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.”
After the doctor examines the symptoms, they start to diagnose the problem. Diagnoses are an examination of the cause or nature of a condition, situation, or pain. It is vital to have a proper diagnosis before a cure is prescribed.
James makes it clear. We are sick from within. Most external problems and conflicts have internal causes.
Let’s look at some of the diagnoses:
First, fights and quarrels are caused by desires that battle within us. These desires are cravings, lustful passions, that result from an unsatisfied state. Indeed, we are seldom satisfied with just enough. We want more. A dissatisfied heart is never at peace. This war within the heart creates conflict at home, in the family, at work, and in our relationship with God. It’s almost as if we have little soldiers inside of us that are fighting one another. Satan gets us to focus on ourselves and what pleases us. Paul clarifies this reality in Romans 7:23: “but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.”
Second, these desires sometimes lead us to kill. Scholars are split on how literal this is. Either way, there were some severe problems in these churches. We all know that murder is wrong, and I don’t know many people who have killed someone else. However, as with most Old Testament laws, the New Testament takes it to the heart level. 1 John 3:15: “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” We aren’t even to hate!
Third, fights and quarrels are the results of us coveting. Covet means to set our heart on something to the extent that we desire to possess whatever “it” is exclusively. We don’t want to share. I have seen a dramatic increase in covetousness due to the sin of materialism in the US. The natural heart of man is never to be content.
The inner life of the Christian should not be a battle zone. We have been given the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding.
When I preached on this passage, I caught many people looking around the room and overheard some finger-pointing after the service. People were saying, “What’s wrong with you?!?” NO! “What’s wrong with you?!” Christian, don’t play the blame game.
Some questions to consider:
-What battle is raging within you that you need to let Christ cover with His peace?
-What internal struggle has spilled over to external relationships? Repent! Make peace!
-What are you coveting? Ask the Lord to reveal why and replace that desire with something pure.