What it means that friendship with the world is enmity with God
How do I know if I am “being friends” with “the world?”
“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself anof God.” James 4:4.
What does that mean? Does it mean that if I I am friends with people who are not Christians, then I am an enemy of God? Does it mean that I should be unpleasant, unfriendly, cold and distant towards non-believers and have a “holier-than-thou” attitude in order to be God’s friend?
I don’t think that is what James meant, although it could be interpreted like that by some, which means they can’t shake hands with unbelievers or even share a meal together, for fear of becoming “unclean.” Some others refuse to embrace modern technology, cars and computers etc. for fear of “friendship with the world.” This leads them to live apart from and shun contact with most other people!
Since God loves people and wants to draw them back to Himself and save and help them, such interpretations would have the opposite effect, which is to push people away. It says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The Bible tells us little about Jesus’ life until He was 30, but we can assume that He lived among people in a normal way. People thought of Him as “the carpenter’s son!” He didn’t live like a hermit, apart from people. In fact, during the three years of His public ministry, He got to be known as a friend of tax collectors and sinners. (Matthew 11:19.) But He certainly wasn’t a friend of the world!
What is “the world?”
So, with this in mind, what does the phrase “friendship with the world is enmity with God” actually mean? Well, in order to properly understand this, let’s go back to the beginning of the world. In Genesis 1:31 it says, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good …” Something must have changed then, for James to write this warning!
That “something” is explained in Genesis 3 concerning mankind’s disobedience and fall into sin, and the terrible changes this brought about. Just three chapters later in Genesis 6:5 it says, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” What an awful development!
In the beginning, Adam and Eve only had to do with God and were influenced by His Spirit and all that was good. But by listening to the serpent (Satan), they were influenced by a proud, wicked spirit. They chose to disobey God and fell into sin and separation from God. So, love for God, His commandments, and all that is good, was replaced by love for self. This egotism – desiring to get whatever I want, think, or see regardless of what is right or wrong, and living by my own pride – infiltrated all of mankind. This is “the world,” and it’s not out there somewhere! It’s inside of every human being. The Bible calls this human nature after the fall “the flesh,” and this has affected every person in the world.
Satan’s spirit is now the main influence in the world, he who is the enemy of God and mankind, as it’s written in Ephesians 2:2-3, “… according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
Simply put, human beings became hopelessly lost in sin with no way out, and this is why God in His great love for us sent Jesus to save us. (John 3:16; Romans 5:8.) Jesus became a human being and as a man was subject to all the weaknesses we have. He could be, and was, tempted just like us (Hebrews 4:15), but in these temptations, He fought against and overcame the lusts in His flesh. He did this every day and He cried out just before He died, “It is finished!” The way back to God was now made, but each person must choose for themselves what they will do.
Will you be honest about your state and acknowledge your own personal need for a Savior to help you overcome the world of sin inside yourself? Or will you deceive yourself and pretend all is well, and continue living a lie?
What is “friendship with the world?”
So, friendship with the world means going along with, living in, agreeing with and loving the lusts of the flesh and the driving spirit behind them – self, self, self! You can’t do that and be a friend of God! The only way to be God’s friend is to turn away from sin, to turn to Jesus and give Him your whole heart and follow Him. It is to hate the lusts of the flesh – all egotism, pride and evil – and to love what God loves – all that is good, pure, noble and lovely.
The verses in 1 John 2:15-17 make this crystal clear: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
When we give our hearts and lives back to God through His son Jesus Christ and begin to follow Him in obedience, God’s Holy Spirit fills us and leads us. The more we are freed from the lusts of our flesh (self, self, self), the more love, joy, peace and everything else that is good fills us. We are filled with love for God and for people, and want to help people, like we have been helped.
You may be interested in reading more on our topic page about being a Christian, or in the articles below.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.