Why Do We Have Conflict?

   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.

   Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

JAMES 4:1-3

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   Not long ago a Norwegian statistician computerized every war that had ever been fought. His study quickly indicated that during 5,560 years of recorded history there have been 14,531 wars, averaging a little over 2.6 wars each year. In the history of 185 generations, only 10 of those generations have witnessed unbroken peace.

   It is quite obvious that, throughout the ages, war has been the rule on earth, and peace has been the exception.

   Why is this so? What is the cause of our conflicts? Why do we have war?

   These questions have been asked by men throughout the ages. And for every asking there has been a suggested answer. Nicholas Rowe suggested that war is "the needy bankrupt's last resort." Thomas Hobbes said there are three principal causes of war: "competition, diffidence, and glory." But the ancient philosopher, Plato, was probably the closest to the truth when he said, "Wars and factions and fightings have no other source than the body and its lusts. For it is for the getting of wealth that all our wars arise; and we are compelled to get wealth because of our body, to whose service we are slaves."

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THE ORIGIN OF CONFLICTS

   James asks the very same question. "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members [or within you]?" (James 4:1).

   In the previous chapter we contrasted earthly wisdom with that which is from above. We found that human wisdom is characterized by bitter envying, confusion, and strife. In other words, James is telling us that war reflects the characteristics of earthly wisdom. Earthly wisdom and war go together!

   Global war, gang fights, even family quarrels find their origin in lusts. James continues by saying, "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" (James 4:2).

   Edward Gibbon described war as "the chief pursuit of ambitious minds." "It gratifies . . . the combative instinct of mankind," said Charles Eliot, "but it gratifies also the love of plunder, destruction, cruel discipline and arbitrary power." In 1880 the famous Civil War hero, General William T. Sherman, expressed how he felt about armed strife when he stated, "War is hell." War, to be sure, brings out the very worst in man.

   Throughout history mankind has repeatedly confirmed the apostle's words, "From whence come wars and fightings among you? . . . even of your lusts" (James 4:1). Yes, warevery kind of waris the result of the evil desires that pollute the mind of man.

   "Know thyself," said the ancient philosopher, Socrates. Certainly that is a healthy and commendable suggestion. But according to the prophet Jeremiah, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer 17:9). Jeremiah declared that the human nature is

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desperately evil. It is more wicked than you could ever begin to realize. You cannot imagine what you are capable of.

   It is often shocking to witness just how fast people can go to pieces. In a moment of lust, a teenager turns into a thief. Overcome by greed, a respected businessman becomes an embezzler. In a senseless search for excitement, a man or woman sacrifices a good reputation and becomes involved in sexual immorality.

   The word lust used here by James speaks of unsatisfied desire, literally evil desires. In his letter to young Timothy, Paul tells of the departure of his friend, Demas, "For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" (2 Ti 4:10). The tug of possessions ruined Paul's companion and fellow servant. The desires of the world drew him away.

   The first four chapters of the book of Acts give us the thrilling success story of the early church. We are told of the tremendous growth and victory experienced by that first group of believers. But in chapter 5 we see the beginnings of strife! Barnabas, one of the wealthy members of the church, willingly sold his land and donated the money to the ministry of the apostles.

   Luke tells us that a certain man and his wife in the church (Ananias and Sapphira) saw the honor that Barnabas received and lusted after this praise. Selling a piece of their property, they held back part of the money and gave just a portion to the leaders of the church.

   In essence, they wanted what Barnabas had without doing what he did. They were not willing to pay the price!

   Human nature is shockingly deceitful. Throughout the Word of God we find the tragic results of human lust. James says it is the lust of power, the lust of personal gain that is the root of all conflict.

   Cain lusted after Abel because Abel had found favor with God. King Saul lusted after David because he had found

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favor with the people of Israel. Their lust welled up within them and resulted in murder and strife.

   Abraham Lincoln once walked down the street with his two sons, both of whom were crying. "What's the matter with your boys?" asked a passerby. "Exactly what is wrong with the whole world," said Lincoln. "I have three walnuts, and each boy wants two."

   Lust in one form or another is the common sin that plagues all of mankind.

   Today in America we are witnessing an ever-growing desire for material possessions. Things which just a short while ago were luxuries are today necessities! We are continually seeking to accumulate thingsnever satisfied with what we have.

   Labor fights with management; workers go on strike. Why? Often it is because of the evil desires and lust of men. The more they have, the more they want.

   At the same time big business and management refuse to come to agreements with their workersoften because they too are greedy. Profits never seem big enough. The lust after money becomes an obsession. Wealth is their god.

