Grace: “We’re fighting over that Christmas doll.”
Daddy: “Well you need to learn to share.”
Grace: “But we both want it.”
My two daughters came into my bedroom this morning, the younger one crying and the older one explaining what all the fussing was about. The above exchange reminded me of a section of Scripture that helps us to understand the root of all conflict:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. – James 4.1-2a
As parents of four young ones, we see this played out on a daily basis. Sadly we see it among adults far too often as well. On occasion we even see it in our marriage.
James goes on to say that we could eliminate a lot of these quarrels if we would go to God to get our desires fulfilled:
You do not have, because you do not ask. – James 4.2b
But even then, we frequently are asking for the right things for the wrong reasons, which results in God wisely denying our requests:
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. – James 4.3
The problem is we have an adulterous heart:
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. – James 4.4
Remember, the requests made were legitimate requests. People can ask God for the noblest and most spiritual requests and yet still be asking out of wrong motivation: to fulfill selfish desires. The way you recognize your motivation is wrong is by observing your behavior when you don’t get what you want. If you become angry and act out with violence, either physically or through words, it’s because you are seeking to fulfill your selfish desires.
What is the solution? Deep repentance:
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4.7-10