“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot get what you want. 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. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Have you been in a situation when you are with someone and all they want to do is fight? Whenever they are around, there is restlessness and disruption. Have you felt like this yourself, when you are unhappy, discontented and irritable. Nothing you have is enough and nothing that anyone does is right. These kinds of feelings cause strife amongst people. Strife is often accompanied by bitterness and pride. It causes division because the argument and fight over who is “right” takes priority over the value of the relationship. Someone who is determined to cause strife lacks humility and will not allow compromise or consideration of others. We should guard ourselves from becoming someone who wants to spread strife and discord due to the pride and sin in our own heart, because it is clear that God hates people who spread strife (Proverbs 6:16-19). Strife alienates and divides friends and families. Strife destroys unity and it can destroy churches. Strife is also a sign of “friendship with the world”, carnality and our sinful and selfish desires. All these things are clearly against God’s will for us. Allowing strife and sin to dictate our thoughts, behaviour and even our prayer life, will lead us to become enemies of God. We cannot be driven by sin and our sinful desires, and still serve God. We can try to deceive ourselves that we are “right” and justify our actions, but God will not tolerate any commitment to the enemy. Be careful that you do not become the false disciple who finds that they are not allowed into the Kingdom of Heaven because Jesus has told them, “I never knew you!” (Mathew 7:21-23).
So how do we fight this battle for our minds? Before we start to tackle this, we must realise that there is a war going on throughout our Christian lives. The devil wants to distract us from God’s purpose to share the gospel and win souls for Christ (Matt 28:19). There is no better distraction that than petty disputes and disagreements. Strife is a highly effective disruptor of churches. It damages relationships in the church and can discourage believers. Some may leave the faith altogether. It discourages people from joining the church, and causes contempt for the church from people who are watching from the outside. It prevents us from sharing God’s love and His message of hope to the world. James was all too aware of this, and he wanted to warn the church about it.
The key to this passage is having a humble and penitent heart which is fully submitted to God’s will. God gives the humble heart more grace to overcome this battle. The proud heart is unfortunately going to resist God’s truth and risks becoming an unteachable spirit. God’s grace is rejected by the proud heart. However, the humble heart who realizes that they have fallen short and need God’s help, is willing to pray for forgiveness and be thankful for it. Therefore, they will receive it. The conclusion of this scripture is this; the condition of our heart dictates whether or not we receive God’s grace. What is the condition of your heart?
Almighty God, help me to examine my heart. I want to have a heart that is open to your teaching and submitted to Your will. Help to remove any root of bitterness or pride from my heart. Help me to be an obedient, faithful, loving and humble Christian, by Your Grace. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.