You Mean I Am the Problem?
James 4:1,2 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.
When I am in conflict with someone, it is never my fault. It is always due to some defect on the part of the person I am in conflict with, right? Am I not always the victim of another’s immaturity or lack of understanding?
James does not seem to sympathize with my view. He points the finger directly at me and says that when I have conflict it is due to my own defective desires. There is something wrong with your passions. It is your own pride, selfishness and ego that cause conflict. You are the problem.
James is not suggesting that others do not act selfishly. He just understands the God-ordained truth that my part in a conflict is my responsibility. I cannot change how another person acts. Yes, if we all acted selflessly, we would all get along better, but I cannot change another’s behavior. If I would give up my own pride and need to be right, most of my conflict would evaporate immediately.
I will be irritated for days about some unfortunate interaction with a coworker, an acquaintance or my spouse, but James insists that my joy, peace and attitude are my responsibility alone. I give up control of my joy and attitude when I allow that joy and attitude to rely on another’s behavior.
I actually create conflict when I allow my joy and purpose to be owned by those around me. James does not deny that we all have a need for love, meaning and security. He just insists that we go to God first for all of our needs. If our sense of purpose lies in an imperfect human, our ego will be injured when the other person fails us. As long as I depend on another human to fill the space that God alone was meant to fill, I will live in a state of frustration.
If however, I keep my focus on God and in humility, realize that all of my joy and purpose come from him first, then I can properly enjoy the relationships around me. When my eyes are on God, everything else falls into its proper place. I create conflict when I focus on my self and try to use those around me to meet my selfish needs.