I am a recovering control freak, and sometimes the recovery is put on hold. That is why this chapter really hit home with me today, and not always comfortably.
Where do wars come from? Why do people among you fight? It all comes from within, doesn’t it — from your desires for pleasure which make war in your members? You want something and you haven’t got it, so you murder someone. You long to possess something but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war. (4:1-2a)
James claims that the root of conflict is a desire to have something. He mentions murder and maybe in his time that was more prevalent than it is today. We definitely do have people who will take others’ lives for money, a car, drugs, an inheritance, or even pleasure, but that is not the norm.
But are we willing to “kill” a person’s reputation, image or authority so as to advance our own? Are we willing to take away a person’s freedom so as to get our own way? These are much more real temptations in our culture, and what drives these? Maybe a desire for control over our life?
James gives the answer in the next sentence:
The reason you don’t have it is because you don’t ask for it! (4:2b)
James encourages us to simply ask for what we truly need and trust God to supply what is best. Of course, God has no interest in meeting our selfish desires (4:3), still we might find that some of the conflict in our life is removed if we are willing to trust God to provide for us instead of using our own force and control to make a way. Trust is hard for a control freak, but it is the path to recovery.
Later in the chapter James returns to remind those of us who like to plan out every detail of our life that we simply do not have that much control.
Now look here, you people who say, “Today or tomorrow, we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, and trade, and make money.” You have no idea what the next day will bring. (4:13-14a)
The issue is certainly not planning or even an enterprising spirit. Again, the issue is control and the pride that comes from it (4:16). The ugly side of control is the temptation it brings to think we are our own gods. And God loves us too much and longs too jealously for our souls to let us becomes His enemies (4:4-5). Lord, help us to trust.