The Source of All Wars
#14 in the Book of James Series
By Pastor Jim May
World War II had ended. On September 2, 1945 General Douglas MacArthur spoke to a waiting world from the Battleship Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay, “Today the guns are silent...the skies no longer rain death...the seas bear only commerce...men everywhere walk upright in the sunlight. The entire world is quietly at peace....” But is the world quietly at peace?
Since that day, the U.S. has been involved in so many wars and conflicts that we have a hard time naming them. There is no quiet, peaceful place on planet earth anymore, for even when you feel peaceful, somebody is always gunning for you, whether it’s a jealous neighbor, a co-worker who wants your job, or a despot from another nation or someone of another religion that hates you just for being who and what you are.
Why can’t we just get along together? Why do we rub each other the wrong way? Have you ever thought of how beautiful life would be without other people who make you mad or get you upset? Well, don’t think about it too much, or you will probably come to realize that most of the fault lies within yourself, and even if it was just you on planet earth, you’d find something to be upset about.
My fight isn’t with you, but with me. I’m the most formidable opponent that I face every day. If I could just bring my own feelings, thoughts and desires under control, life would be so much easier. Even though I am a new creation in Christ, that old man of the flesh still likes to make his presence known.
I’d like to think that the normal state of life is to be peaceful, but that’s not true. Peace doesn’t last long because we are constantly in a state of hostility against one another. There’s always something that is trying to drive a wedge of doubt, fear, frustration, mistrust, anger or something like that in between us, even as Christians.
James 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
No matter where you go you will face power struggles, even in the church. Pride and ambition stalks the heart of man; and this brings on envy and strife, because one always has to outdo another.
Have you ever been around someone who just has to get the upper hand, or the last word? They have done more, seen more and been more places than you have, no matter how much you have done. Every time we think that we might finally be getting the upper hand, and maybe a swell head, someone always finds a way to bust that bubble and bring us down to earth. It’s no different for us preachers as it is for you. Someone always finds a way to take you down a notch if you get a swell head.
1) The young preacher had just announced to his congregation that he was resigning in order to become the pastor of another church. He was standing at the door after the service and greeting people, kind of saying his last goodbyes, when one of the elderly saints approached him, her eyes were filled with tears. She sobbed, "Oh pastor, I’m so sorry you’ve decided to leave. Things will never be the same again."
The young man was flattered, but he thought that he knew what to say to help her through this hard time of seeing a great pastor leave. He took her by the hand and said, "Bless you, Sister Matthews, but I am sure that God will send you a new pastor even better than I." She choked back a sob and said, "That’s what they all say, but they keep getting worse and worse!"
2) Another pastor was pleased that a particular member in his congregation always asked for copies of his sermons. One day his pride got the better of him and he asked them about it. "Oh," they said, "they’re just the perfect size for the bottom of my bird cage!"
There are those who think more highly of themselves than they ought to, and they are nothing but a source of antagonism for those of us who can’t accept that anyone is as good, or better, than we are. One such man was quoted as saying, “I have found within myself all I need and all I ever shall need. I am a man of great faith, but my faith is in myself. I have never failed me.” That man was G. Gordon Liddy who spent time in prison for this involvement in the Watergate Scandal under President Richard Nixon.
I have come to believe that all men fall under one of two categories, either cynics or idealists. “Cynics regarded everybody as equally corrupt. Idealists regarded everybody as equally corrupt, except themselves.”
Then there are some of us who simply refuse to accept the truth, or to take a hint. Such is the story of the King of Beasts:
A huge lion, King of Beasts, was spoiling for a fight when he met a monkey in the jungle. The lion pounced on the poor monkey and said, "Who is king of the jungle?" The frightened monkey replied, "You are, O mighty lion." The lion just wanted to hear the monkey admit it so he let him go. The next animal the lion met was a zebra. He pounced on it and roared, "Who is king of the jungle?" The Zebra screamed out, "You are, O mighty lion." Again the lion was pleased at his recognition so he let the Zebra go.
Then the lion tried to pounce on an elephant and asked him, “Who is king of the jungle?” The elephant didn’t even flinch when the lion’s claws scratched his thick skin, or say a word in reply. He just grabbed the lion around the neck with his powerful trunk, twirled him around in the air like a cowboy swinging a lasso and then threw him 50 feet, flattening the King of beasts against a big tree.
The lion picked himself up, dusted himself off and stiffly turned to the elephant and said in a huff, "Just because you don’t know the answer is no reason to get so rough."
One last story will show you what some preachers think that sometimes when a know-it-all Christian comes by and seeks his approval.
One lady came to her pastor with a serious theological question about heaven. "Pastor, I don’t know how I’m going to get my robe on over my wings without messing up the beautiful feathers." The preacher looked back at her, mustered all of the seriousness that he could and said, "If I were you I wouldn’t worry about that. I’d worry about how you are going to get your halo on over your horns."
