You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it on your lusts.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Because ye ask amiss - Ye do it with a view to self-indulgence and carnal gratification.
That you may consume it upon your lusts - Margin, "pleasures." This is the same word which is used in James 4:1, and rendered lusts. The reference is to sensual gratifications, and the word would include all that comes under the name of sensual pleasure, or carnal appetite. It was not that they might have a decent and comfortable living, which would not be improper to desire, but that they might have the means of luxurious dress and living; perhaps the means of gross sensual gratifications. Prayers offered that we may have the means of sensuality and voluptuousness, we have no reason to suppose God will answer, for he has not promised to hear such prayers; and it becomes every one who prays for worldly prosperity, and for success in business, to examine his motives with the closest scrutiny. Nowhere is deception more likely to creep in than into such prayers; nowhere are we more likely to be mistaken in regard to our real motives, than when we go before God and ask for success in our worldly employments.Ye ask; he prevents an objection; q.d. Admit you do pray for the good things you want, or, though you pray for them.
Ye ask amiss; though you pray for good things, yet you do not pray well, or in a right manner, not according to God’s will, 1Jo 5:14, and therefore ye are not to complain of not being heard.
That ye may consume it upon your lusts; you pray for the things of this life only, that you may have wherewith to please the flesh, and gratify your carnal appetites, and so an evil end spoils good means; and while you would have God serve your lusts you lose your prayers.
because ye ask amiss; not in the faith of a divine promise; nor with thankfulness for past mercies; nor with submission to the will of God; nor with a right end, to do good to others, and to make use of what might be bestowed, for the honour of God, and the interest of Christ: but
that ye may consume it upon your lusts; indulge to intemperance and luxury; as the man that had much goods laid up for many years did, to the neglect of his own soul, Luke 12:19 or the rich man, who spent all upon his back and his belly, and took no notice of Lazarus at his gate; Luke 16:19.Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Jam 4:3. James apparently again resumes the last expression, whilst he now grants αἰτεῖτε to his readers; but as he designates this their asking as κακῶς αἰτεῖσθαι, he does not consider it as an actual prayer, so that the foregoing declaration is nevertheless true. It is therefore inaccurate to resolve αἰτεῖτε into “or even if you ask.”
On the interchange of middle and active forms, see Winer, p. 229 [E. T. 321]. The middle form naturally suggested itself in Jam 4:2, prayer for others being not the point under consideration; but in the next clause, as James wished to lay stress on the active side—of prayer in antithesis to ΛΑΜΒΆΝΕΙΝ—he used the active form. “Egotistical praying for oneself” (Lange) is incorrectly understood by the middle.
καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετε] emphasizes the uselessness of their asking, the reason of which is assigned by the following: ΔΙΌΤΙ ΚΑΚῶς ΑἸΤΕῖΣΘΕ. ΚΑΚῶς finds its explanation in the following ἽΝΑ; your prayer is therefore evil, because it has no other object than ΔΑΠΑΝᾷΝ ἘΝ ΤΑῖς ἩΔΟΝΑῖς. Incorrectly Gebser: “for your prayer must implore only for true heavenly blessings.” The discourse is here rather of the temporal condition; this, James observes, continues with you a poor and depressed one, because ye ask for a better one only in order to be able to indulge your lusts.
ΔΑΠΑΝᾷΝ] to expend, spend (Mark 5:26); here, in a bad sense, to squander, to lavish. Suidas: λαμπρῶς ζῆν καὶ σπαθᾷν; the object to the transitive verb is “that for which you pray.” ἘΝ ΤΑῖς ἩΔΟΝΑῖς ὙΜῶΝ] not with, but in your lusts. Wahl incorrectly explains δαπανᾷν ἐν = sumtum ponere in aliqua re, i.e. τιθέναι τὰ χρήματα ἔν τινι; this meaning combines ΔΑΠΑΝᾷΝ with ΕἸς. The sense is not “for the gratification of your lusts” (Baumgarten), but governed by your lusts.
 Semler very strangely paraphrases it: scio, quosdam vel publieis precibus (et exsecrationibus, iii. 9) eam in rem parcere, mala omnia preeari imperatori et magistratui Romano.Jam 4:3. αἰτεῖτε … αἰτεῖσθε: There does not seem to be any difference in meaning between the active and middle here: “If the middle is really the stronger word, we can understand its being brought in just where an effect of contrast can be secured, while in ordinary passages the active would carry as much weight as was needed” (Moulton, op. cit., p. 160); cf. Mark 6:22-25; Mark 10:35-38; 1 John 5:15.—δαπανήσητε: Cf. Luke 15:14; Luke 15:30; Acts 21:24.3. Ye ask, and receive not …] The words are obviously written as in answer to an implied objection: “Not ask,” a man might say; “come and listen to our prayers; no one can accuse us of neglecting our devotions.” Incredible as it might seem that men plundering and murdering, as the previous verses represent them, should have held such language, or been in any sense, men who prayed, the history of Christendom presents but too many instances of like anomalies. Cornish wreckers going from church to their accursed work, Italian brigands propitiating their patron Saint before attacking a company of travellers, slave-traders, such as John Newton once was, recording piously God’s blessing on their traffic of the year;—these may serve to shew how soon conscience may be seared, and its warning voice come to give but an uncertain sound.
that ye may consume it upon your lusts] Better, that ye may spend it in your pleasures. This then was that which vitiated all their prayers. They prayed not for the good of others, nor even for their own true good, but for the satisfaction of that which was basest in their nature, and which they, as disciples of Christ, were specially called on to repress.Jam 4:3. Καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετε, and ye receive not) He does not here say, ye have not. To ask and to receive are relative terms.—αἰτεῖσθε, ye ask) Now he refutes others who wish to appear somewhat better than these.Verse 3. - An evident allusion to the sermon on the mount, Matthew 7:7, "Ask, and it shall be given to you... for every one that asketh receiveth." And yet St. James says, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss;" for our Lord elsewhere limits his teaching, "All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing," etc. (Matthew 21:22). Αἰτεῖτε... αἰτεῖσθε. The active and middle voices are similarly interchanged in 1 John 5:15, on which Dr. Westcott writes as follows: "The distinction between the middle and the active is not so sharply drawn; but generally the personal reference is suggested by the middle, while the request is left wholly undefined as to its destination by the active." That ye may consume it upon your lusts; render, with R.V., that ye may spend it in your pleasures; ἡδοναί, as in ver. 1.
See on ἠρώτων, besought, Matthew 15:23.
Lit., evilly: with evil intent, as explained by the following sentence.
Consume it upon (δαπανησήτε ἐν)
More correctly, as Rev., spend it in. The sense is not lay out expense upon your pleasures, but spend in the exercise of; under the dominion of.
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