Summary: There is a war that rages among us today that is just as serious. It is the war that rages in the souls of men and women. Why do people have so much trouble getting along with each other? Chapter four of the book of James gives us the answer.
"Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:1-4)
Every boy has played war at least once in his life. As children, we would spend hours pretending to be cowboys and Indians or Germans and Americans or just chose up sides and throw or shoot stuff at each other. Years passed and we began to realize that war was not a game as many of us were called away to fight in a place called Viet Nam. An generation of innocence was lost as young men my age found out that war is not a game. It is deadly serious!
There is a war that rages among us today that is just as serious. It is the war that rages in the souls of men and women. Why do people have so much trouble getting along with each other? Chapter four of the book of James gives us the answer.
I. The Warfare (vv.1-3)
A. The Reality of the Warfare (v.1)
Verse one reminds us of the reality of the warfare we face. Two words are used to describe the reality we must deal with. There are wars among us. That is a word which usually denotes personal strifes and quarrels. The word fights always is used in the context of personal conflicts in the New Testament. Scripture tells us: “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes” (2 Timothy 2:23 see also Titus 3:9).
Church leaders and all Christians are commanded to avoid fleshly quarrels. This does not mean that we cannot disagree with each other. Even Paul and Barnabas disagreed on a matter and had to part ways because of that disagreement. They parted as brothers, however, not as enemies. It is the way that we disagree over things that is the issue. Believers simply cannot allow wars and fights to continue.
Unfortunately while wars and fights should not be among us, they often are. Both words are in the plural indicating this is a continuing and pervasive problem. Such warfare was a painful reality in the early church (1 Corinthians 1:11; 2 Corinthians 12:20) and is still among us today. This should not be! If we are going to strive over anything, it should be striving against the world and for the gospel.
“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,” (Philippians 1:27)
B. The Reasons for This Warfare (vv.1b)
But where do wars and fights come from? The reason for these wars and fightings is our own lusts or our own desires for pleasure. Pleasure is not wrong. God wants us to enjoy His creation but pursuing even good things with wrong motives and attitudes inevitably will lead to strife and confusion. These lusts are dangerous because they oppose the will of God and choke out the Word of God. Jesus told of seed that fell among thorns and was choked out by pleasures of life (Luke 8:14).
If wars and fightings come from our desires for pleasures where do those desires come from? The answer is startling and disturbing. These lusts war in our members. The strifes and conflicts we have with each other come from the pleasures or lusts that are encamped within our very persons. Leukemia and other such diseases are genetic faults. For some reason they lie dormant in certain people and are then triggered by undetermined events. Strifes that rise among us come from the fault that is within us. Some situation we encounter triggers those faults and the result is strife. Every Christian has within him an alien enemy that seeks to please self rather than God. This is an enemy we must guard against constantly.
Verse two adds you lust and do not have. These are present active verbs. We face a never ending cycle of trying to be pleased with what the world has to offer but continuously finding ourselves dissatisfied with what we have gained.
C. The Result of This Warfare (v.2)
The result of this cycle is disastrous. It causes problems with each other. Lusts lead to murder (v.2). You are probably complaining, “But I never killed anyone!”