Summary: God’s plan is that His people lead Christ centered lives. How can you tell if you are living a self-entered life instead?

1. Illus. of moving to seminary

• Two level seminary apartment. My 10 year old daughter wanted to be downstairs by herself. My wife was afraid she would be injured walking up and down stairs in middle of the night.

• Mom had no girls, so she was always especially close to my duaghter. She decided to champion her!

• I walked in to my wife and my mother squared off over the issue, and they were looking to me for the tie-breaker!

• I had to decide who was going to get their way!

2. The Christian faces a similar struggle every day. See 4:1. There are two forces seeking to control our lives, our new nature in Christ, and our old selfish nature. Our new Christ nature says, “Please me.” Our old nature says, “Please yourself.” Guess what? Only one of them can have their way, and we get the tie-breaking vote.

3. That is what James talks about in this passage.

 Desires for pleasure that war within your members…Pleasure = hed-o-nay, (hedonistic) a self-centered, self-pleasing lifestyle.

 Bottom line: We are either going to lead a Christ-centered life, or by default we are going to lead a self-centered life.

4. Text: James tells his first century readers what a self-centered Christian looks like.

5. Today: We can recognize selfishness because all self-centered Christians share key characteristics.

6. How can we tell if we are self-centered Christians? Share the characteristics in the form of three diagnostic questions.


1. See Vs 1- Wars and fights…vs 2-you fight and war… The NASB renders the Greek here more literally than the NKJV- What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you (vs 1)…so you fight and quarrel (vs 2)… When I am filled with a lust to please myself, then others MUST give me what I want. The result of that attitude will always be conflict.

2. If I want to know if I am selfish, I need to look at my relationships with others. A certain amount of conflict is inevitable. That’s just the way life is! However, if my life is characterized by conflict, chances are I have become selfish.

3. Principle: Selfishness will cause conflict in my relationships.

4. Illus. of Abraham Lincoln

• Had a screaming kid in each arm, each trying to kick or punch the other one.

• “Abe, what’s wrong with those boys?” “The same thing that’s wrong with the world. I’ve got two pieces of candy in my pocket, and each one of these boys wants two and is willing to fight to get it!”

• That’s exactly what James is describing! “I want to please myself, and if you are standing between me and what I want, it’s on!”

5. Look at vs 1- wars and fights come from "among you" …Primarily talking about church conflict. Already referred to it several times in this letter. However, it also applies to our other Christian relationships. Do you find yourself regularly in conflict with your spouse, your Christian co-workers, or your Christian friends? If so, it may indicate a selfish attitude.

6. Am I other than Christ-centered? Ask yourself, “Are my relationships filled with conflict?”


1. Unhappiness in the Christian may have many causes. James says one major cause is selfishness. See vs 2. Lust = epithumia, literally over + desire or want. This is an overwhelming craving or desire. Like an addictive drug, selfishness takes over my life. “I must have my way, even if I fight and war and even murder to get it!”

2. Now there is a problem with that. Nobody gets what pleases them all the time. That’s why James says, you lust and don’t have…you covet and cannot obtain…So, on one hand I am filled with this addictive desire to get what I want. On the other hand, I’m not always going to get it. Inevitably the selfish person is filled with anger and frustration and jealousy. In a word, they are the most miserable and unhappy people in the world!

3. Principle: Selfishness will always produce unhappiness in your life!

4. Illus. of experiment with rats

• Put them in maze. If they found way through, they would be rewarded by getting cheese.

• First time, made it possible and easy to get through the maze. Got the cheese, they were happy.

• On subsequent trials, made it impossible to get through the maze!

• The rats were saying, “got to be some way to get that cheese I want!”

• When they couldn’t, it drove them crazy. Got over in the corner and threw a tantrum!

• Same with the selfish Christian! When circumstances or people keep them from getting what they want, it makes them frustrated, angry, and unhappy!

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