James 4:9
Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
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(9) Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep.—For wretchedness, sorrow, and tears are the three steps of the homeward way to peace and God. And in proof of real conversion there must be the outward lamentation, as well as the inward contrition. Grieve, therefore, with a “godly sorrow not to be repented of” (2Corinthians 7:10)—the remorseful anguish of a Peter, and not a Judas. Let the foolish laughter at sin, which was “as the crackling of thorns” before the avenging fire (Ecclesiastes 7:6), be turned to mourning; banish the joyous smile for the face cast down to heaviness, and so await the blessedness of those that mourn (Matt. v, 4), even the promised comfort of God.

4:1-10 Since all wars and fightings come from the corruptions of our own hearts, it is right to mortify those lusts that war in the members. Wordly and fleshly lusts are distempers, which will not allow content or satisfaction. Sinful desires and affections stop prayer, and the working of our desires toward God. And let us beware that we do not abuse or misuse the mercies received, by the disposition of the heart when prayers are granted When men ask of God prosperity, they often ask with wrong aims and intentions. If we thus seek the things of this world, it is just in God to deny them. Unbelieving and cold desires beg denials; and we may be sure that when prayers are rather the language of lusts than of graces, they will return empty. Here is a decided warning to avoid all criminal friendships with this world. Worldly-mindedness is enmity to God. An enemy may be reconciled, but enmity never can be reconciled. A man may have a large portion in things of this life, and yet be kept in the love of God; but he who sets his heart upon the world, who will conform to it rather than lose its friendship, is an enemy to God. So that any one who resolves at all events to be upon friendly terms with the world, must be the enemy of God. Did then the Jews, or the loose professors of Christianity, think the Scripture spake in vain against this worldly-mindedness? or does the Holy Spirit who dwells in all Christians, or the new nature which he creates, produce such fruit? Natural corruption shows itself by envying. The spirit of the world teaches us to lay up, or lay out for ourselves, according to our own fancies; God the Holy Spirit teaches us to be willing to do good to all about us, as we are able. The grace of God will correct and cure the spirit by nature in us; and where he gives grace, he gives another spirit than that of the world. The proud resist God: in their understanding they resist the truths of God; in their will they resist the laws of God; in their passions they resist the providence of God; therefore, no wonder that God resists the proud. How wretched the state of those who make God their enemy! God will give more grace to the humble, because they see their need of it, pray for it are thankful for it, and such shall have it. Submit to God, ver. 7. Submit your understanding to the truth of God; submit your wills to the will of his precept, the will of his providence. Submit yourselves to God, for he is ready to do you good. If we yield to temptations, the devil will continually follow us; but if we put on the whole armour of God, and stand out against him, he will leave us. Let sinners then submit to God, and seek his grace and favour; resisting the devil. All sin must be wept over; here, in godly sorrow, or, hereafter, in eternal misery. And the Lord will not refuse to comfort one who really mourns for sin, or to exalt one who humbles himself before him.Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep - That is, evidently, on account of your sins. The sins to which the apostle refers are those which he had specified in the previous part of the chapter, and which he had spoken of as so evil in their nature, and so dangerous in their tendency. The word rendered "be afflicted" means, properly, to endure toil or hardship; then to endure affliction or distress; and here means, that they were to afflict themselves - that is, they were to feel distressed and sad on account of their transgressions. Compare Ezra 8:21. The other words in this clause are those which are expressive of deep grief or sorrow. The language here used shows that the apostle supposed that it was possible that those who had done wrong should voluntarily feel sorrow for it, and that, therefore, it was proper to call upon them to do it.

(All who feel true sorrow for sin, do so voluntarily; but it is not intended by this assertion to insinuate that repentance is not the work of the Spirit. He operates on men without destroying their freedom, or doing violence to their will: "in the day of his power they are willing." Nor is it improper to call on men to do that for which they require the Spirit's aid. That aid is not withheld in the hour of need; and everywhere the Bible commands sinners to believe and repent.)

Let your laughter be turned to mourning - It would seem that the persons referred to, instead of suitable sorrow and humiliation on account of sin, gave themselves to joyousness, mirth, and revelry. See a similar instance in Isaiah 22:12-13. It is often the case, that those for whom the deep sorrows of repentance would be peculiarly appropriate, give themselves to mirth and vanity. The apostle here says that such mirth did not become them. Sorrow, deep and unfeigned, was appropriate on account of their sins, and the sound of laughter and of revelry should be changed to notes of lamentation. To how many of the assemblies of the vain, the gay, and the dissipated, might the exhortation in this passage with propriety be now addressed!

