Summary: #6 in a series through James. 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.