In the previous posts we discussed the quarrels and conflicts of James’ readers. We talked a lot about suffering, and trials. Basically, what it came down to was that these people had taken a gift from God and misused it. That gift was their suffering. If they would have had a proper perspective then the gospel would have spread through their suffering just like it did in Acts 8:1 & 11:19. But as we will continue to discuss today their desires were for this world, and the result was conflict.
Earlier we talked about the conflict they had with one another found in 4:1a. Today we will talk about a conflict that goes even deeper than this. It is a conflict within one’s self. According to James this self-conflict is the source of outer conflict with one another. But what is self-conflict? More importantly what is the result of this self-conflict?
James says that the source of their conflict was “your pleasures that wage war in your members…” Literally it is the desire for pleasure that creates conflict even within different parts of your own body. This word translated here as pleasure (h`donh,) has the idea of lust for pleasure, or desire for gratification. In the NT this word is one that is used to describe a life and worldview that is opposed to God. I want to clarify why this desire for pleasure is inherently anti-Christian. This way of thinking is not anti-Christian because it desires pleasure. In fact, biblical Christianity is a constant pursuit of joy. The difference between these two ways of thinking is that the Christian worldview seeks pleasure in God, the highest form of pleasure. Whereas, the worldview that we will find in 4:1-3 seeks pleasure in the world (v. 4). For the Christian it is Galatians 5:5 and finding ultimate joy through Christ by the work of the Spirit. For those seeking pleasure in the world it is Titus 3:3 and spending an entire life of malice and envy “enslaved to various lusts and pleasures (same word h`donh).” This type of thinking is entirely devoted to self-centered motives, and seeks pleasure from this world. This description is exactly what we find in 3:14-16. In 3:14 worldly wisdom is marked by bitter jealousy and selfish ambition; which describes aptly what is going on in 4:1-3.
The pursuit of gratification (or satisfaction) that we find here reminded me of Solomon’s pursuit described in the book of Ecclesiastes. In Ecclesiastes 2:10 Solomon admits that “all my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure…” Later in the verse he admits that his “heart was pleased” by this, but the word “pleased” does not mean that he was satisfied. He will soon tell us that he was not satisfied. Although he does admit to some pleasure from his actions, it was not enough. In verse 11 Solomon acknowledged that his pursuits were “vanity and striving after wind.” Solomon understood that you can feed your lust on earthly things, but it will never be satisfied. You can find the perfect job making lots of money, but there will always be more that you want. The pleasure that you receive from feeding your lust will be short lived, and then you will be right back were you started. Take money for example. If you work hard to feed your lust of money and then make money you will be pleased. However, the pleasure that comes from that money will fade away after you spend the money. Then, you will be right back where you started. To be so consumed with yourself and the pleasures that the world has to offer is a clear indication that your wisdom is worldly rather than godly. In 3:16 James told his readers that a worldly, self-absorbed, self-confident wisdom would result in “disorder and every evil thing.” In Chapter 4 we see just how true James’ words were. The result of a life that is consumed with self-gratification is found in vv. 1-3…