Summary: James begins chapter four with a question about what causes fights among us. He spends 12 verses discussing the causes and cures for conflict. In this sermon, we will focus on the first 6 verses that address the causes of conflict.


A. A boy once asked his dad, “Dad, how do wars begin?”

1. “Well,” said his father, “Take the First World War, it got started when Germany invaded Belgium.”

2. Immediately the boy’s mother interrupted, “Honey, tell the boy the truth. It began because somebody was assassinated.”

3. The husband drew himself up in an air of superiority and snapped back, “Are you answering the question, or am I?”

4. Turning her back on him in a huff, the wife walked out of the room and slammed the door as hard as she could.

5. When the dishes stopped rattling in the cupboard, an uneasy silence followed.

6. The boy broke the silence, saying, “Daddy, you don’t have to answer my question any more; I now know how wars begin!”

B. The question of the ages is: “Why can’t we all get along?”

1. It’s a question as old as Cain and Able.

2. Our world is full of conflict – just look at what is going on in Afghanistan right now.

3. Our nation is full of conflict – the events in America over the last year or so remind us of just how divided our nation is – divided about COVID, divided by region, race, religion, and politics.

4. Many of our homes and families are full of conflict – including conflicts in marriage, conflicts between parents and children, conflicts between siblings and relatives.

5. And most sad of all, the church experience conflicts – including conflicts within denominations, conflicts between denominations, and conflicts inside congregations between congregation members.

6. Sometimes, when serious doctrinal issues are at stake, division among professing Christians is necessary, but sadly, far too many conflicts in the church are about personalities, petty matters, and pride.

C. Franklin Roosevelt once said, “There is nothing I love as much as a good fight.”

1. From looking at all the conflict over the ages, I think there must be many who agree with him.

2. However, I think the majority of people who find themselves in conflict don’t enjoy it, and they wish they could somehow avoid it.

3. James wrote his practical little letter to help us do just that – to show us how fights get started and how they can be stopped.

4. The artificial break between chapters 3 and 4 is an unfortunate one, because James neither changes the subject nor shifts his emphasis.

5. James’ comments regarding the destructive nature of the tongue, which started in chapter 3, builds to a crescendo here in chapter 4, beginning with the rhetorical question: What is the source of wars and fights among you? (James 4:1)

D. Before we look at James’ answer to that question, let’s establish who is the “among you” who James was referring in verse 1.

1. It is pretty clear from the context of this letter that James is referring to Christians – those who are inside the church, rather than those who are outside the church.

2. And let’s notice also the words that James used to describe what was going on between these Christians – wars and fights.

3. The word “wars” is the general term for an entire war - the big conflict, whereas the word “fights” refers more to individual battles - smaller skirmishes.

4. So, James, acting like a parent stepping into the middle of a squabble between their children, says: “What started this squabble?”

a. But before any finger pointing can begin, James points his finger at the causes of conflict.

b. I don’t want us to rush through this section of James because it is packed full of truth.

c. And because conflict is something we all have to face, it is so important for us to learn why it happens and how to resolve it.

5. Therefore, this week, we will focus on verses 1-6 that address the causes of conflict, and next week, we will focus on the cures for conflict found in verses 7-12.

6. If you work on outlining James 4:1-12, you might notice that it falls nicely into four sections:

a. Conflicts develop because of selfish motives (4:1-3).

b. Conflicts develop because of a lack of allegiance to God (4:4-6).

c. Conflicts resolve when we resist and repent from sin and submit ourselves to God (4:7-10).

d. Conflicts resolve when we stop judging others and humble ourselves before God (4:11-12).

7. As we examine what James says about why conflicts develop and where they come from in verses 1-6, I want us to think about 3 different battles that go on all the time.

a. The first is the battle within, the second is the battle without, and the final and most important is the battle above.

b. Let’s spend a few minutes on each of the battles.

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