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.
In some Bible translations, the phrase “desire to have” is translated “you are envious.” Personally, I think that phrasing does a better job of conveying the meaning of what is being said here. The verb from which the phrase comes also happens to be the origin of our English word “zealous,” or “zealot.” This puts a quite strong emphasis on the intensity of the wants and desires James is speaking of here. Back in James 3:14, 16 the word is actually the one that is translated “envying.”
The NASB renders this phrase as follows: “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.“
Those two little “so s” in that rendering seem to have big importance, as they show the relationship between the wanting, the denial, and the fighting and quarreling. We fight because we do not get what we want. In other words, out of the reflection of our hearts come our actions.
Do we fight and quarrel in our churches today? Have you seen any news reports concerning splitting bodies of believers suing each other over church property? Have you, in your own communities, seen churches divide over what color carpet to put in a new building? Of course churches fight and quarrel!
We fight because we are not getting our desires ( according to us) met. The question is, why do OUR desires matter? Is our objective in this Christian life to get our needs met? Of course, then answer to that question is a resounding NO! Our objectives should be God’s objectives. Actually, God’s objectives and plans should be ours as well.
I think the way James closes this verse is significant. We have not, because, “ye ask not.” To take a trip back to the source of our wisdom, we glean that if our desires are, in fact, ours then our actions will be wrong. What is the solution? We ask. Who do we ask? We all know that answer, don’t we?