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Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. (James 4:9)
Be miserable and mourn and weep. James tells his readers to be miserable and mourn and weep when we know that Christians are not to Christians to be miserable, continuously having some sad view of life, bringing about sad expressions. In fact, Paul said Christians are to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:2) If a Christian is evidencing sadness, it should be the result of a repentant heart. (2 Cor. 7:10-11) Some claiming to be Christians are, in fact, friends with the world and have very few recognizable traits that they are Christian, except when they are at Christian meetings. If we are heading in that direction, we should be saddened by our spiritually weak state, motivating us to make the needed corrections. When we pray and then act on our prayers, knowing that God has forgiven us, we have a clean conscience and find the joy we lack.
Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloom. James wants his readers to fully realize the weightiness of their sins when he writes, let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloom. The Old Testament often refers to the laughter of the stupid one or the fool, i.e., the stupid one who ridicules the notion of living a righteous life and without a care in the world goes along in a life of idleness and desire of the fallen flesh. (See Pro. 10:23; Eccl. 7:6) Jesus even commented on such a fool, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” (Lu 6:25b) James and Jesus were rebuking those who believe that they can be friends of the world while saying they are also a servant of God. James wanted them to wake up from their path, this free from care, lighthearted approach to life, and notice it is not the path to salvation. Rather, they need to feel disappointed and mourn over their plight, realizing their need to improve their spirituality. – Matthew 5:3-4.
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Be miserable and mourn and weep. It is on account of our sins that we are to be miserable (ταλαιπωρέω talaipōreō), which means to be very unhappy, be sorrowful, grieve, lament. It is found only here in James 4:9. We are to undergo hard work or difficulty; then to also persevere our suffering or distress. The sense here is that we are to afflict ourselves; specifically, we are to experience grief, anguish, stress, and sadness because of our sins. We are also to mourn (πενθέω pentheō) that is, to feel grief and sorrow over our transgressions. And we are to weep (κλαίω klaiō), to cry freely and profusely from sadness or distress of our knowledge that we have sinned. True sorrow is to come about voluntarily, but it is to be noted that repentance is also the work of the Holy Spirit. We are awakened to our wrongdoing and how it impacts our relationship with God. The Bible and those God gave us to guide us in the church, the pastor can help us see more clearly.
Let your laughter be turned into mourning. Isaiah tells us, “In that day the Lord, Jehovah of armies called for weeping and mourning, for baldness and wearing sackcloth; and look, joy and gladness, killing of cattle and the slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat and the drinking of wine. ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” (Isa. 22:12-13) The people of Jerusalem demonstrated no guilt, sorrow, or regretted their transgressions. They did not weep, cut their hair, or wear sackcloth, which would have evidenced their repentant heart. If they were putting on some outward display that was really not genuine, it was likely that God would forgive in the judgment that was coming. Instead, they rush into more sensual enjoyment. The same attitude existed in James’ day and is among many today who does not really have faith in God. Instead of misery, mourning, and weeping, signs of repentance, sorrow, guilt because of their sin, they gave themselves over to jubilation, laughter, and merriment.
Your joy to gloom. The word here (κατήφεια katēpheia) rendered gloom is found nowhere else in the New Testament. It means a feeling of thoughtful sadness, dejection, sorrow, depression, gloominess. It is a feeling of sorrow and despair because of our sin. God has given each of us a moral compass, a conscience that warns us when we are about to do wrong and makes us sad, dejected, gloomy when we have sinned. If this moral compass is nurtured, it will grow powerful. However, if it is ignored, it will become callused, unfeeling, and there will be no warnings, no sadness, or gloominess when we have sinned.