Like James says, the vast majority of our strife comes from within our own heart. Ego, pride and self-centeredness are the culprits behind most of it. It’s all about the “Big I”.
Even in our worship music, especially in much of the more contemporary styles, we hear the words “I” and “Me” much more than we hear the words “You Lord”, “Jesus”, “Father” or “Holy Spirit”. It’s like we want to lift ourselves up to God to show Him just how good of a singer, musician or worshipper that we really are. We want to brag about our humility and spirituality. Don’t we know that God already knows what we really are? It’s not about the “Big I”; it’s about the “Big God”.
I you want to fight, it’s not hard to start one. Some people will fight at the drop of a hat, and they carry their own hat with them just in case.
James 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
People chase after rainbows all the time. We haven’t learned yet, that all that glitters is not gold.
Have you ever heard of “Fool’s Gold”? A lot of miners in years gone by, were fooled into believing that they had struck it rich when they found a vein of gold. What they soon discovered was that it worthless pyrite. It’s only value is in the eye of the beholder.
The lust for riches and for gold drove a lot of settlers west, but most of them never found it. The same thing is happening today. People chase after the wealth of the world only to see it all slip through their fingers. Riches of this world have no eternal value, but men kill for it, fight for it and never reach the point of satisfaction to say, that’s all I want; leave the rest for someone else.
The courts of the land are filled with dockets where people are suing one another over money, over land, over cars and whatever else they want. Either that, or we get up very early to hit the job and stay as much as we can so we can, can all we can get. But we never get enough. Satisfaction is always one more paycheck, one more goal to hit in the retirement or savings account, or one more dollar in my bankroll.
James says that we are seeking the wrong things if we want to be satisfied, for the things of the world cannot satisfy. We should ask God for the best things in life.
Have you asked God for blessings in your life? Have you ever asked God to bless your finances, or to help you get a new car, or a new house?
God hears those prayers, but he doesn’t always answer them. Now the Word of Faith folks might say that you didn’t get your answer because you lacked the faith to believe God for them, and there are times when that may be a part of why those prayers aren’t answered.
But James gives us the real reason for many of our unanswered prayers in James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
What does it mean to ask amiss? It means that ask not in the faith of a divine promise, but a fleshly desire; not with thankfulness for past mercies, but with envy for what we don’t have and others do. It means that we don’t ask with submission to the will of God, but we try to bend God’s ear to our own way. It means that we ask, not so that we can bless others and do good things, or use whatever we ask for in a way that will bring glory to God, or to build the Kingdom of God, but we ask for things so that we can have them, use them and abuse them for our own purposes.
James says that we ask so that we may consume it upon our lusts. We want to indulge ourselves and live in more luxury.
God won’t answer such prayers because He knows what happens to the heart of a rich man when he loses his need for God. God won’t answer those prayers because he wants you to remain dependent upon him for all your need, and to look to him for all your answers.
James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Were the people that James was writing to literally adulterers? Not in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense, yes they were.
An adulterer takes affection from his own wife, and sets them upon another woman; and she is an adulteress that loves not her husband, but places her love upon another man. We become spiritual adulterers and adulteresses when we take our love from God and place it upon the things of the world, in effect, making them gods instead.
James reminds us that an excessive love for the good things of the world and a desire to have them above the will of God makes us an enemy of God.
There have been times when a husband or wife may have to confront their spouse and simply say, “Make a choice”, “it’s either me or the boat, me or the hunting camp, me or the dog, me or the mall”. Sadly, too many choose something other than their spouse, proving that their love isn’t faithful.
They may never commit adultery with another man or woman, but they have committed adultery with a boat, a camp, a dog or the mall. The same hurt is there and the same misplaced love.
James 4:5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
The fact is that within each of us is an ongoing battle with self. That old nature that likes to rise up and make us jealous or envious. In those who are not Born Again, that nature rules and reigns.
The Minnesota Crime Commission reported on the growth of crime and reached a startling conclusion:
Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it, whether it’s his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmate’s toy, or his uncle’s watch. Deny him these once, and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness which would be murderous if he wasn’t so small and helpless. He is dirty, with no morals, no knowledge, and no skills. This means that all children; not just certain children; are born as juvenile delinquents. If a baby is permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his infancy, given free reign to his impulsive actions to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up to be a criminal — a thief, a killer, or a rapist.
I wonder if they ever read the scriptures that David wrote in Psalms and that the Apostle Paul wrote in both Romans and I Corinthians where it says that among men there is none good, no not one?
But in we who are Born Again must ever strive to put that old nature to rest and learn to rely upon the Lord. Just as the Bible says that we are correct a child, teaching him to be a good citizen; we are to train ourselves to be good citizens of God’s Kingdom.