Yesterday, we took a close look at the first verse in chapter four of James’ letter to his brothers and sisters scattered throughout the world. His encouragement to his readers to consider the fact that they should beware of fights and quarrels within the body was necessary because of the inevitability of such challenges. He is guiding them to consider their relationships with each other.
He also goes straight to the source of those fights and quarrels: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your evil desires that battle within you?” (v.1) (emphasis, mine)
This is another direct reference to the last few verses in chapter three where James talked about an “earthly” wisdom, which promotes bitter envy and selfish ambition IN YOUR HEARTS. When one compares the characteristics of the earthly wisdom to those of the heavenly wisdom, it should be easy to see how demonstrating an earthly wisdom is a prelude to fights and quarrels. If an individual is consumed with bitter envy and selfish ambition and those desires are not satisfied, the natural outcome is strife (fights and quarrels).
In James’ opening statement, it is clear he is proposing that within the body of Christ, we should not be tolerant of war and we should not dismiss fights and quarrels within the body, but should do everything we can do avoid them. He is also challenging us to examine our hearts to determine our culpable involvement in such divisive events.
Everyone is not always going to agree with each other. The possibility that emotional disagreements will occur is great. We have already been reminded of the sharp disagreement that arose between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark. To expect that a church family, any family for that matter, will NEVER have strong disagreements is unrealistic. What determines the outcome is the motivation behind those involved in the disagreements and their desire to seek unity and reconciliation.
It should be easy to conclude the outcome of such events will be very different when those involved are being motivated by their own jealously, self-centeredness, envy, and “worldly” desires (earthly wisdom) in contrast to those who are pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, impartial, sincere, etc.
Back to his main point! Where do these desires come from: the battle within us! Every person who has chosen to become a follower of Christ will face an internal battle. There is the struggle (battle!) between the will of the person and the will of the Spirit within that person.
John quoted Christ when He shared about the work of the Spirit. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.” Christ used the word “hodegeo,” which literally means to assist in reaching a desired destination. The Spirit will make known what He receives from Christ. Think about that. Do you think the Spirit will LEAD us into fights and quarrels if he is in control of our heart? I don’t think so.
God’s plan is for us to be filled with the spirit of God. “Don’t you know that you are yourselves God’s temple and the God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) So, the real struggle is who is in control of our heart?
Paul shared the struggle we continue to have with our will: “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 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. What a wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:21-24) We know the answer is freedom through Christ. However, this passage also reminds us of the continued struggle we will continue to have with our personal will.
James is sharing that we all have that battle raging within us. Unfortunately, when we allow our earthly wisdom to take precedence, we become prone to allowing our selfish desires to determine our direction. To fight or quarrel is an intentional decision we make. I just read a book by Dr. Bob Reccord where he shares this great insight: our decisions determine our direction which determines our destination.
James is providing his reader with a serious warning. We need to examine our hearts and attitudes toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we allow ourselves to be motivated by earthly wisdom, the result will ultimately lead to fights and quarrels.
James will continue developing this theme as he examines our natural responses to fights and quarrels.
We will look at that tomorrow!
Have a great, peace-loving day!