Peninsula Community Church
May 26, 2013
James – How to Fight Well
James 4:1-3 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.
James asks his readers a rhetorical question. While he is the one asking the question he is already prepared to answer his own question. The question here is “what is the cause of quarrels and fights among you?” As he answers the question he raises, he does so by showing us the symptoms of the heart as well as the solution for the issue at hand which is why are their quarrels and fights in our lives?
Conflict is an issue of the heart. Another way to look at this is to ask the question “why is it so easy for us to take the gloves off?” Why is it that we have so many fights and quarrels in life? His answer is in essence his way of making application of the fundamental principle Jesus taught in Matthew 15:19. This teaching of Jesus is at the crux of conflict both personally and corporate. Jesus taught his disciples and us that, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony and slander. In Luke 12:13-15 we are reminded that our hearts are the wellspring of all our thoughts, desires, words and actions. Therefore the heart is the source of conflict, fights and arguments.
Before we look at the heart more closely, let us look at the symptoms of a heart that is divided and in need of help. In this passage, James deals with the symptoms, cause and cure for fighting and arguing. So what are the symptoms that point to the issues in our lives?
James states that the first symptom is that we have a misdirected focus as a result of our passions which are at war within us. We can define passions as desire. The word here for passion literally means pleasure which prompts you to desire. The Greek word is the same word were we get our modern word hedonism. The word means to seek pleasure.
Once again I am reminded that we have been fearfully and wonderfully made. As a creation of God we have been created with passion and a desire to seek pleasure. It is for that reason that we love to laugh. We all have passion. It may be manifested in different ways and for different reasons, but we all have passion. One person may have passion for golf while another has a passion for fishing. One person may have a passion to cook and prepare great meals while another one may have a passion to eat what has been cooked. One may have a passion for evangelism exclusively while another may have a passion for discipleship exclusively. Still another may have a passion to seek after the things of God while another may have a passion to seek the ways of the world. The bottom line is that we all have passion.
The problem is when our passion drives us to sinful pleasure and to disobedience and things contrary to God’s commands and his ways. The problem exists when are passions collide with another reality. Paul knew about this issue when he penned the words of Romans 7:8 “But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire.”
While passion is a part of our lives so is conflict and problems. The story is told of a man who was stranded on a dessert island. When his recusers came to save him they noticed that there were three structures on the property. The rescuers asked him what the structures were. He said that the first structure was his home and the second was his church. When pressed about the third structure he said that was his previous church. You see even on a deserted island one can argue and fight with themselves because of the war within them.
James states that the second symptom is unmet expectations as we desire and do not have. Because we cannot have the things we desire we end up committing murder. Although unmet expectations may lead to actual murder this is not to be construed as murder but as the potential to destroy by one’s words and one’s actions. When our passions are not controlled we can begin to literally conceive how we will destroy and injure others. So often this action is a result of fear and doubt about one’s self. Sometimes this is self evident and sometimes it is a subtle ploy of the heart. The problem with unmet expectations is that they begin to wear on us and we begin to believe that we must put another down in order to elevate ourselves. We see this in America today where people are more concerned with blaming others and putting others down rather than dealing with real issues and problems.
James states that the third symptom is misplaced affections which causes us to covet but cannot obtain. When we cannot get the results we want we fight and quarrel. Here James suggests that we covet and want what others have to the point that when we cannot obtain those things we resort to fighting and arguing. When we covet something that much we are raising that item to the place of an idol in our life.
James states that the fourth symptom was a lack of trust because we do not have because we do not ask. We do not have because we do not ask. A lack of asking is symbolic of a not trusting the one that can give all we need.
James states that the fifth symptom is a wrong motivation. We ask and do not receive because we ask for the wrong things. He says that you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly so that you can spend it on your passions. Sometimes God withholds from us because the motivation of our heart is wrong and inappropriate.
These symptoms point to a divided and uncommitted heart. Fights and arguments are therefore symptoms of the condition of one’s heart. These symptoms point to the unmet desires of our hearts. It is much like a the symptoms of a disease. Symptoms are not the disease but they point to a problem or concern. In our physical bodies we may experience aches, chills and a fever. These items in themselves are not the disease but they point to the fact that we might have the flue. So it is here in this text, the fighting and arguments that occur point to a deeper issue of spiritual maturity and inward strive.
In the body of Christ, the church, we can have arguments and fights over things when our passions are left uncontrolled. As the body of Christ, we are made up of different people from different backgrounds with different ideas and different goals, gift sets and vision for the future.
The problem that exists is that we have passion for a particular area of ministry while someone else may not have the same passion. We can believe that our particular way of doing ministry is the only way to accomplish the work of God. When we meet someone who has an opposing view or ideology about ministry it can result in fights and arguments.
We would be amazed at the cause of some church splits in churches. Splits and division has been caused by arguments and fights over carpet color, type of music, the pastor’s hair and so on. Too often we debate and argue over preferences rather than over doctrine. What I mean by this is that sometimes we desire a certain style of presentation but that is a preference rather than an issue of doctrine.
Why do our passions wage war within us? Our passions will either help us to grow and they will cause our growth to stagnate or it will throw us off course all together. Romans 7:25, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Its our choice. Which choice will you make?