James 4:1-3


Bible Study Notes
Quarrels and Conflicts
James 4:1-3


The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.

Intro - James has shown the sharp contrast that exists between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom that God gives (3:13-18). It is the wisdom of the world that produces disorder and every evil thing (3:16).

True wisdom is characterized by peace, and peace is essential for the development and expression of righteousness in the life. James is concerned that this peace does not characterize the conduct and relationships of the believers to whom he is writing.

He is now going to challenge his readers to consider the source of the battles and conflicts that are characteristic of their relationships.

4:1 -
With his first question, James challenges them to consider the source of their conflicts. He then gives the answer in the form of a second question.

quarrels and conflicts - The picture drawn here is one of a battlefield. The plurals used indicate that this is not an isolated event.

among you - This strife and conflict is taking place among believers. Something is seriously wrong.

James' question challenges them to consider what is causing this situation. They may have been tempted to blame it on someone else, on their own circumstances, or on unfair treatment of some sort. James answers for them with another question.

your pleasures - James says the source of these conflicts is to be found in their self-centered determination to please themselves.

These pleasures are said to wage war in their members. These pleasures are viewed as being engaged in military warfare to satisfy their lusts. James traces all our conflicts and quarrels back to this selfish determination to satisfy our desires.

This picture is seen in other scriptures also (cf. Rom.7:15-25; Phil. 2:3,4; 20,21).

4:2 -
James now shows how the pleasures in our members lead to conflict with others.

lust - (epithumeite) - This word refers to a strong desire or craving. James referred to lust and its impact in 1:14,15.

do not have - It is not possible to satisfy selfish lusts in any meaningful or lasting way. They consume you and drive you on for more.

commit murder - This is the ultimate end of selfishness. This does not mean that James' readers were actually murdering one another, but the intensity and strength of lust leads to this end (cf. I John 3:15).

One person involved in a great deal of counseling has observed that whenever someone is involved in an adulterous relationship, there is almost always a desire present for the death of the marriage partner.

As lust takes hold of a person, he is driven to do whatever he can to satisfy that craving. The Bible gives strong warnings about lust (cf. Rom. 1:24; 6:12; 7:7 [covet]; 13:810 [covet], v. 9; 1 Cor. 10:6; 1 John 2:16,17; Jude 1:16-19).

envious (zeloute) - The noun of this verb was used in 3:14,16 (jealousy). Here the picture is one of intense selfish desire.

cannot obtain - Again, the inability to satisfy the selfish cravings of the heart leads to frustration.

you fight and quarrel - The same words used in verse 1, but in reverse order. The wars and battles we have in our homes and in our churches are a result of the frustration produced when we don't get what we want. It is the result of the selfish desire to satisfy our wants.

You do not have because you do not ask - They fail to turn to God for their every need. He is the One who gives every good and perfect gift (1:17; cf. Matt. 7:7-11).

4:3 -
But some would say they have asked and have not received that for which they asked. They need to be reminded that God does not answer every prayer offered to Him (cf. 1:6,7).

The reason James' readers have not received what they have asked for is because they have asked with evil intentions.

wrong motives (kakos) - An adverb meaning "in an evil manner," "badly." They are asking with evil intentions.

Their purpose in asking is to satisfy their selfish, lustful desires. This does not mean they ask for sinful things. "It is possible to ask for good things for a bad reason."

"Their worldly, self-centered desires have invaded their prayer life and perverted their relation to God." We see how selfishness perverts and distorts every area of life.

We need to examine ourselves and our relationships very carefully in light of the Word of God. In our home, in our relationships with other believers, is there conflict and strife?

Are you truly a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ?

Are you controlled by your selfish desires and your determination to satisfy your wants and cravings? Paul draws the contrast, that we need to recognize, very clearly in Galatians 5:16-26.


Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.

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