Summary: The disastrous reign of our own desires threatens the health of Christ’s people. James confronts us with the need to address this dreadful malady that contaminates the work of God.
YOUR INTERNAL CONFLICT
JUST SPILLED OVER INTO THE CHURCH
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
Every individual involved in a church fight cloaks his or her participation in the conflict with pious statements justifying the fray. One will not have attended services of a church long until he or she either witnesses or participates in a church fight. Such fights tend to be particularly vicious, leaving the field of battle littered with the detritus of the conflict together with broken lives. Unbelievers feel that their distorted perception of Christians is justified by the godless action of the combatants. Seekers become cynical and desert exploration of the Faith.
Christians cease serving God and withdraw from ardent pursuit of the souls of the lost.
Perhaps if we understood the impact of our actions we would avoid such destructive battles, or at the least we would implement measures to avoid such devastation in the future. That seems to be in part James’ motivation in exposing the wickedness of Christians who are intent on pursuing internecine fights within the churches.
THE CONSTANCY OF CONFLICT — “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” If church fights were rare, James would not have needed to address the issue. However, fights within churches are distressingly frequent. Nor should we imagine that this is a novel phenomenon arising only recently among the faithful. James makes it clear that conflict within the churches was a problem from the earliest days of the Faith. When he says that our passions are at war within us, he uses the present tense which implies that this is an ongoing action. In other words, our passions (desires) are constantly at war within us, and with dismaying frequency these internal conflicts spill over into the church.
This is an appropriate time to emphasise a most dismal observation—conflict appears to be disturbingly constant among the people of God. If there were no other evidence for our fallen nature despite God’s grace than the constancy of church fights, this knowledge alone would be sufficient to overwhelm the most vigorous protestations that might be raised by any individual. Tragically, none of us are immune from succumbing to this dreadful malady.
Throughout the years of my service among the churches of our Lord, it is not uncommon that I have received complaints that I speak too far too often about conflict among Christians. Since I endeavour to provide expository messages that follow the verses of a book in a sequential manner, the complaint could certainly reflect the fact that I am simply reflecting the concern of the One who has given us the text