Life Lessons from Hard Times – Studies in James
The summary verse that outlines this New Testament book is James 1:19. We are now in our third section which will finish the book – ‘be slow to anger.’ Even in the early church, the behavior and conduct was not exemplary. In at least some of these churches, there was confusion, disputes, wrath…every evil thing. The New Testament is realistic about human behavior, even for the Christians. James has already warned us. “The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” – James 1:20.
James 4:1-3 1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You 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. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
1. Selfish pleasures are hostile soldiers waging war in us. James’ imagery here is stark and dramatic. This is hand-to-soul combat. It is internal. It is generated from what we want that we do not have. This was leading to quarrels and fighting in the church. Quite an ugly scene, and far from the model and example of Jesus who redeemed them. It is an error to underestimate the selfish behavior of Christians when they are consumed by their own desires and earthly wisdom.
2. Wrong desires mess up our prayers and walk with God. Here the saints are either disregarding issues that should be taken to God in prayer, or they go to prayer, expecting heaven to be their piggy bank to give them what they selfishly want. In the Greek language, this is literally “you ask badly.” Prayer is used and abused in the church. Prayer results in needs met but not coddling of our selfish desires. After all, God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. James 1:16-17.
3. Selfish motives always show themselves. James both warns and reminds these believers. The test is what we do with what we have. If the means and resources that we have are spent on our own selfish desires, to the absence of caring for the widows and orphans in their distress James 1:27, and the needs of others more than ourselves, then the jig is up. The motives are displayed for all to see. And they are not behaviors that are good works, that justify our faith before men, as noted in James 2.
So what to do? Turn around! Change! Rearrange your motives and priorities. I live in a world where most of my clients and contacts live at the end or beyond their means. This is crazy. It just feeds our insatiable appetite for the biggest, brightest, latest. Stop! Recheck what captures your heart and mind. You have the resources with God in you, with wisdom from heaven. No more excuses. Make changes. Do it.
– John Moore