Summary: James asks: “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” (verse 1). As usual, James asks a question and does not leave us hanging, but gives us an answer to help direct our minds and hearts. James pinpoints the seeds of quarrels as wrong desires inside us.


Let’s Quarrel About Quarreling

JAMES 4:1-6


INTRODUCTION… The Pig War (1859)

The Americans and British had a long, awkward relationship in the century after the American Revolution. In 1859, it almost came to all-out war... over a pig. How Did It Start?

Back then, there was a boundary between the American land in present-day Washington state and the British territory to the north. The problem was nobody knew where the boundary was. The San Juan islands sat there and both sides claimed to own them. This went on for years with no problems, until the pig came along.

At some point, the British-owned Hudson Bay company set up operations on the islands and turned it into a sheep ranch, for who knows what nefarious purpose. Then, in 1859, around 25 American settlers arrived on what they assumed to be their land, no doubt surprised at there being a fairly large amount of sheep already there, each probably baah-ing in British accents.

What Happened Next? On June 15, 1859, one of the Americans, Lyman Cutlar, noticed a pig rooting through his garden and shot it. It turned out the pig was owned by Irishman Charles Griffin, a Hudson Bay employee who owned several pigs and was raising them free range-style, by letting them run around other people's yards.

Cutlar offered Griffin $10 to replace his hog. Griffin demanded $100. Cutlar defended himself by claiming that the pig shouldn't have been on his land eating his potatoes. Griffin supposedly replied with "it's up to you to keep your potatoes out of my pig."

British authorities tried to arrest Cutlar, who called on American military aid. 66 American soldiers were dispatched but the British, fearing they would lose control of the islands, sent along a couple of warships to counter the Americans. By the 10th of August, 461 Americans and 14 cannons were being faced down by five British warships carrying 2,140 men.

No one suggested simply letting the British shoot one of the American pigs to even things up. The British were ordered to storm the islands and remove the occupying American forces, which could have triggered an all-out war. But both the British and American commanding officers gave up the orders and gave their respective soldiers strict orders to only fire if fired upon. Sanity had sort of prevailed.

Who Won? No one really, though the pig totally lost. By September, everyone seemed to get bored of the whole and agreed on a joint military occupation of the island. For the next 12 years, token military forces of about 100 men lived in harmony, regularly visiting each other and having some terrific bacon sandwiches.

Do you think America and Britain could have actually gone to war over a pig?

Do you think arguments and quarrels only heat up for good reasons?

Today we are going to talk about what it means to quarrel. Now I don’t mean James Bond’s Jamaican friend from Dr. No (1962, John Katzmiller), but a “heated argument or disagreement.” We are going to talk about disagreements. Those times when we raise our voices and our blood pressures get high. Those conversations when we say things we don’t mean and act a bit irrationally in our differences of opinion. Those interactions when frustrations are at an all-time high… quarrels. Bickering. Discord. Ruckus. Spat.

READ JAMES 4:1-6 (NIV1984)

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."


Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. 2-3 You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way. 4-6 You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.”

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