Your joy to heaviness - The word here rendered heaviness occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means dejection, sorrow. It is not gloom, melancholy, or moroseness, but it is sorrow on account of sin. God has so made us that we should feel sorrow when we are conscious that we have done wrong, and it is appropriate that we should do so.

9. Be afflicted—literally, "Endure misery," that is, mourn over your wretchedness through sin. Repent with deep sorrow instead of your present laughter. A blessed mourning. Contrast Isa 22:12, 13; Lu 6:25. James does not add here, as in Jas 5:1, "howl," where he foretells the doom of the impenitent at the coming destruction of Jerusalem.

heaviness—literally, "falling of the countenance," casting down of the eyes.

Be afflicted; humble yourselves for your sins, before mentioned, and in the sense of wrath approaching, if ye do not.

And mourn, with inward sorrow of heart.

And weep; show your inward grief by weeping, the usual expression and sign of it.

Let your laughter; your carnal rejoicing in what you get by sinful courses, Jam 4:1,2, lusting, warring, fighting.

Be turned into mourning; exchange your carnal joy for godly sorrow.

And your joy; to the same purpose as laughter, before: by it he means their pleasing themselves in the success of their unrighteousness, the gain of their rapine and violence.

Into heaviness; the same as mourning, or an outward expression of it in the dejection of the countenance, which usually proceeds from shame or sorrow, (and the Greek word signifies both), whereas joy and confidence make men lift up their heads or faces, Ezra 9:6 Job 10:15 Job 11:15 22:26 Luke 21:28.

Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep,.... Not in a bare external way; not by afflicting the body with fastings and scourgings, by renting of garments, and clothing with sackcloth, and putting ashes on the head, and other such outward methods of humiliation; but afflicting the soul is meant, an inward mourning and weeping over the plague of the heart, the impurity of nature, and the various sins of life; after a godly sort, and because contrary to a God of infinite love and grace; in an evangelical way, looking to Jesus, and being affected with the pardoning grace and love of God in Christ.

Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness; meaning their carnal joy, on account of their friendship with the world, and their enjoyment of the things of it, since they consumed them on their lusts, and which betrayed enmity to God.

{6} Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to {a} heaviness.

(6) He goes on in the same comparison of opposites, and contrasts those profane joys with an earnest sorrow of mind, and pride and arrogancy with holy modesty.

(a) By this word the Greeks mean a heaviness joined with shamefacedness, which is to be seen in a cast down countenance, and settled as it were upon the ground.

Jam 4:9. The μετάνοια required in Jam 4:8 does not take place without grief and mourning for guilt. The consciousness of the latter is the road to the former; therefore the summons now to this mourning: ταλαιπωρήσατε καὶ πενθήσατε καὶ κλαύσατε. The repetition of καί is an expression of emotion; ταλαιπωρεῖν] in the N. T. ἅπ. λεγ. (the adjective in Romans 7:24; Revelation 3:17; the substantive in chap. Jam 5:1; Romans 3:16), literally, to suffer external hardships, as in Micah 2:4, is here used of the internal condition: to feel unhappy, wretched, as the adjective in Romans 7:24. Estius, Gagnejus, Grotius erroneously refer it to bodily castigations: affligite vosmet ipsos jejuniis et aliis corporis σκληραγωγίαις (Grotius); similarly Hottinger: sensum miseriae claris indiciis prodite; falsely also Beza: reprehendit ἀναλγησίαν in adversis.

πενθήσατε καὶ κλαύσατε] the same combination in Nehemiah 8:9; 2 Samuel 19:1; and in the N. T. Mark 16:10; Luke 6:25; Revelation 18:15; Revelation 18:19 : wail and weep. Grotius incorrectly explains πενθήσατε = lugubrem habitum induite, saccum et cilicia; there is not the slightest indication that James had in view the external signs of mourning in dress and the like. If the foregoing exhortations point to a change of the lusts and joy of worldly life into godly mourning (τὴν κατὰ Θεὸν λύπην, 2 Corinthians 7:10), this is still more definitely expressed in what follows, by which James passes from the outward manifestation (γέλωςπένθος) to the internal state (χαρὰκατήφεια).

κατήφεια] ἅπ. λεγ. (the adj., Wis 17:4), literally, the casting down of the eyes, here indicates internal shame; in Plutarch, Them. 9, it is used synonymously with δυσθυμία. Compare with this the picture of the publican in Luke 18:13.

