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The Dangers of Self-Centeredness

What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from your passions that wage war within you? 2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and wage war. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3) The following chapter, James gives multiple warnings against self-centeredness and the dangers it brings. Opening up with verse 1, James asks two rhetorical questions to try to find the cause of the strife among the believers: “What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from your passions that wage war within you?” It seemed that James was addressing a chronic recurring problem that the believers were in disagreement with one another, fueled by their “passions,” which in the Greek, we get the English word hedonism, “the philosophy that the chief purpose of living is to satisfy self.” The believers were only looking out for their own self-interest instead of focusing on God’s will. Then, in verse 2, James bluntly states what the believers were doing wrong because of their self-centeredness. “You desire and do not have.” In other translations, the word for “desire” is translated as “lust,” which, when used in the New Testament, frequently refers to coveting what one does not have of another, sometimes in the sexual manner. We can see this description by Jesus in Matthew 5:28, “But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Going back to James, “You murder and covet and cannot obtain.” Now, as a reminder, this was among believers, specifically Jewish Christians during the Roman empire, so to commit murder would lead to death. With that context, the word “murder,” does not refer to actual murder, but rather, the definition presented by Jesus in Matthew 5:21-22 meaning intense hatred against another, “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, ‘Do not murder’, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire.” As Thomas Lea writes, “The inner attitude is wrong just as is the outward act of murder. Thus, James was not likely accusing his Christian readers of actual murder, but was showing them that their fights and disagreements were as offensive to God as killing.” The final parts of verse 2, “You fight and wage war. You do not have because you do not ask.” James reveals to the believers that their violent actions against each other are unnecessary, for they should have gone first to God. Verse 3, however, clarifies that they failed to receive what they asked of God because they asked incorrectly, “with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” Jesus taught believers in Matthew 7:7 on how to ask God for something, “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” They were asking for their own desires, instead of pursuing God’s will and what He wants for them to do. May we pursue God’s will for our lives, asking Him for what we need to accomplish it, rather than pursuing our will for our own selfish desires, because if we do pursue our own way, we will end up hurting others and ourselves, and miss the opportunity to find fulfillment in God’s purpose for our lives. Blessings, Isaac De Guzman www.my-wbc.com https://www.facebook.com/WestsideBaptistChurchSBC

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