Mourn over the seriousness of your sin (v. 9)
a. Be miserable and mourn and weep. . .
James’ next three commands are all one word. “Be miserable and mourn and weep…” All three of these words convey the same big idea. The big idea is that we must take sin seriously. The repentant person cannot have a casual attitude toward sin. Quite frankly I see this point as being very important for you as students in this phase of you life. Right now you are developing the habits that will with you for years to come. If you begin to take sins lightly now it will be very difficult for you to change your attitudes later in life. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. If you have a job) or just chores around the house) you know that there are two ways of getting job done. You can do it the right way, or you can do it the quick and easy way. You may be good at doing it the right way, but all it takes is to be lazy one time and you will quickly find yourself constantly doing things the easy way. It is like rolling a snowball down the hill. Quickly your small lapse in judgment will turn into a pattern for your life. Scripture teaches us that this is true of our attitude toward sin. If we do not take sin seriously then it will become the pattern for our lives. This is James’ point in v. 9. He makes this point buy giving three slightly nuanced commands to his readers. He first command, be miserable, conveys the idea of being broken and feeling wretched because of sin. In Romans 7:24 Paul used this same word (only in the form of an adjective rather than a verb) to describe the sinful tendencies that he continued to struggle with: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of the death?” This is the attitude that we must have toward sin in order to repent.
The second command, mourn, has the idea of grief or remorse over sin. In the same way that someone would mourn the death of a loved one we must mourn our disobedience to God. Christ gave us a model of this type of mourning, and how it relates to repentance, in Luke 18: 13. Here we see that the tax collector took his sin seriously. He confessed it to God, and begged God for mercy as me only means or salvation. In v. 14 Christ tells us that the result of this repentance was the justification of the tax collector. He humbled himself by mourning over his sin, and as a result he was exalted.
The third command, weep, is the outward demonstration of the first two commands. One of the best examples of this can be found in Mark 14:66ff. Peter understood the weight of his sin. And it moved him to weep.
b. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into gloom …
James’ next command in v.9, which is the 9th command overall in this passage, is given in the form of two parallel ideas. “Let you laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into gloom.” This gets to the heart of how we live our lives. We must be careful as we attempt to apply this passage to our own lives. James is not condemning laughter, and joy. James is condemning finding laughter and joy in the pursuit of friendship with he world. Remember the context of our passage. James is addressing those of his reader who desire friendship with world above God, and our spiritual adulteresses. So, when James says “Let you laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into gloom” he is talking about the laughter and joy that these people had from their sin. The question that we must ask ourselves is what are we laughing about and what brings us joy? Is our laughter at the expense of other people? Does our laughter come from inappropriate things that we see on TV or in movies? Where does your joy come from? Does it come from the pursuit of your earthly desires like the adulteresses we read about? Or, does it come from fixing “your hope completely, on the grace to be brought to you at the, revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:6ff). These are the question that you are going to lave to honest with yourself about. If your laughter and joy are coming from the wrong things then you need to “Let you laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into gloom.”
The truth of the matter is that all people will eventually mourn over their sin. If you have not already done so, trust me, you will. You can keep putting it off until it is too late. And mourn over your sin in eternal judgment. Or, you can mourn now, repenting of your sin and the Lord will give you grace.