Jam 4:9. ταλαιπωρήσατε: ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T. cf. Micah 2:4; Jeremiah 4:13; “undergo hardship”; it was a recognised tenet in Jewish theology that self-inflicted punishment of any kind was a means of reconciliation, e.g., in Mechilta, 76a, the words of Psalm 89:32 (33 in Heb.), I will visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes, are interpreted to mean that the pain suffered under liberal chastisement is one of the means of reconciliation with God; for instances of how chastisement has reconciled men to God, see Baba mezia, 84 a b.—πενθήσατε καὶ κλαύσατε: these words are found together in 2 Esdras 18:9 (= Nehemiah 8:9); and in Luke 6:25 we have, οὐαὶ ὑμῖν οἱ γελῶντες νῦν, ὅτι πενθήσετε καὶ κλαύσετε. Repentance (תשׁובה) was, according to Jewish teaching, also in itself another of the means of reconciliation.—ὁ γέλως ὑμῶν εἰς πένθος μετατραπήτω: μετατραπ. ἅπ. λεγ. in. N.T.; cf. Amos 8:10, καὶ μεταστρέψω τὰς ἑορτὰς ὑμῶν εἰς πένθος.—καὶ ἡ χαρὰ εἰς κατήφειαν: Cf. Jeremiah 16:9; Proverbs 14:13; the words express the contrast between the loud unseemly gaiety of the pleasure-seeker, and the subdued mien and downcast look of the penitent. κατήφειαν occurs only here in the N.T.; it is often found in Philo.

Jam 4:10. ταπεινώθητε ἐνώπιον Κυρίου καὶ ὑψώσει ὑμᾶς: Cf. Sir 2:17, οἱ φοβούμενοι Κύριον ἑτοιμάσουσι καρδίας αὐτῶν καὶ ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ ταπεινώσουσι τὰς ψυχὰς αὐτῶν, and cf. Jam 3:18; in the Test. of the Twelve Patriarchs, Jos. xviii. 1, we read, “If ye also, therefore, walk in the commandments of the Lord, my children, He will exalt you there (i.e., on high), and will bless you with good things for ever and ever”. Although the actual word is not mentioned in these Jam 4:7-10, it is obvious that they constitute a call to repentance. Both as establishing a proper relationship towards God, and as a means of bringing about that relationship, the need of repentance had always been greatly insisted on by Jewish teachers; in Pirqe Aboth, e.g., iv. 15, it is said, “Repentance and good works are as a shield against punishment”; and Taylor quotes Berachoth, 17a, “It was a commonplace in the mouth of Raba that, The perfection of wisdom is repentance,” cf. Bereshith Rabba, lxv.; Nedarim, 32b, etc., etc.

9. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep …] The words are nearly synonymous, the first pointing to the sense of misery (as in “O wretched man that I am” in Romans 7:24), the second to its general effect on demeanour, the last to its special outflow in tears. The two last verbs are frequently joined together, as in Mark 16:10; Luke 6:25; Revelation 18:15. The words are an emphatic call to repentance, and the blessedness which follows on repentance. Here, as so often in the Epistle, we trace the direct influence of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:4). The contrast between the “laughter” and the “mourning” in the clause that follows, makes the connexion all but absolutely certain. The “laughter” is that of the careless, selfish, luxurious rejoicing of the world, the “sport” of the fool in Proverbs 10:23.

your joy to heaviness] The Greek for the latter word expresses literally the downcast look of sorrow, and is as old in this sense as Homer,

“Joy to thy foes, but heavy shame to thee.”

Iliad iii. 51.

It exactly describes the attitude of the publican, who would not “lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven” (Luke 18:13).

Jam 4:9. Ταλαιπωρήσατε, be afflicted) that ye may be weaned and estranged from the world. This is a blessed affliction. He does not here add, howl, as ch. Jam 5:1.[51]

[51] εἰς κατήφειαν, into heaviness [falling] of countenance) The same phrase as the German Kopfhängen. Comp. 1 Kings 21:29; Isaiah 58:5; Micah 6:8. They who carp at others on this ground, are generally themselves such as have need above other men to let fall the countenance.—V. g.

Verse 9. - St. James's version of "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). Be afflicted. Ταλαιπωρήσατε: only here in the New Testament, occasionally in the LXX. Heaviness. Κατήφεια: another ἄπαξ λεγόμενον, apparently never found in the LXX. or in the apostolic Fathers; it is, however, used by Josephus and Philo. It is equivalent to "dejection," and "exactly describes the attitude of the publican, who would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, Luke 18:13 (Plumptre)." James 4:9Be afflicted (ταλαιπώρησατε)

Only here in New Testament. The kindred noun ταλαιπωρία, misery, occurs James 5:1.

Mourn (πενθήσατε)

Used of grief that is manifested. So mostly in New Testament, and very commonly joined, as here, with weep. So Mark 16:10; Luke 6:25, etc. In the next sentence occurs the kindred noun πένθος, mourning, into which laughter, also something manifest, is to be changed.

Heaviness (κατήφειαν)

Properly, a casting down of the eyes. Compare Luke 18:13. Only here in New Testament.

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