Summary: #6 in a series through James. James 4:1-10
“The Tale of Two Selves…” James 4:1-10
There is a Charles Dickens book called "A Tale of Two Cities", it is a classic story of the French Revolution. It concerned a family caught up in those turbulent days, as it affected them in their lives, in both London and Paris. It’s the tragic story of a Frenchman, Dr Manette, who for no fault of his own was wrongly imprisoned, in the infamous Bastille dungeon for eighteen years.
After he was freed to go and live in London his son-in-law, a French nobleman hated by the revolutionaries went to Paris to help someone in trouble, and he too was imprisoned on false charges and sentenced to the guillotine - but more of that later.
Our scripture this morning could be entitled not "A Tale of Two Cities", but “A Tale of Two Selves”
James tells of two selves… one that leads to strife, imprisonment and war, the other leads to strength, life and eternity. And the ultimate choice here is between living selfishly or selflessly.
It is the difference between self-gratification and Godly satisfaction.
Our world is absorbed with “SELF.” Everything from self-help books to an obsession with self-esteem and even the old saying, “look out for number one.” (which by the way isn’t bad if you remember that number one is not you).
The world as a whole views this the same way… it is frankly in our nature. It all goes back to the selfish sin of Adam and Eve. You don’t have to teach a child to be selfish. It is just the opposite you have to do everything you can to teach them NOT to be selfish. But then we adults - we turn right around and exhibit the very behavior we are trying to tell our children not to…
I watched a television show late Monday night and the whole plot centered around a guy getting killed because someone didn’t like the fact that he had a particular leather jacket and they wanted it.
Self-centeredness and its related vices—crime, illegitimacy, and child neglect—are exploding in America because, after centuries of Western philosophy devoted to the purpose, Americans glorify extreme individualism way beyond healthy limits.
The underlying truth though is this – that every sin we commit, every sin in the world can be boiled down to one root cause – SELFISHNESS. And that is exactly what James says right here.
James gives four different aspects of selfish behavior. And the effects of it, that the chaos and turmoil of life is centered on these points. But let me warn you, again James is addressing not what was happening in the city, he was addressing what was happening in the church.
James says it is a cause and effects relationship… the effects which are quarrels, conflicts, war, murder, fights, etc. etc. But the cause James tells us is:
THE SELFISH SELF
Selfish PLEASURES (verse 1)
The word hedonism is used here and it means to so absorb in the pursuit of your own personal pleasure that you will do what ever you have to in order to please yourself. Much like we see in the “reality shows” like Temptation Island or the new Love Cruise. This self will seek to make itself happy no matter the cost, no matter who it hurts.
Selfish PASSIONS (verse 2)
Is what James calls here “LUST” – that overwhelming, unhealthy and excessive craving to get what you want simply because you want it. We even have a law that actually provides a defense for murder… we use it for “crimes of passion.” This Selfish Passion will drive people to do things that they normally would not do.
Selfish PLANS (verse 2)
Envy James says will drive a person to make plans and to fight and argue to get something to be the way they want it. When this self doesn’t get its way it will immediately start scheming to create an argument in order to stop someone else from getting what their way.
Selfish PRAYERS (verse 3)
Finally – all this will drive you to pray with selfish motives. To ask for things not so that it will help others or to glorify God, but so that it benefits. It is ok to ask God for something… but it is the motive behind your request that He will be looking at. When you simply ask for something in order to make you happy… then your motive is wrong…
But in verse 6 he begins to show us the other self, the self that God desires His children to be. And in fact he says that in choosing this self you will find three very real promises that God makes to each one of us.
HOWEVER, I believe that we are seeing a shift in this country, a shift to a different self because our current climate. A shift that recognizes that it isn’t just about looking out for number one… a shift to: