What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 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. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Have you ever gone to the doctor with some sort of illness, and left with a fist full of prescriptions that only treat symptoms? Last time I had the flu, back in February of 2008, She Who Must Be Obeyed directed me to go to the doctor, a command I shockingly disobeyed. Why? Because going to the doctor for a case of flu, barring something in the extreme, strikes me as a complete waste. They’ll give you something for the cough and fever maybe, but they can’t treat the infection, and the infection will run its course in 3-5 days… no thanks to the doctor. In that case, I was good as new in 2 days. James, on the other hand, doesn’t waste any time treating symptoms in this letter; he goes right for the infection itself.
These verses begin a new section, one that continues through verse 12. In this section, James will take us right to the root cause of our problems. As we go, I would suggest that we take our time and let his words soak into our minds so that we will get their maximum curative effect.
James begins with a simple question, a question we should all ask ourselves, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” Do you suppose James is talking about the quarrels we get into individually, or the ones we get into as a Body of believers… or both? “Both” would be my answer, but since I don’t know what quarrels you get into, I can only comment of the “within the Body” quarrels here, but the principle applies in both cases. Why do different groups within the larger Body of Christ quarrel, and why are certain groups more prone to quarreling with others than most? I think James has some answers for us!
He begins to answer these questions by pointing out that we have desires that battle within us. I suppose that this can be as simple as a desire to be healthy and a desire to eat potato chips; the two desires seems to strive within us and sometimes our frustration oozes to the surface. In my case when this happens, I have ice cream instead!
“You desire but you do not have so you kill.” There was a time when a group of believers might desire earnestly to follow God, and they might have believed that they had found Truth that others had missed, and thus they had a great desire that all Christians would see the Truth in just the same way they do, and when others didn’t, they were killed. Yet, I think James is really talking about something much worse here, for I think in this scenario, all too often that group with those earnest desires ends up killing the faith of other Christians by their opposition, zealotry and overbearing behavior. Perhaps you disagree with me, but I think this goes on more than we realize, and I think the ones who do this would be shocked if they were accused, for I think they have no recognition they are doing it. For the record, I don’t have anyone in particular in mind, this is a hypothetical.
So they want, but don’t have and so they fight. Yet they don’t have because they don’t ask God, but if they do ask, they don’t receive for their motives are wrong. In my hypothetical, the motives are wrong because when it’s all said and done, they care more about being right than they do about following the Lord Jesus Christ, which is all about love.
There are 9 more verses in this section, so we’re just getting started, we haven’t heard the last of this issue, that’s for sure.