FROM WHENCE COME WARS AND FIGHTINGS
James 4:1-3 From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war among your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
James concluded chapter 3, in verses 15 through 18, by saying earthly wisdom is sensual, devilish, and results in envy and strife. On the other hand heavenly wisdom is pure, gentle, easily entreated, is full of mercy and good fruits, is not partial or hypocritical, and results in peace. As chapter 4 begins, James asks the question, from whence come wars and fightings? The question, at the time this epistle was written, is the same question that could be asked now. What is the origin or source of wars, fighting and contention among mankind?
Both biblical and secular history tell us that, practically from the beginning of time to the present day, wars have existed within families, within nations, between ethnicities, and among nations. Consider the Trojan War, the conquests of Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Wars that preceded the Christian Age. After the coming of Christ, these wars took place: The 100 Years War, the War of the Roses, the Revolutionary War, the First and Second World Wars as well as the Korean and the Vietnamese Wars. Although these were major wars, history also records many minor wars such as the War of the Whiskers, The War of Jenkins' Ear and the War of Toledo. What was the cause of these wars?
In verse one of the lesson text, James says that wars and fightings are the result of lust. The word lust used in this text can be described as the covetous, self-pleasure or self-gratification found in a sinful desire or appetite. War results when lust is motivated to action in order to satisfy these sensual desires. Wars can be carried out in order to plunder and pillage another nation or people. Wars can be initiated to achieve personal ambition or fame, or they may result from the desire of one nation to extend its borders or lay claim to disputed territories. Wars may even result from military retaliation for such trivial things such as the aggressive action of Spanish seamen for cutting off the ear of a British sailor named Jenkins, which resulted in the War of Jenkins' Ear.
James, in the fourth chapter, contrasts wars and fightings with peace, which was discussed in the closing verses of chapter three. I believe, as do many bible scholars, the wars and fightings James refers to, are quarrels and factions that develop and exist among Christians. Lust, as described above, is regarded as the source of all wars among nations. Just as sure, the sin of lust, and other coveteous desires, are often the root cause of conflicts within the body of Christ. Such inordinate desires brings on aggressive actions seeking self-satisfaction. It is usually personal ruling power, prestige, or self-acclaim that is sought by individuals, or factions, within the body of Christ that brings about sinful disruptions and schizms. Such openly displayed infighting never brings about anything favorable to the church of Christ, rather it is detrimental to the existing church, and certainly brings reproach when observed the community in which the church is located.
These verses teach us three lessons about lust. First, lust is sinful of itself, and is magnified when wars, fightings, or any type of conflict is used in order to satisfy these sinful desires. Second, lust never results in peace. In the heart where lust exists, hatred and envy will reside, and constantly stir up contention and strife with others. Third, lust is never satisfied. Even when the things that are greedily desired are gained, lust will still exist. To those that continue to allow lust to fill their hearts, more, more, and more, will always be their goal.
The right way to obtain those things needed is to ask God. Verse 3 indicates that some of those, to whom James wrote this letter, had prayed to God, but their prayers were not answered. The reason, James says is because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. There is no room in the heart of a child of God for lust - it must be removed. The Christian must respect God as their Creator, and the supplier of all needs, must righteously respect their neighbor's life and possessions, and must maintain a self-respect that is free from any inordinate desire for the things of others. God will supply our needs - therewith we must be content. Without obedience to God's will, lust will be escalated into wars and fightings, among nations, and within the body of Christ, His church.