The "Heart" of the Matter
Topic: Christ in our Conflicts Passage: James 4:1–4:10
The Letter of James (largely recognized by scholars as the brother of Jesus) is considered wisdom literature. What is wisdom? Wisdom is being adept at living well. It’s a life strategy for living well. This makes James one of the most practical books in the Bible. It doesn’t primarily give us new theology (although it does somewhat) it takes already established theology and shows us how it works out in the context of real life.
Wisdom is almost exclusively known by its fruits. James tells us there are (2) two kinds of wisdom: earthly (worldly) and heavenly (3:13-18). Worldly wisdom is often characterized by jealously and selfish ambition which leads to discord. Heavenly wisdom, where it is present, is known for being peaceable, harmonious, sincere and reasonable.
James tells us that the selfish root of worldly wisdom’s fruit lies in our hearts: passions (Greek work – hedone – English – hedonism) and desires (literally “mega” desires) (vv.1-2a). This means wherever there are quarrels and fights worldly wisdom is in play. It’s not that we simply want things (recognition, acknowledgement, respect, honor, to be right) we need and demands these things from others.
Remember, James is talking to Christians. What compounds their failure in dealing with conflict is that they either don’t pray or the pray simply to get what they really want (vv.2b-3). You pray that God would change the other person or the circumstance rather than change you own hearts and its coveting desires.
But James even go deeper. He tells us that ultimate root of our conflict is with God (v.4). Because only God can and does meet the deepest needs of our hearts to search and demand that from others (spouse, children, friends, work) is not only worldly (“choosing to be a friend of the world”) but an incredible act of betrayal (“adulterous people”) to the who loves and gave himself completely to us.
But God tirelessly pursues his wayward people (“yearns jealously for us and gives us more grace”). All we need is need and the humility to ask and receive (vv.5-6). The number one thing that we forgot in all conflict is God himself. James, using the language of repentance (turning back) exhorts the ones who receives grace to submit (God), resist (Devil), draw near (God) (vv.7-8).
Finally (vv.9-10) , James gives us an astounding promise that as we humble ourselves (admit that life is not about us and we can’t do it on our own) we paradoxically receive all that we need (he will lift us up). The reason we know this principle is true is because of the one who proved it - Jesus (Philippians 2:6-9). Because we have been raised (lifted up) with Jesus (Colossians 3:1) everything he received (honor, recognition, glory) we know receive by faith in him as well.
Bottom Line: The “heart” of relational conflict begins with conflict (passions, desires) in each of our own hearts. However, we must recognize that our ultimate conflict is not with others but with God. Only by repenting (submitting and drawing near to God), humbling asking (prayerfully) and receiving his grace (as shown to us by the gospel of Jesus) will we begin to heal our conflicts by showing us where we find our deepest needs fulfilled.