James 4:1a What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?
Immediately we see a lack of godly wisdom rearing its ugly head. The Lord put these people under the pressure of trials and they responded by loosing an eternal perspective and fighting with one another. James uses two military terms in verse 1 to describe the conflict going on with these people. The first one (translated quarrels) signifies a war, and the second (translated conflicts) signifies a battle. We can infer from this that conflict was an ongoing life pattern for these people with constant bitter flare ups. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise to us based on what we have seen in the letter so far. In 2:1-13 we saw conflict in the form of discrimination. They had no place for the poor man, because the poor man had no way to help their earthly status. This type of conflict is the very epitome of worldly stain and false wisdom. Rather than trusting the Lord to supply their needs they pandered to the rich man in the hopes of benefiting from it. What makes this so ironic is that the rich were the very ones exploiting the poor (2:7 & 5:1-6).
I want to take a moment to deal with an issue you might have on your own mind. At any point during our study of James have you thought to yourself, “as much as these people were going through I really can’t blame them for slipping up in some areas?” They were going through great trials, but does that excuse this behavior? No, and let me give you two reasons from this letter why their suffering was not an excuse. First, James deals with this very issue in 1:13-18. James’ point was that suffering was not an excuse for sin, but rather a gift from God. The reason that suffering is a gift rather than an excuse for sin is found in 1:2-4 and is also my second reason that suffering is not an excuse for sin. What we see in 1:1-4 is that God is working through suffering. We don’t just find this here it is all throughout scripture. In Acts 1:8 we see the last words that Christ spoke to his disciples before he ascended into Heaven. The gospel was to go to “Judea, and
Samaria, and the remotest part of the earth.” In Acts 8:1 and 11:19 we see how this happened. Stephen had just become the very first Christian martyr, and the persecution of Christians intensified. This scattered the church into Judea and Samaria. In 11:19 we see that this same persecution sent believers beyond Judea and Samaria. God used the suffering of the Church to spread his Gospel message. Don’t forget, the persecution that God used to spread the Gospel may have been the same persecution that the recipients of James’ letter had faced. It is obvious that they did not take advantage of the work that God was doing, and consequently they missed out on being a part of the work of God so they could bicker and fight with one another.
Let me give you a modern day example of this same principle. In the 30s thousands of Koreans fled what is now North Korea when the Japanese invaded. Many of these refugees settled in the Russian city of Vladivostok. About a decade later Joseph Stalin, the communist leader and opponent of Christianity, began manufacturing weapons in the city of Vladivostok. Stalin deemed these Korean transplants a security threat and he had them relocated into five different areas around the Soviet Union. Can you imagine how much these people went through in a matter of ten years or so? One of the areas that these people were sent to was Tashkent, an area that is now a part of Uzbekistan. This area was the hub of a significant number of Muslims called the Uzbeks. There were over twenty million Uzbeks who had violently resisted any efforts to introduce Christianity into their culture. Within a few decades the Koreans, who were welcomed in by the Uzbeks, had been included in nearly every area of Uzbek culture. What makes this applicable to our conversation is that God had planted within those Koreans a pocket of believers. Without knowing it Stalin had sent out missionaries into an unreached land. To be uprooted from your home twice and placed into a Muslim society must have caused immense suffering and maybe even death. But God used it to bring revival in
Uzbekistan. To be continued tomorrow…