Book of James – Bible Study – Part 10

Part 10 – What Causes Fights and Quarrels Among You?

This is part 10 of a 15 part Bible Study on the book of James .

Compiled and written by Norma Becker – a true woman of God and God’s word.

*The Index, with links, to all 15 parts is at the bottom of each page.

What Causes Fights and Quarrels Among You?

James 4:1-9

James has just finished talking about a climate of peace being necessary to produce righteousness – but what were the people doing that he was writing to? It can apply to all of us at one time or another too.

Read verses 1-4 of James chapter 4:

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

What’s the difference between a fight and a quarrel? One is a broad term and the other refers to a particular skirmish or an individual battle. One you are fighting with your whole neighbourhood or church – the other you have a grievance against your neighbour or a friend.

Two Causes and Numerous Effects

  1. Cause: Inner desires – desires that battle within us. When we see the word desires, we think: aren’t some of our desires legitimate? What would they be? Health, friendship, family, job, home, education, freedom from oppression.However, the word used for desires means ‘pleasures.’ It is the source of the English word ‘hedonism,’ which sees pleasure as the chief goal of life, and nothing will be allowed to stand in our way of experiencing it. Do you think that sometimes our “pleasures” have a stronger pull than our legitimate desires? What or who can frustrate these pleasures?

    When God, someone, or something stops us in fulfilling one of these pleasures, our nature is to fight until we get our way.

    In verse 3 he is not saying that the reason they didn’t have their desires/pleasures fulfilled was because they didn’t pray but he was accusing them of asking for things, such as money, that they intended to use for pleasure. They wanted to gratify themselves rather than help others and please God.

  2. Cause: Worldly motivation – friendship with the world. He calls them an adulterous people. In the Old Testament, God often describes Himself as the husband of His people and the New Testament calls the church the Bride of Christ. So this is undoubtedly a figure of speech for ‘spiritual unfaithfulness.’ So the second cause of fights and quarrels is spiritual unfaithfulness.

James says, “…don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?” Our world is built around the idea that man can help himself. If man can’t get God to cooperate with him, he runs to the world for its help and support. That’s called being a friend to the world.

Then what do you think happens? We have anger toward God. Then there is worldliness. Here you adopt the world’s philosophy and live by it. We want to do things our way. We choose to be a friend of the world and thus an enemy of God.

What is the solution? In verse 5-6

“We have a source of power and a principle to follow.

Read verses 5-6 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us tends toward envy, but he gives us more grace? That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:5-6).

The NASB seems to have a better translation than the NIV for verse 5. Apparently it is a very difficult passage to translate and I won’t go into all the problems. One explanation: verse 4 which is closely tied to verse 5 by the conjunction “or,” indicates that the believer who is a friend of the world is guilty of spiritual adultery. Although his love and devotion belong to God, he has fallen in love with the world. It is natural, therefore, to expect verse 5 to speak of God’s jealous longing for his people’s love, rather than of their envious spirit. Rather than “to envy” the Greek can also mean “to yearn for.” In verse 4 James accused his readers of spiritual unfaithfulness. If they aren’t willing to accept this, he asks in verse 5 what they think about the Old Testament passages dealing with God’s jealous longing for his people. Then verse 5, “or” do they think Scripture speaks without reason.

Consequently, it is necessary to believe that friendship with the world is enmity toward God, and thus it is spiritual unfaithfulness.

What is the Power?

The Holy Sprit. The translation of verse 5 varies but from what I can find the one that seems preferred is “that God jealously longs for the spirit that he made to live in us.” When a Christian divides his allegiance, he loses everything. Only when we switch from a divided to a single allegiance will God take control. Then the power of God’s spirit is unhindered. We make a choice. God will not deal with a divided heart.

What is the Principle?

”God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

God in grace (giving us something we don’t deserve) gives his people the help they need to resist the draw of the world and to remain loyal to him. God gives greater grace -greater than the selfish drive within our own hearts.

What is Humbleness?

Meekness, gentleness, power under control. Willing to accept what God commands and to seek help from Him rather than trusting in one’s own abilities – someone who forgets himself and trusts God’s goodness and His control over situations.

Why does He give us this grace only if we are humble, never if we are proud? Read verses 7-10:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Practical Advice

Now, James gives some practical advice. He gives ten commands; in Greek each one is stated in a way that calls for immediate action in rooting out the sinful attitude of pride:

  1. Submit yourselves
    We are to submit our will and that leads to obedience. Stop fighting and surrender. Submission is not the same as obedience. Instead it is the surrender of one’s will, which leads to obedience.
  2. Resist the devil
    Rather than resisting God’s will for us, we are to resist the devil. It is remarkable that Paul’s inventory of the Christian armour includes nothing to protect the back. We are given no promise of protection if we run away, but we are promised victory every time we stand and resist him. We are to reject his plans, because they encourage our self-assertiveness. When he is resisted, he will flee.
  3. Come near to God, and he will come near to you
    We’re to stay close to Him and develop companionship with Him. James’ readers had set their hearts on pleasure and had drifted away from God. Even when we fall away we have the assurance that he will come near to us if we return to Him.
  4. Wash or cleanse your hands
    This spoke to the Jewish converts that James was writing to. Under the old covenant, the priests had to ritually wash their hands before performing their ceremonial duties. It taught the great lesson of the holiness of God. From this came the expression that was applied figuratively to the removal of sin. “Wash your hands you sinners,” reminded them to wash their hands or to repent – make their conduct pure.
  5. Purify your hearts
    Whereas the command to wash your hands dealt with making your conduct pure, the command to purify your hearts insists on purity of thoughts and motives. In verse 3 and 4 he talks of his readers going after pleasure and having friendship with the world. A double-minded person is characterized by divided allegiance. And worldliness is basically divided allegiance.

Psalm 24:3-4 says, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”

James 4:6-8: Grieve/be miserable, mourn and wail/weep. This is a call to repentance. In contrast to the worldly pleasures they had been seeking, his readers are to repent in misery.

Verse 9: “Turn their laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” Apparently they had felt their pursued pleasures had been fun and games that had brought laughter and joy. Now they were to be ashamed and sorry and repent in sorrow – sorrow for the fact they have been missing God’s blessings.

In the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus starts by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” They are the ones that realize they have sinned by following their own desires. Then it goes on, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” The ones that realize they have sinned and come in sorrow and ask for forgiveness – they will be comforted.

Part 11
: Is This How We Are To Be?


We welcome your comments.

Enter Email

Index of James Bible Study

Part 1 Who is James?
Part 2 When and to Whom Was James Written?
Part 3 How to Welcome Trials with an Attitude of Joy?
Part 4 What Does ‘Tempt’ Mean?
Part 5 What is the Key to Responding to Trials?
Part 6 Those with True Religion Should Serve
Part 7 Expression of the Character and Will of God Himself
Part 8 Spiritual Maturity
Part 9 Spiritual Maturity continued…
Part 10 What Causes Fights and Quarrels Among You?
Part 11  Is This How We Are To Be?
Part 12 What About My Plans?
Part 13 Let God be the Judge
Part 14 The Power of Prayer & Praise
Part 15 Summary and last part

Share this: