“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1, ESV)
Growing up, I had two siblings, a younger brother and a younger sister. In the winter, we would often become bored, especially in the evenings when it got dark early and we could not go outside. So, as we got nearer to Christmas, my would give us the Sears and Roebuck Catalogue and tell us to check off the things we would like for Christmas. We laid on the floor looking at all the toys and started checking things off. We would identify which things each one of us wanted. My brother would say, “I want this toy.” I would respond, “I’ll take this one.”
Things went peacefully for awhile until we both wanted the same one. At that point, the arguing started. “You can’t have it, I want it.” “No, I want it.” Somehow, we turned what was supposed to be a fun and peaceful cooperation between two brothers into a war. My mom would intervene and say, “If one of you gets that toy, you can always share it with your brother.” Right, that will work. “Not.”
Christmas would come and we probably did not get the things we identified in the catalogue anyway. Yet, we would still want what the other got for a present. Shortly after Christmas was over, we would often find ourselves arguing over the toys and refusing to share. Why could we not get along all the time? Many would say, well we were just acting like kids. However, there is a deeper problem and James hits it right on the head. Our passions were at war within us.
This is not just a problem for kids. It is a problem for all of humanity. With kids, this kind of conflict can often seem innocent and perhaps even cute. Yet, with adults it can be devastating, destructive, and deadly. James goes on to give us some of the more severe outcomes of our own fleshly passions if they are not brought under control. He stated, “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:2a, ESV).
Within each of us is a fleshly nature that desires to please itself. We will struggle with the lusts of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh, and prideful desires. These are all things that focus on satisfying ourselves. The result is that we will seek to please our fleshly passions and end up doing so at the expense of others and to our own demise.
However, there is hope for believers in overcoming the power of the flesh. God has placed within every believer His Spirit to grant us power to live in victory over the passions of the flesh. Paul wrote to the Galatians about this conflict between the flesh and the Spirit (Gal 5:16-17) and states, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, AV). There is a way to overcome the lusts of the flesh, and it is to live by the Spirit.
We as believers need to act mature not as kids arguing over a toy. Our faith should cause us to stand out with maturity in a world full of adults acting like little children. We can do this and demonstrate the validity of our faith when we walk not according to the flesh, but rather under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.