TEXT: James 4:1-6
When people do not get what they want, the result is often conflict.
I. CONFLICT WITH OTHERS (v.1a)
James 4:1a = What causes fights and quarrels among you?
In James chapter 3, we discovered that a climate of peace is necessary for the production of righteousness.
But apparently, this climate was not present among the people that James is writing to.
Instead, they were living in an atmosphere of fights and quarrels.
James asks, What causes fights and quarrels among you?
This brings us to point #2.
II. CONFLICT WITH SELF (v. 1b-3)
His answer, with which he expects his readers to agree is: Don’t’ they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1b)
The Greek word hedonon (heed-i-known) which is translated desires in this verse is actually quite specific.
It actually refers to a certain kind of desire, a desire for pleasure.
The Greek word hedonon is the source of our English word “hedonism” (heed-n-izm).
Hedonism refers to the philosophy that views pleasure as the chief goal of life.
For the hedonist, pleasure is the overriding desire of his or her life.
The hedonist will allow nothing to stand in the way of his pursuit of pleasure.
James addresses this philosophy of pleasure in this passage.
Apparently, this was a problem in the lives of the people James is addressing and it is still a problem in our day.
The cause of arguments is conflicting desires.
When the desires of one person conflict with the desires of another person, the sparks are going to fly.
Conflict starts early in life, even before we learn to talk.
Have you ever noticed that when a baby’s needs are not instantly gratified, he or she lets you know.
You can argue even if you don’t know how to talk.
Babies do it.
James 4:2 = You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.
With all their consuming desire and bitter antagonism, they were not able to obtain what they wanted.
The reason was that they were going after it in the wrong way.
They did not ask God for it.
They were lusting and fighting rather than praying.
God created things to be used and enjoyed.
That’s what they’re there for.
We are to use things and love people.
The problem begins when we start loving things.
When we start loving things, we get the equation backward.
What happens is that we start loving things and we start using people instead of loving them.
We may manipulate them, we may control them to get what we want because things have become more important in our lives.
When the desire to have things becomes number one in our lives, there will be conflict.
A Gallup poll revealed that 56% of all marriages that end in divorce end because of money problems.
Things become a battleground.
Someone asked billionaire Howard Hughes “How much does it take to make a man happy?”
He said, “Just a little bit more.”
The thrill of having more wears off very quickly.
If we start comparing what we have with what somebody else has, we will never be happy no matter how much we have.
Because just about the time you catch up with the Jones family, they refinance.
James 4:3 = When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Even when they did ask God for things, they did not receive what they requested.
Why? Because they asked with wrong motives.
Their purpose was to spend what they received for pleasure.
Pleasure was an obsession with them.
They desired pleasure to such a degree that some were even willing to use prayer as a means of gratification.
They were not actually asking for gratification but for things, such as money, that they intended to use for pleasure.
They wanted to gratify themselves rather than help others and please God.
It’s not wrong to enjoy life.
I Timothy 6:17 tells us to put our hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
But when pleasure becomes the number one goal in our lives, we are asking for conflict.
The problem is something is skewed inside.
Our motivation is wrong.
The problem is not that there is not enough to go around or that God is stingy or uninterested in our needs or our desires.
The problem is wrong motives.
We are asking for things that may lead us to use them in ways that will hurt our relationship with God.
III. CONFLICT WITH GOD (vv.4-6)
James 4:4 = You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
Adulterous here means that the people were spiritually unfaithful.
The word “adulterous” is a blunt and shocking word intended to jolt the reader and awaken him to his true spiritual condition.
The two primary objects of our affection are the world and God.
These two objects of affection are direct opposites.
The word “world” is translated from the Greek word kosmos and is here used to refer to the system of evil controlled by Satan.
It includes all that is wicked and opposed to God on this earth.
In this passage, it refers especially to pleasures that lure people’s hearts from God.
The word kosmos can also be translated “world” and refer to the physical world or earth.
But that is not the case in this context.
By its very nature, then, friendship with the world is hatred toward God.
To have a warm, familiar attitude toward this evil world is to be on good terms with God’s enemy.
It means adopting the world’s set of values and wanting what the world wants instead of what God wants.
The one who deliberately chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
Joe Gutierrez tells 5 stories from his 42 years as a steelworker in the book titled The Heat: Steelworkers’ Lives and Legends.
One story is called “Snow Danced in August.”
In this particular story, Gutierrez describes a scene of silvery dust flakes that frequently floated to the floor.
This was in an area of the steel mill where steel strips rolled over pads in a tall cooling tower.
For years, workers and visitors alike flocked to the sight, which was especially picturesque at night.
Then they discovered that the beautiful silvery dust flakes were asbestos flakes.
“Everybody breathed it” wrote Gutierrez in his book.
Gutierrez eventually suffered from the slow, choking grip of asbestosis, as did many plant workers.
Gutierrez went on to say, “I can’t walk too far now. I get tired real fast and it hurts when I breathe, sometimes. And to think that we used to fight over that job.”
How many things in our world resemble the beautiful silver flakes in that steel mill?
Enchanting but deadly!
