James 4:1

Monday, 12 August 2019

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? James 4:1

James has been contrasting that which is heavenly wisdom from that which is earthly and reflects no true wisdom at all. He has shown what the results of the two are as well. He now asks, “Where do wars and fights come from among you?”

Is he referring to actual wars and fights among the Jewish believers? Or, does this extend to all of the Jewish people as a collective whole? Or, is this a general statement concerning the cause of such things in humanity? The answer is probably the latter. Humans are humans, regardless of race, culture, nationality, etc.

Further, the word translated as “wars” is one which speaks of actual battles. It can be used figuratively as well, but it is speaking in a broad term about the impetus behind such a war. The word translated as “fights” governs a whole sphere of words, and so it signifies strife, contention, quarreling, and so on.

The two words are given to include the whole round of such violent interactions between people. James is asking his audience where these things arise from. His answer is, “Do they not come from your desires for pleasure?” Here, the word translated as “pleasure” is hédoné. One can see the source of our modern word “hedonistic.” This is speaking of sensuous pleasure, and that pleasure which is looked to as an end in itself. It is not a godly pleasure, but one which is opposed to godliness.

Such desires well up in man and they cause all kinds of vile urges and motivations which can easily lead to wars and fights. As James says, it is these which “war in your members.” The verb here is a present participle. The war is ongoing and active. The word goes beyond just the act of fighting, but in everything that is involved in serving in the military. It is the service of a soldier which is warring inside of us because of our desires for pleasure.

Even Plato understood this precept. In Phaedo 66c, he says, “The body and its desires are the only cause of wars and factions and battles; for all wars arise for the sake of gaining money, and we are compelled to gain money.” It may even be that James was aware of Plato’s words and used the idea in his epistle. Paul cited Greek philosophers on several occasions. These are universally understood precepts because they come directly from the state of humanity.

James will continue with this line of thought, and he will also speak of the cure for it in his words ahead.

Life application: Think about it, if we didn’t have pride we wouldn’t care if we were offended and the fight would never get started. If we didn’t want things we didn’t have, we wouldn’t envy others and steal, kill, or lie to get them.

Admittedly, desire can also be used as a force for good; innovation comes from a desire for these things as well, but it is being channeled properly rather than improperly. Motivation causes us to work within our means for a good purpose, but envy causes us to go beyond our means to attain the same thing. Such is the case concerning the battle within us. We need to quench unhealthy desires and emotions and work towards our goals using proper levels of motivation.

Think on any issue where sin is involved and you will see that the problem could have been resolved from within the person by merely handling what happened differently.

When a candidate for public office lies about his qualifications, he is working outside of his true life story to achieve a goal. However, he could just as easily use the same precept as a point of complement to those who actually have such qualifications. This is just one example which reflects the nature of sin in all of us. We need to be extremely careful that when the internal battle begins, we quench the unhealthy desires before sin gets a foothold.

Lord, Your word is like a mirror that we hold up in order to see ourselves, and right in it, we can see our own failings exposed. We often lose those battles we face and that in turn ends in sin. Please give us the wisdom, the courage, and the fortitude to fight the battle and to prevail in it before sin is released in our lives. In this, You will be exalted through our faithful Christian walk. Amen.

6 thoughts on “James 4:1

  • Monday, August 12th, 2019 at 10:21 am

    “. Think on any issue where sin is involved and you will see that the issue could have been resolved from within the person by merely handling what happened differently.
    So true Charlie, and if I had a dollar for every time I realized after the fact what I didn’t do or say, or not say…you can finish the sentence, right?

    • Wednesday, August 14th, 2019 at 1:06 pm

      We’d be jillionaires.

  • Monday, August 12th, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    First: thank you Charlie for clearing up the whole Fox at the western wall thing Sunday. I admit I sort of fell for it but it just wasn’t playing out right in my head. You cleared it up for me Thanks.

    Totally agree with John. The bad news is we are stuck with things like this happening until we get home. We can only try to be aware of it and work to minimize the negative effects produced.

    I don’t care for money and material treasures in life I only ask for the things that will make life as comfortable as possible for me and my family and friends. And if they are not available then to have what ever the lord wants me to have according to his will for us. Heck I would be happy living like John the Baptist except for the locust….I kinda draw the line at eating bugs, honey fine bugs no…of course the no shoe thing will be kinda hard too. Well the good news is the new Jeursalum has streets of gold so I think I can deal with the no shoe thing there 🙂

    We ARE another day closer to home
    Grace mercy and peace on you and yours
    God bless my friends we fly soon

    • Monday, August 12th, 2019 at 10:34 pm

      Gordon, you are funny, but thanks for agreeing with my post. Barefoot is okay in heaven as long as there are no wasps to step on, ha

    • Wednesday, August 14th, 2019 at 1:09 pm

      When it comes to Scriptural analysis, except in general ways (such as I will cite this Sunday), the last place I would go to for a prophecy or a typological fulfillment would be to the rabbis. They missed the boat 2000 years ago, and they are still missing it. Everything they put forth in these areas is Jew-centered, not Christ-centered. It is damaging for us to follow their thoughts on such things for sure! And yes, the New Jerusalem will be marvelous. Can’t wait. No shoes for eternity…. whoo hoo!


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