Wednesday 3 April

3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. 4Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?

It is a strong word: “Adulterers!” The range of possible meanings or synonyms is not pleasant: “infidelity,” “unfaithfulness,” “falseness,” “disloyalty,” “immorality.” But it is an apt word in the context in which James uses it.

I am an adulterer when I am driven only by my desire to satisfy my own “pleasures,” whatever those pleasures may be. This self-serving approach always makes me an enemy of goodness, truth, beauty, and love. James calls this adulterous attitude, “friendship with the world.”

The “world” as James uses it here is not creation which the Bible always views as God’s good creation. The created world is something to be cherished and valued. It is a window to the divine, a sacrament of life which bears testimony to the beauty and Presence of our Creator.

But, “world” is also frequently used in the Bible to indicate that attitude towards life which orients all existence around my own needs, wants, and desires, my “pleasures.” I am a friend “with the world,” when I refuse to see any claim on my life beyond my own satisfaction. When I am driven only by the desire to minimize my own pain and maximize my own pleasure, I am at “enmity with God.”

Adultery always creates pain. To commit adultery is to break a bond of trust and to fracture the fabric of the human community. It destroys relationship and creates a barrier to the presence of love.

When I live in the “world” I am not open to the gifts of truth, beauty, and love that friendship with God always brings. I place stumbling blocks in the way of becoming more deeply my true self as a being created to live in loving relationship with all of creation.

James challenges me to examine my life and search out my true motivations. What are the forces that drive my life? What are the obstacles I may be placing in the way of the free work of goodness, truth and beauty through me in the world?