THE PURSUIT OF UNHAPPINESS (JAMES 4)
Iris Mauss, at the University of California, Berkeley, tested the idea of pursuing happiness with a detailed questionnaire, asking participants to rate statements such as:
How happy I am at any given moment says a lot about how worthwhile my life is
To have a meaningful life, I need to feel happy most of the time
I value things in life only to the extent that they influence my personal happiness
Mauss’ team found that the more strongly the participants endorsed those sentiments, the less content they were with their current life. Mauss and her colleagues then asked half their participants to read a fake newspaper article extolling the importance of happiness, while the control group read a similar article about the benefits of “good judgement”, with no reference to emotion. The team then asked the participants to watch a heart-warming film about an Olympic win, and questioned them about their feelings afterwards.
Once again, they noted an ironic effect: the film was less likely to buoy the mood of the people who had been primed to desire greater happiness, compared with the people who had read the neutral article. Mauss has since shown that the desire for (and pursuit of) happiness can also increase feelings of loneliness and disconnection, perhaps because it causes you to focus your attention on yourself and your own feelings rather than appreciating the people around you. “
We are living in a society and a world that in increasingly narcissistic, neurotic and negative, and never neighborly, neutral or nice. Young and old, men and women, unbelievers and believers alike are disillusioned, distant, and distressed. The dependable, dignified and dream-like world as we know it we have now has now turned deceptive, dangerous and disruptive.
What roles do we have in a discontented, disjointed and disastrous society? How can we put or piece together a world gone wild? Why are we still agents of change and ambassadors of Christ to people who have no hope or honor today?
Desires Lead to Dishonor
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian writer, had a deep insight into human nature. In one of his books he speaks of a Russian peasant who was told that he could have all the land he could measure by walking in one day, from sunrise to sunset. The agreement stipulated that by sundown he must be back at his starting point. The man envisioned great holdings.
Early in the morning the man began walking; but as he realized that every foot of land on which he stepped belonged to him, he began to run at a feverish pace. The agreement stipulated that by sundown he must have returned to his starting point. His greed was so great, however, that more than half his time had elapsed before he turned back. He had to run at top speed to beat the setting sun. It was a real struggle. If he were not at the appointed place, he would lose all. He finally made it. But even as his foot touched the starting point, he fell dead from exhaustion. All that he gained in the end was sufficient land for his dead body—six feet of earth. That was his final inheritance. (from Illustrations of Bible Truths # 341).
The first passage in verse 1-3 is characterized by the many “not” (v 1, v 2 three “ouk” one “me,” v3 one “ouk”). James is certain and convinced about the source and snare. The fastest way to look at the mouthful of words from James is found in the nouns of verse 1 “fights and QUARRELS,” which is reversed to verbs in verse 2 “QUARREL and fight,” and the “desires” of verse 1 and “pleasures” at the end of verse 3 are the same for “hedone,” which is always in plural
Fights/wars and quarrels/fighting (v 1) are slightly different. The first is translated elsewhere as war (Matt 24:6), battle (1 Cor 14:8) and fight (Heb 11:34), whereas the second (quarrel/fighting) are translated as fighting (2 Cor 7:5) and strife (2 Tim 2:23). The first is outside clash with others and the second is internal conflict within self.
Desires (v 1, hedone) is best translated as pleasures (Luke 8:14) and lusts (James 4:1), or the playboy philosophy – using people as toys and objects. Desires/lusts are unquenchable, unfulfilling and unconscientious. The answers we give usually are more, max, as much as (humanly) possible.
Hedone was the personification and goddess of pleasure, enjoyment, and delight. In the philosophy of Epicurus, hedone is described as a pleasure that may or may not derive from actions that are virtuous. (Wikipedia “hedone”)
From physical James turns to emotional and even spiritual, from outside to inside. The verb “desire/lust” (v 2, epithumeo) is different from the noun “lust” (hedone) in verse 1. The first is outside but the second is for inside. So is “covet” (zeloo) an affair of the heart. The first time this word is used in the New Testament describes Joseph’s brothers who sold him out of envy (Acts 7:9).
Spend (v 3) is consume in Greek, to waste, use. This refers to the prodigal son who “spent” all he had (Luke 15:14). There is no satisfaction in it, no subjugation of it or sophistication to it. Nor is there such a thing as boundaries, barriers or bottoming. It is consumption without regard for cost, consequences or company.