Enron, as you know, is the company that in 2001 filed for the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
One person who worked for Enron was Phyllis Anzalone.
She went to work for the company in 1996 selling energy supply contracts.
Her personal earnings quickly increased to 6 figures.
She says, “As devastating as it was, (the fall of Enron), I’m glad I had the opportunity to work there. It was like being on steroids every day.”
When Enron went bankrupt, she lost roughly 1 million dollars.
She says, “The whole Enron debacle was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I was so emotionally attached to that company, and it took so much life out of me.”
When we put anything before God, including our jobs, we are committing spiritual adultery.
James 4:5 = Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?
This is a difficult verse to translate.
Various translations have been suggested.
We are made up of a body, soul and a spirit.
The body refers to our physical body.
The soul is usually considered the seat of our intellect or where our identity lies.
The spirit is that part of our being that recognizes and associates with the Holy Spirit or, in some cases, an evil spirit.
God wants our spirit to long for His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the hearts of all believers.
One who chooses to be a friend of the world is guilty of spiritual adultery.
Although his love and devotion rightly belong to God, he has fallen in love with the world.
Verse 5 then speaks of God’s jealous longing for his people’s love.
The charge in verse 4 is spiritual unfaithfulness.
If they are not willing to accept this charge, James asks in verse 5 what they think about the Old Testament passages dealing with God’s jealous longing for His people.
Do they think Scripture speaks without reason?
Of course, they don’t think this.
Consequently, it is necessary to believe that friendship with the world is hatred toward God and constitutes spiritual unfaithfulness.
James 4:6 = But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Another way of saying this would be: “God opposes arrogant people, but he helps humble people.”
God has set a high standard for wholehearted love and devotion on the part of His people.
But He gives grace that is greater than the rigorous demand he has made.
God in grace gives his people the help they need to resist the appeal of the world and to remain loyal to him.
“The humble” are the people who willingly submit to God’s desire for them rather than proudly insisting on satisfying their own desires for pleasure.
Have you ever noticed that God has a unique way of engineering circumstances that will humble us.
Just about the time we think we have it all together, along comes another lesson in humility.
The Bible says that God opposes the proud.
To live in opposition to God is a dangerous place to be.
If we are filled with pride, there’s no way we are going to win.
How can we win when God is opposed to us.
In closing, I would like to go back and focus on verse 4.
[Read James 4:4]
Are we committing spiritual adultery?
The Old Testament is rich in marital imagery when it comes to describing the relationship between God and His people, Israel.
There is a covenant in place and it was inaugurated with the words, “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods besides me.”
Like a marital covenant, it is one that is based on love, commitment and fidelity.
So, in the 8th century B.C., when Israel began to behave like other pagan nations, and began worshiping their idols, God accused them of adultery.
The New Testament continues the imagery of a marital covenant between God and his people.
The church is described as the bride of Christ, for whom He died.
We read in Ephesians 5 that our bridegroom, Jesus, desires for us to be pure and blameless.
Like Israel before us, we are called to “love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and strength.”
The diagnosis that the writer James is giving us is the same as that given to ancient Israel by the prophets.
God is our spouse.
Are we committing spiritual adultery?
Rabbi Joseph Schneerson was a Jewish leader during the early days of Russian Communism.
The rabbi spent much time in jail, persecuted for his faith.
One morning in 1927, as he prayed in a Leningrad synagogue, secret police rushed in and arrested him.
They took him to a police station and worked him over, demanding that he give up his religious activities.
The interrogator, one of the secret police, waved a gun before his face and said, “This little toy has made many a man change his mind.”
The rabbi then answered, “This little toy can intimidate only that kind of man who has many gods and just one world.”
“Because I have only one God and two worlds, I am not impressed by this little toy.”
How many gods do we have?
God is our spouse.
Are we committing spiritual adultery?
Most cases of adultery occur when essential emotional needs are not being met in a marital relationship.
There may be a lack of intimacy, stability, companionship, communication, adventure or purpose.
When certain emotional needs are unmet for too long, one of the partners may seek to meet that need outside of marriage.
But when we give another person physical, emotional or spiritual access to ourselves, that only our spouse should have, we commit adultery.
Our spouse ceases to be our one and only.
Another person, a stranger, has come into the covenant and our affections have been diverted from their appropriate recipient.
We are created by God with needs.
There’s no denying that.
We need love and intimacy, security, a sense of belonging and destiny.
Do we allow our relationship with God to meet those needs or do we go off to meet those needs by becoming a friend of the world?
We sometimes replace our need for God’s love with the desire to find assurance in the eyes of other people.
We sometimes replace our need for spiritual security with the accumulation of possessions.
The more we try to meet spiritual needs with material remedies, the more we aggravate the problem.
St. Augustine once said, “O God, you have created us for yourself; our hearts are restless, until they rest in you.”
We will not be satisfied apart from God.
We can date the world all we want, it will never satisfy our needs.
God is our spouse.
And God considers us as His spouse.
If we have become friends of the world, God is calling us to come back.
God wants to win us back.
God is more than able and willing to meet our needs.