is not meant to be a lifestyle or a pattern.
Verse Context:
James 4:1–12 builds on the end of chapter 3, describing how living according to the world's wisdom has led to great conflict among James's Christian readers. They were fighting with each other because they couldn't get what they wanted. James says that living that way is adultery. It's ''cheating'' on God. He calls them to quit their friendship with the world, humble themselves, repent from their sin, and receive God's grace. God is the Lawgiver and Judge, not man.
Chapter Summary:
What was causing fights and quarrels among the Christians to whom James was writing? They were living by the world's wisdom. This false perspective says human beings should do whatever it takes to get what they want in this life, even if it hurts other people. James says that to live that way is adultery, but God gives grace. Christians should repent and move close to God again. We should trust Him to provide, to be the Judge, and to lift us up in His time. In humility, we must acknowledge that all of our plans are dependent on Him, and He can change them at any moment.
Chapter Context:
The book of James is about what it means for a Christian to live a life of complete trust in God. Chapter 4 builds on the end of chapter 3, where James described the self-seeking wisdom of the world. Following this worldliness was the cause of fights among James's Christian readers. He called them to repent and, in humility, receive God's grace. He called them to stop making their plans for business as if they could accomplish anything without God. In chapter 5, he will continue to talk about the dangers of trusting riches instead of the Lord.
Book Summary:
The book of James is about specifically understanding what saving faith looks like. How does faith in Christ reveal itself in a believer's life? What choices does real trust in God lead us to make? Those are the questions James answers. Most scholars believe the writer was Jesus' half-brother, a son born to Joseph and Mary after Jesus' birth. James may not have come to believe Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection. Eventually, though, he became one of the leaders of the Christian church in Jerusalem. This is possibly the earliest-written of all the New Testament books, around AD 40–50. James addresses his letter to Jewish Christians scattered around the known world.
Accessed 5/18/2024 6:59:44 PM
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