Defense Leads to Deliverance
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. 11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
Just yesterday (Dec 29, 2018), in one day I felt how different the weather was, varying from 12 degrees and 32 degrees C at night. How can that be? Because I took a flight from sunny Singapore at 4:30 pm back to freezing Hong Kong at night. I had to juggle between wearing too much in Singapore before the plane departed and wearing too little arriving in Hong Kong without the troublesome problem of changing clothes on the packed plane and the busy restrooms, especially as I was in the middle seat. Without much choice, I decided to wear my heat-tech besides my pants and slip on my newly-bought long-sleeve Singapore T-shirt after the plane landed in Hong Kong.
What are some usual contrasts you know? Black and white, hot and cold, heaven and earth, in and out, old and new, right and left?
What is the contrast of friend? Friend and enemy (v 4) are directly and diametrically opposite from each other. There is no stronger contrast. Enemy means adversarial, antagonism and . It means dislike, despise, and destroy. They are unfriendly, unpleasant and uncomfortable. Enemy is a strong word. It means God opposes/resist (v 6, antitassomai), of which the latter “tasso” means arrange/array/amass, addict (1 Cor 16:15) and appoint/set. The proud (huperephanos) is the above shining; making a big drama, hyped display and over the top deal out of nothing.
The contrasts continue in every verse but the question in verse 5, especially with all the imperatives from verse 6-11.
Submit (hupo-tasso) is “under-arrangement” while resist (ant-histemi) is “anti-stand” or stand against. Come near (eggizo) is derived from “to squeeze.” Sometimes it is translated as “at hand” (Matt 4:17, 10:7, 26:45). Change (metatrepo) is to turn around and make things happen.
7 Submit yourselves to God… Resist the devil
Acceptance of Authority
8 Come near to God…he will come near to you. Approach with Assurance
9 Change your laughter to mourning … joy to gloom Awareness of
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord… he will lift you up Adjustment of Attitude Nought
11 judges…keeping (doer) Accountability in Action
Disobedience Leads to Demise
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
In Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins' home stands a tower less than four feet tall filled to the top with hundreds of stones. Why? Turning 30 in 2019, he marked off a lifespan of 90 years to count how many stones to put in the tower, given one stone represents one month for the rest of the 60 years remaining, or 720 stones. The stones were inspired by a Psalm 90:13, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
Cousins laughs and explains, "It's there to remind me how brief life is, and how important the time we have here is. Oh, it's a little morbid, but it's a tool my Bible teacher taught me in high school, and I'm carrying it with me. It's about the importance of leaving a mark and making a deposit in people's lives in a way that matters. In other words, when you have an understanding that life is coming to an end someday, and that we only have so many days? There's wisdom in that. Every month I'm going to take out a stone, put it in my pocket, and think: 'Once this month is over, this is gone. You can't get it back, it's gone for good.'"
Go Spend (do), Carry on business (emporeuomai) Make money
Movement Mobilization Market Money
Plan Persevere Purchase Payout
Travel Time Trading Treasures
Mist (atmis) is vapor or the English equivalent “atmosphere.” A particle that comes and goes, somewhere between gas and liquid, the vapor is light and wispy, not dense and full-bodied. It is floating, formless and fading. I learned the difference between vapor and gas: vapor is light and always goes up, gases are heavy and always go down.
Life is about here today and gone tomorrow, now you see me and now you don’t, In Hong Kong there were 7.4 deaths per 1,000 population in 2017.
In Hong Kong more than half of the deaths of men and women were from malignant neoplasms (32.5/27.9%), pneumonia (16.9/18.9%) and diseases of heart (13.1/13.6% ). https://www.healthyhk.gov.hk/phisweb/plain/en/healthy_facts/disease_burden/major_causes_death/major_causes_death/
Who V 13 you who say?????
What go ?
carry on business ???
When Today or tomorrow ????
a year ??
for a little while??
Where this or that city???
Why V 14 (For) What is your life? You are a mist?????????
How that appears and then vanishes. ??…????
Conclusion: Is your life about the pursuit of power, pleasure and possessions?
Do you strive to enter through the narrow door? (Luke 13:24) Do you diligently seek him? (Heb 11:6)Do you seek your own good, or that of your neighbor’s? (1 Cor 10:24)