James 4:1-10

One of the most common complaints you hear from couples today is that "We just can't seem to get along. We argue so much. We love each other. Why is it we have major blowups over such minor issues?" Then there are parents who say, "With my kids there is constant tension. I don't understand why we're always in an argumentative mode." Long before modern psychology came along James had some profound insights on the cause of conflict.  

What causes conflicts?

James 4:1 "What causes fights and quarrels among you. Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?"

James says that the cause of arguments is conflicting desires. When my wants conflict with your wants the sparks are going to fly.

What desires? The Bible makes very clear here and other places in Scripture that there are three basic desires we have that cause conflict. These desires are legitimate desires unless they're out of control.


James 4:2 "You want what you don't have ... you long for what others have."

We want to have things. Materialism. Possessions.  God created things to be used and to enjoy. That's what they're there for. We use things and love people. The problem is when we start loving things. When we start loving things we get the equation backwards. We start loving things and use people -- manipulating them, controlling them, moving them around to get what you want because things become more important in your life.


James 4:3 "You want only what will give you pleasure"

I want to feel good. I want to be comfortable. I want to have my senses satisfied. It's not wrong to enjoy life. 1 Timothy 6:17 "God made everything for our enjoyment." But when pleasure becomes the number one goal in your life -- if it feels good, do it -- you're asking for conflict. The fact is, I'm more interested in my comfort than I am in yours and all I think about is what makes me feel good. The desire to feel good creates conflict.


This is pride, power, prominence, popularity. Have you ever been in an argument where you knew you were wrong but you wouldn't admit it. Why? Because of pride. Pride causes arguments. This is the bottom line of all these things. The next time you're in an argument, stop and ask "Is it worth it?"

James tells us that pride -- when we think we can do things on our own -- causes two problems.

James 4:2-3 "You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives."

Here James tells us two reasons why our desires aren't fulfilled. Number one: We don't pray. We don't ask God. We look to the wrong source. Number two: And when we do pray, we usually pray with the wrong motive. We ask things in a selfish way. What's the cure?


James 4:6, 10 "God ... gives grace to the humble. Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up."

What is grace? Grace is God's power to change. What would you like to change about yourself? Whatever it is, you need grace to do it. What do you want to change about your relationships, your marriage, your family? Whatever you would like to change, you need grace. You can't change it on your own. You need God's power and that's called grace. Grace is the power to change, and there is only one way you get grace. You humble yourself.


Here's how you diffuse a conflict, whether it's between you and a kid, you and your wife, you and someone at work. James says you can do four things to diffuse a conflict:


James 4:7 "Submit yourself then to God."

Let God be God in your life. Give Him control. Put Him in charge. Yield yourself to Him. This is the starting point. Quit trying to run your own life. James says that conflict that happens with other people happens because you have conflict on the inside. You don't get along with other people because you've got a civil war in your life. This is the real issue. The starting point is getting peace inside before you can have peace outside.

Colossians 3:15 "Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart." When we have the peace of Christ in our heart then we'll be at peace with other people. If you want a change in your marriage, You stop praying, "Lord, change my partner" and start praying, "Lord, change me." You work on you and watch what happens. The starting point of getting along with others, to avoid arguments, is get peace in your heart through the rule of Christ. Give in to God. This means you learn to say "Thy will be done" instead of saying "Me first".


James 4:7 "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

Be aware, be alert. Realize what he's doing. Realize where the conflict comes from and that he's the source behind it. Don't be ignorant. The word "resist" is a war term. It means to be prepared. To stand against. Withstand an attack. The devil wants to destroy your marriage. He wants to destroy every other good relationship. Why? Because he loves conflict, arguments. James says you've got to give into God, let Him have control. Then you've got to do some defensive action. You've got to resist the devil and realize what he's doing.

2 Cor. 2:11 "In order that Satan might not outwit us, we are not unaware of his schemes."

Paul says, wise up! Recognize his tactics. Know how he operates. How does the devil operate? He plays on our pride. He tells us what we want to hear. He whispers in our ear. He gives us little thoughts, suggestions, ideas. When you're in the middle of an argument, he starts whispering in your ear, things like "You don't have to take this kind of stuff. Retaliate.

How do you resist the devil? Same way Jesus did it. He quoted Scripture. Memorize Proverbs 13:10 "Pride leads to arguments." The next time you get into an argument, that can be brought to mind by the Lord and you stop and think, "How am I being prideful here. What am I not willing to admit? Why am I not willing to compromise? Where am I only thinking of myself and not the other person's needs, desires, attitudes." There is a great promise here, "Resist the devil and he will flee." You don't have to put up with him. Give in to God and get wise to Satan.


Isaiah 26:3 "He will keep him in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord."

First, how do you grow closer? By reading the Bible, by going to church, by getting involved in a Bible study -- all of these kinds of things help you grow closer to God. The more time you spend alone with God, the better you get along with other people. Count on it! When the argument level rises in our marriage it means somebody is not spending time with the Lord. It's that simple. Grow closer to God. Have you noticed some people only draw close to God when they're in trouble? They only pray when they have a need. You need to spend time with Him. When I in genuineness draw close to God, "He will come near to you." He doesn't back off. He draws close to you. When you move toward Him, God moves toward you.


If you want to stop the conflicts in your life, if you want to get along with other people, avoid arguments, learn to ask forgiveness from God and from those you hurt.

James 4:8 "Wash your hands ... purify your hearts..."

Our hands represent our conduct and hearts represent attitudes. He's saying, clean up your act. v. 9 "Let there be tears for the wrong you've done." Don't minimize what's happened. Take it seriously. Be sorry for your self-centeredness. It is a big deal when your wife's feelings are hurt. Take it seriously. If someone says you've hurt them, you've hurt them. It may not be a big deal to you, but it was to them. Be willing to ask forgiveness.