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.
Here, James takes a pretty harsh turn in his language. We have been discussing what happens as a result of unfulfilled desires and wants, particularly among the body of believers.
Were these believers literally murdering and killing each other? Well, the answer to that question is probably, “No.” It seems fairly evident that this term was being used to represent an idea rather than an act.
Its seems that, in light of the overall context of what James has been telling us, he is referring to killing as a reflection of what is in our hearts. One of James’ big lessons has been that our actions reflect what we feel in our hearts. So, this seems to be describing what the people James was writing to were feeling. The fact that they were desiring and striving for things and not obtaining them was causing them to feel inappropriate things. Likely what we see here in feelings of intense hatred, animosity and dislike. Perhaps these feelings were being directed at the people perceived as standing in the way of other people’s goals and objectives.
This should not surprise us, as being denied what we want often results in irrational behavior. Remember the crowd outside the door of Lot’s house in Sodom clamoring to be let in so they could violate the visiting angels? Even after being struck blind by the angels, they were so set on meeting their perverse desires they groped blindly for a way in. (Genesis 19:11). Remember Absolom, David’s son? He so desperately wanted to rule Israel he was willing to kill his own father to obtain that objective.
Is anger and unreasonable hatred towards our brother really that serious? Well, let’s see what our Lord Jesus had to say about it.
Matthew 5:21,22 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
If there are those still maintaining the position that these are just thoughts and therefore harmless, James goes on next to show what these thoughts will cause to happen.