I just finished watching the Hatfields & the McCoys TV series on the History Channel. It was a great show, but sad. It showed the depths of human depravity and pridefulness. When left unchecked, our sin nature spirals downward and destroys everything that was once good. The spiritual vibes in the series were unavoidable. McCoy started off super spiritual, but through the bloody years looses not only his family, but his faith. Hatfield is the cynical one, yet the final scenes of the series show a repentant man being baptized.
Does the church act like these two feuding families? All to often we do. It is a shame too. We do not glorify God with bickering within the church. Just like these families, it is a loose loose situation. James writes to believers when he addresses this issue.
James 4:1-3 “1What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? 2You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. 3You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.”
Identify The source (v. 1)
James’s readers were fighting each other for position and power. So, James called attention to the source of the fight: they were making comparisons between each other, craving what others had, and coveting what they didn’t have. As a result of those cravings, these Christians fought, competing against each other in a brutal war. When we’re driven by sinful cravings, there are no winners; everyone loses.
Deal with the cravings (v. 2)
So, how do we stop such a cycle? James tells us that we must first look within. There is a war inside of each one of us that starts with what we crave and desire. The word crave refers to seeking physical pleasure as an end in itself and pursuing physical desires (lusts) at the expense of other things. The word desire means a focused passion. Craving and desiring are natural consequences of making comparisons and contrasts. We feed those desires and cravings when we focus all of our energies and activities on obtaining what others have and we don’t. This passage teaches us that this is a meaningless pursuit. And even if we do obtain what we lustfully pursue, we have lost what is more valuable.
Find the solution (v. 3)
To stop those sinful cravings, we must first recognize them in ourselves. Then, we must honestly confess those lustful desires and selfish passions in prayer. By doing so, we’re admitting that we see what we really need and know that only God can provide that. But we must also pray with the right motives. We fail to receive what we pray for when we ask with the wrong motives, primarily fueled by our own selfishness. We must allow Jesus to work within us, so that giving to others becomes our primary passion.
These insights and more are expounded by Mandy Crowe in an article about trying to measure up to other believers.