James 4:1 – What is the source of quarrels and conflict among you?
James proceeds to answer his own question by identifying numerous sources of conflict. He begins with “pleasures that wage war in your members” (James 4:1b). Pleasures speak of lust. Lust can be manifested in numerous ways. Sexual sins, material wants manifested in things, and any other worldly possessions that come from fleshly desires. These things produce jealousy, competition, and covetousness. This is contrary to the exhortation of learning to be content in whatever state we are in.
Quarrels and conflicts, for the most part, are rooted in the attitude of insisting on having things my way. It is really the same root that is found in lusts. James continues his thoughts by saying, “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder” (James 4:2a). James is giving a tough message to the church. A familiar saying is, “I would kill for that.” Can you recognize the source of James’ comment in the more modern day expression?
“You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:2b). No wonder James deals with the subject of faith and works. It sounds like those to whom he is writing are not living the life of faith, but still living by the lust of the flesh from which they had been redeemed. The life of the flesh and the life of the Spirit are in direct enmity. James goes on to deal with the subject of wrong motivations of prayer. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). James likens this motive to “adultery.” He calls it “friendship with the world.” Friendship with the world is hostility toward God. If one wishes to be a friend of the world, then that one becomes an enemy of God.
These are rough Scriptures to wrestle with, but important ones. At this time of the year, the world begins to put pressure on consumers to spend, spend, and spend. The world will make you feel guilty when you don’t spend a lot of money on gifts and other things at Christmas time. The world does not have our best interest in view. The world appeals to our lusts and pleasures. The Spirit of God in us is jealous for our life to not be drawn to worldliness. He wants to give us great grace as we humble ourselves before God. “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:7).
Avoid lusts, pleasures, envy, and jealousness. Avoid quarrels and conflicts. Draw close to God. Learn to be content with what you have. Give away and bless others, especially those who are lacking the basics. Nurture the presence of the Spirit of God who has come to indwell your life with His gracious presence. Long for fellowship with God, and not the friendship of the world.
Father, I ask You to help me avoid those things that are not pleasing to You. I ask for the Holy Spirit to show me when I am demanding my own way, so that I can repent. I desire to draw near to You, Father, and I thank You for Your promise to draw near to me.