What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 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. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:1-7
“No, it’s mine!”
“Dad, why does she have a bigger piece than me?”
“I had it first!”
“If you don’t let me have it, I’m telling Dad!”
“I’m older, so I get the biggest scoop!”
“Grandma gave it to me, so I’ll share with you after I’m done!”
I’m sure you’ve never heard these phrases in your home, but I’ll honestly admit that they not only spew out of the mouths of my kids, they also bring me back to my growing up days far too frequently and painfully. If you’re at all like me and my siblings, you fight more often than you hug (even figuratively). You’re on the fritz with each other most of the time, and love is a rare word for the type of relationships inside the walls of your house. (Okay, so maybe mom and dad are a little more mature.)
But, really, it’s all your bratty sister’s fault, right? It’s your stupid, selfish older brother who causes all the fights, you say. Hmmm. I’d normally be inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt, except for a little bit of common sense I’ve gleaned along the way, and, more importantly, some facts the Bible writer James shared with us. Here’s what James says:
“From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1)
In plain English, here’s what he means: YOU fight because YOU’RE selfish! Fights come about because two selfish sinners have a conflict. (If you’re still trying to get over that sinner bit, get a grip—you are one! Just admit it.) It’s takes two to fight. One selfish person can’t fight alone.
Now that we understand why we fight, it’s helpful to understand how to stop the battles. James gives us four ways to stop fighting.
- Give up! For starters, let’s just rebound off of the fact about selfishness (lusts). If selfishness causes fights, the obvious solution is to stop being selfish. There you go. Simple. But not easy. Not at all.
- Shut up! Sure, maybe there are nicer ways to say it. But, really, if you just closed your mouth instead of letting those selfish words out, you’d have a whole lot fewer fights. James wrote, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (1:19).
- Make up! I’ll bet you’d fight a lot less with your sibling(s) if you made it a personal rule to confess your selfishness to them anytime you realize you’ve fought with them. Try it. You’ll think twice before fighting again. “Confess your faults one to another” (James 5:16a). Don’t forget that those are God’s words; He commands you to confess to your brother and sister.
- Look up! If all this seems too hard, just remember that doing right by yourself is always hard. But obeying God with God within you and enabling you is always possible, never beyond your reach. Next time you’re thinking of “duking it out” with a sibling, try obeying this command instead: “Pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16b). God answers prayer. He will change you. And He might just change your brother or sister, too.
And, just in case you think all this “don’t fight” jazz might not be all that important, remember that James’s whole point in his book is to help you remember that you show your faith by how you act. People who fight show that they aren’t like God. And people who aren’t being changed to look more like God don’t show evidence of His salvation. That’s serious business.
Don’t fight—God says so, and God gave you all you need in order to stop. That’s called grace. Use it.
– Andy Merkle