   At the outset of World War II, Hitler defended his acts of aggression by declaring that Germany was simply seeking more "living space."

   In her lust for power, Russia has openly declared that Communism will one day conquer the world. North Vietnam seeks to dominate its neighbor to the south. Even the United States defended its early annexation to the west by calling it "manifest destiny."

   Throughout history, men and nations have had a lust for power and authority. And James tells us that this evil desire is the cause of war.

   I will never forget the speech that was given by General Douglas MacArthur when Japan surrendered at the close of

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World War II. Referring to the continuing threat of war, MacArthur declared,

Military alliance, balances of power, the League of Nationsall in turn have failed. We have had our last chance. If we do not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically, is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advance in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save flesh.

THE SOLUTION FOR CONFLICTS

   Yes, my friend, the problem of war is theological. Man's basic need today is the need for spiritual birth. He needs a new nature which God alone can impart through His Son, Jesus Christ. The solution begins with the individual. The starting point is the new birth.

   In his letter to Christian believers, James makes specific reference to the cause of conflict among those to whom he is writing. He asks, "From whence come wars and fightings among you?" No doubt he is here referring to a problem in the local church. Evidently there was some feuding going on.

   It really doesn't make much difference where strife is found. The origin of a family squabble or the cause of a world conflict can both be traced to selfish lust!

   In his third epistle, the apostle John speaks of a man in the church who so loved attention that he refused to accept the apostle or his letters. "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not" (3 Jn 9). That man's problem was his lust for position, his desire for authority; and he was causing "war" in the church.

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   R. V. G. Tasker has said, "Human nature is indeed in the grip of an overwhelming army of occupation. Its natural aim, it can truthfully be said, is pleasure; and when we consider the amount of time, energy, money, interest and enthusiasm that men and women give to the satisfaction of this aim we can appreciate the accuracy of James' diagnosis; and Christians can use it as a reliable yardstick by which to measure the sincerity of their religion. Is God or pleasure the dominant concern of their life?"

   What about your desires? What are the priorities and concerns in your life? Is there anything within your life that has brought about strife and division?

STEPS TO RESOLVE CONFLICT

   1. Seek the mind of Christ. Paul wrote concerning two key women in the church at Philippi, "I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord" (Phil 4:2). We can be of one mind as we seek and submit to the mind of Jesus Christ. Thank God, these lusts of ours can be put right. We can be of one mind in Christ. How do we deal with these sources of strife? Paul writes, "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil 2:13). It is God who can work in us. He alone can give us the right desires and help us to do His will.

   2. Call upon the indwelling Holy Spirit. We, in ourselves, cannot expect to overcome our evil desires. But we can draw upon the greater power of the One who indwells us. Again, Paul declares, "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God" (Ro 6:11).

   Instead of being a slave unto sin, bound by my evil lusts and desires, I am, in Christ Jesus, alive and alert to His desiresHis will for my life. Strife is no longer a problem when I commit myself totally to Jesus Christ.

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   The key to solving conflict is found in affirming God's will. When we do this, our desires become His desires, and then His power becomes our power.

   3. Ask for the glory of God. James declares, "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. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (Ja 4:2-3).

   When you do ask of God, as James says, you don't get what you ask for because you are only trying to satisfy yourself. Your only desire is self-gratification. Many people call upon God as if He were a magic genie, someone to grant their every wish and desire!

   The word consume that James uses in this verse literally means to spend for oneself. In other words, even when you pray, you ask of God, only to realize personal benefit, rather than God's glory. That is why your prayers are not heard. That is why there are divisions and conflicts among you . . . because you seek after your own lusts.

   My friend, is there a conflict within you today? Are you troubled by warring and strife? Why not submit to Jesus right now? John says, "This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us" (1 Jn 5:14). He knows your burdens. He knows your conflicts, and He wants to give victory and lasting peace. Amidst the promise of wars and rumors of wars Jesus said, "My peace I give unto you" (Jn 14:27). Although the whole world may be in turmoil, the child of God can rest in the arms of the Prince of Peace.

* "From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members" (Ja 4:1).

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* "Wars and factions and fightings have no other source than the body and its lusts. For it is for the getting of wealth that all our wars arise, and we are compelled to get wealth because of our body, to whose service we are slaves." PLATO

* General Douglas MacArthur declared, "Military alliance, balances of power, the League of Nationsall in turn have failed. We have had our last chance. If we do not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically, is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advance in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save flesh."

* The key to solving conflict is found in affirming God's will. When we do this, our desires become God's desires, and then His power becomes our power.

Chapter Ten  ||  Table of Contents