James 4:1-3: “1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
My family would often go on vacation together. We traveled in a little Chevy Citation. Five people from Nebraska to Oregon. FUN TIMES! I was the youngest and always had to sit between my brother and sister. As they tend to do, kids got in arguments. “You’re in my space, you touched my leg, stop breathing on me!” I thought it was fun.
This passage is more serious because James grew up with the perfect brother. He was always conscious of you, was never out of line, never lied, He was perfect. (James’ brother was Jesus!) James is writing to churches that are full of sinners. How many of you have ever attended a church where sinners were not present? Were you lonely as the only one there? When you put two sinners in the same room, there are bound to be problems. Most of the NT letters were written to churches or the pastors of churches riddled with conflict. In case you are thinking, “I don’t care about church conflict, my church is perfect!” Boy, are you in for a shock. Not only does today’s passage impact your church and my church (every church, actually), it affects our marriages and every other relationship we have.
James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” We have seen the “quick to listen and slow to speak” part. Today, we get to the “slow to become angry” part.
In this passage, we see James diagnose a spiritual problem and provide the cure!
This blog will discuss the symptoms. Whenever we are sick, the symptoms are often the first indication that something is wrong.
What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Have you ever noticed that when you go to the doctor, they ask about your symptoms? They have you fill out this sheet where you check everything that is wrong with you. They want to know the external problems before they dig deeper to find out what is going on inside. The same goes for our spiritual health.
James is asking us to identify the cause of our symptoms.
The symptoms are fights and quarrels. These are wars, battles, the clash of two people or groups. These verses are in the context of the local church, but there are broad applications here. Everywhere we go, there seems to be conflict.
A perusal of headlines on news sites shows how deep the conflict is. Here are a few:
“Louisville on edge after Breonna Taylor announcement.”
“This Senate race shows you can never be too extreme in Trump’s GOP.”
“The New York town of Swastika votes to keep its name.”
“Father shot shielding his kids from gunfire.”
“Mob justice isn’t justice.”
“Nearly two-thirds believe presidential election won’t be decided on election night.”
“Dems must search and destroy because they can’t win on merits.”
In the church, it seems that Christian in-fighting is among the worst. There is bitterness, severe hostility, and more. Why?
What are some stupid things that church members fight over or have split churches? One of the most ridiculous I heard was a church that split over fried chicken. At a potluck after church, two ladies brought fried chicken. The pastor didn’t know there were two piles of chicken and, after tasting the first one, commented that it was the best fried chicken he’d ever had. The other lady found out about it and took half the church when she left. I’m sure there were other issues.
On a more serious note, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12 about his concern regarding the church in Corinth. Look at verse 20: “For I am afraid that when I come, I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder.”
What? These are in church? No. Never. 🙂
There are consequences of unresolved conflict: First, we consume one another. Galatians 5:15: “If you bite and devour each other, watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other.” Second, there is confusion (James 3:16). Finally, you find every evil work (James 3:16)
Take a deep breath. We knew there would be conflict in this world. It should be expected. It is part of living in a cursed world, ruled by satan and his demons. Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier, though. We often ask, “How can we end all wars?” This isn’t the best question. James asked a better one, what causes them?
Fortunately for us, he also answers it. But that’s for next time.
Some questions to consider:
-What are the leading causes of fights and quarrels in your life?
-What are some other symptoms of spiritual problems?
-What do you think is the cure?
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash