James 4:1-10 (NIV)
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
As I talked with couples over the past 35+ years, one of the most common things I hear is – “We just can’t seem to get along. We argue so much. We love each other. Why is it we have major blowups over such minor issues?” I talk with parents who say, “With my kids there is constant tension. I don’t understand why we’re always in fight mode.” Can you relate? James talks about this from James 4. James tells us how to avoid arguments, the reason for argument and the remedy.
James doesn’t beat around the bush. He gets right to the point. He doesn’t waste any time. Long before modern psychology came along he had some profound insights on the cause of conflict. 4:1 “What causes fights and quarrels among you. Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” What desires are doing battle within you? The Bible makes very clear here and other places in Scripture that there are three basic desires we have that cause conflict. What are they?
#1. THE DESIRE TO HAVE. We want to have things. Materialism. Possessions. v. 2 “You want what you don’t have … you long for what others have.” God created things to be used and to enjoy. That’s what they’re there for. We use things and love people. The problem is when we start loving things more than people we get the equation backwards. We start loving things and use people — manipulating them, controlling them, moving them around to get what you want because things become more important in your life than they should.
#2. THE DESIRE TO FEEL. I want to feel good. I want to be comfortable. I want to have my senses satisfied. v. 3 “You want only what will give you pleasure” It’s not wrong to enjoy life. But when pleasure becomes the number one goal in your life — if it feels good, do it — you’re asking for conflict. It’s going to cause problems in your life. When my pleasure takes the place over what is needful, then we’re in trouble. The fact is, if I’m more interested in my comfort and my pleasure than I am in yours and all I think about is what makes me feel good. The desire to feel good creates conflict.
#3. THE DESIRE TO BE. This is pride, power, prominence, popularity. I want to be number one. It’s the desire for “me first”. Frank Sinatra summarized this desire in a song, “I Did It My Way”. This is the “ME” decade. The “ME” generation. Get on top. Be the big shots. Strive for success. We walk around saying “Watch me”. Little kids say, “Watch me, daddy”, we say “Watch me, everybody” but we say it in subtle ways — Watch me by the way I dress. Watch me by the kind of clothes I buy. Watch me by the kind of car I drive. Watch me by the kind of things I stock my house with.” It’s a desire to impress. It’s the desire to be number one, to impress. Pride appeals to our EGO. And you know what EGO stands for, right? Edging God Out.
Pride not only ruins my relationships with others, it causes conflict with God. v. 6 “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” God declares war on selfishness and self-centeredness. God hates pride. Have you noticed that God has a unique way of engineering circumstances to break you of your our pride? Just about the time you think, “I’ve got it together!” He puts you in your place if you think you don’t need Him – if you think you can do things on your own without Him. And folks, you must get this – to be in opposition to God is a dangerous place to be. You’re on a collision course. There’s no way you’re going to win.
So, if pride is the cause of arguments — and that’s the case James is making “I’m going to have my way when I want it, my time, my place” — What’s the cure? That’s what we’ll look at tomorrow.