From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
Lust is normally considered a word with extremely negative connotations, but that is not necessarily so. In some cases in the New Testament, the word “lust’ simply describes a strong desire for something, which is neither inherently good or bad. In this case, however, the word has only a negative meaning. In fact, some Bible translations render this word as “pleasures” rather than “lusts.” Given the actual meaning of the word, this may be a better rendering of it.
This particular Greek word is where we get the English word “hedonism.” Simply put this describes “devotion to pleasure and self-gratification as a way of life.” Based on the word used, clearly only a negative thing is being described here. In fact, in every case in the New Testament this word is used, it is used in a negative fashion.
Again, James is taking us back to analyze what motivates us. Our motives can be good or bad; they can be Godly or worldly. The source of our motivations and wisdom can be from above, or from the world. The choices we make in these areas have very real consequences here on Earth.
James does not mince words here. He just finished talking about the state of conflicts which apparently existed in some of the churches he was writing to; Ib the concluding half of Verse 1 he plainly states what the source of these wars and fightings are. The source of these internal conflicts is pleasures.
We learned back in Chapter 3 that envying and strife cause confusion and every evil work in the church; now we learn that internal conflicts in the church come from our pursuit of our own pleasures.
This is hardly a new phenomenon. Of course it was selfishness and desire for worldly pleasure that lead to the condemned state of mankind in the first place; we see this back in Genesis Chapter 3, when Eve gave in to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. (1 John 2:16)
It did not stop with Eve, however; selfish desire has caused conflict since the Fall in the Garden of Eden. In Numbers 12 we can see that jealousy of Moses’ authority caused Miriam and Aaron to rebel against their brother. In Mark 10:35-45, we see the Disciples. James and John asking for special thrones in the Kingdom of Heaven; it seems pretty obvious that what they were really seeking was some recognition here and now.
Jesus’ response to their request was very interesting and telling, and we can see it in Verses 43 and 44 of the above passage.
But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
What are our goals? What motivates us? Are we seeking what is good for us and our own pleasure? Or, are we seeking first and foremost what God wants, and secondly what is best for another person?