Yesterday morning we had a guest preacher. He talked about James 4:1-8. Here are a few things I learned.
The preacher started by noting that things that bring us pleasure also bring us conflict (4:1-2). He talked about the Greek word here that is sometimes translated as “lust.” It is related to our English word for Hedonism. The Greek word doesn’t necessarily mean desire with moral implications, but James points out that if we get so caught up in the pleasure of a thing that it becomes more important than it should, there are moral implications. We then get into conflict whenever something or someone comes between us and that source of pleasure. It isn’t wrong to get pleasure from certain things or even people, but it is wrong to let that be what fulfills you instead of God. It is wrong for you to get into conflict when you can’t have your desire. You do not have to scratch and claw for your desires, and God should be your main desire.
The preacher went on to show that James says we can have things that bring us pleasure if we ask God, but so often we don’t get them because we’re not asking for the right things or for the right reasons (4:2-3). We want it for ourselves, to fulfill me. We don’t care about what God wants or what’s actually good for us and those around us, we just want things that make us feel good. You don’t have to make things happen on your own to be happy, but God is not a genie in the sky. Just like a parent won’t give a child something that they shouldn’t have or can’t handle, God will not give you just anything and everything.
After that the preacher pointed out that James calls his audience a bunch of adulterers and adulteresses (4:4-5). They were two-timing God, just like we can. Our desires can make us friends with the world to get them, and if we are friends with the world we are an enemy to God. God won’t stand for you giving your ultimate affections to anyone or anything else. God has the right to your exclusive devotion, just like a husband or wife has the right to the exclusive devotion of their spouse, and is right to be jealous. God is a jealous God, but in a good way. God is literally better than all your other desires, and He’s the only one who can ultimately fulfill you anyway.
Then the preacher indicated the next verse, where James says that God gives more grace (4:6). Just because we’ve put our desires in the wrong place and cheated on God doesn’t mean we can’t go back to Him. Just because we’ve set up incorrect priorities in our lives doesn’t mean that we can’t work with God to correct them.
And how do we correct things? We submit ourselves to God (4:7-8). When we let God have the position of authority that is rightfully His, it makes straightening out our desires and conflicts a lot easier. God is not a cruel master, He is a loving Father and Friend. And much like those relationships, if you get close to someone, they will get close to you. As we and God work through life together, we will find our pleasures bring us less conflict. We will even find new, better pleasures.