James makes clear in these verses that the remedy for the worldliness of his readers is the grace of God. In doing so, he also says that the amount of grace that will always be available will always be sufficient for their needs. This is a reminder that God is like a fountain in which grace is continually flowing. It is not a feature of his character that he switches off and on.
Moreover, the fact that James mentions grace to his sinning readers is an indication that God is favourable towards them, that he wishes to bless them abundantly. Of course, this is remarkable because it is grace shown towards persons who did not deserve it. They were departing from God and yet he was inviting them to return to him.
Another important aspect of God’s grace that should always be stressed is that it is free. It is impossible to buy it from God. This should be good news to people who are spiritually bankrupt. God is kind, full of mercy, desirous to share his grace with those who need it and, as far as some of James’ readers were concerned, willing to give grace to those who had despised it.
Of course, when we think about grace we should not think of a vague commodity that can somehow be weighed. No one can say that they received a stone of grace or a ton of grace. Grace does not exist apart from God. Grace is God acting favourably, so when we receive grace we receive God himself. He comes to our rescue, and by the Holy Spirit and the intercession of the Son we receive grace from the heavenly Father. Receiving God’s grace is an ongoing family privilege.
But to whom does God give this wonderful supply of grace? James tells us that God gives it to the humble. This is similar to what Isaiah says in Isaiah 57:15: ‘For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”’ That verse comes in a section in which God promises to restore backsliders who would collapse under his chastisement. About such he says, ‘I hid and was angry, and he went on backsliding in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will also lead him, and restore comforts to him and to his mourners’ (57:17-18). The implication is that humility is the evidence of divine healing. If a person is not humble, then they have not had recent contact with the heavenly Physician.
How do we show humility? By submitting ourselves to God and the commandments he has laid out in his Word. God never leads us to act independently of what his Word says and he never leads those who are unwilling to follow his instructions. It is not a sign of spirituality to ignore the requirements that God has made about our individual lives, about our church lives, and about our contacts with those who are outside the church. Instead the proof that we are spiritual is that we obey his Word from the heart.
Of course, such submission should be voluntary and flow from love to God. It should also be made gratefully because we realise that he is the one who knows what is best for us and who has given us the path of wisdom in his Word. So may the Lord keep us from worldliness and enable us to be humble.