1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1–3, NKJV)
Is your life full of conflict with others? If so, you may be unaware of the war that is raging within you. Today’s passage says the desire for pleasure and personal satisfaction fuels our fights with others. Hedonism is “the belief that pleasure or happiness is the most important goal in life” (Merriam-Webster). This philosophy suggests a satisfying life is about fulfilling personal pleasures, desires, and sensual delights. Yet invariably, this leads to selfishness and ill treatment of others, not kindness and love. The pursuit of such worldly desires makes one an enemy of God (Jas. 4:4). By contrast, Christians are to “pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). James had just taught that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jas. 3:17). If you want peace with God and with others, then reject fulfilling your own desires as the true course to joy. A good dose of humility will help us win these battles in our war against the devil (Jas. 4:6-7).
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24, NKJV)
The apostle has contrasted walking in the Spirit with fulfilling the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17). He has pointed out the kind of life the flesh prompts men to pursue (the works of the flesh), with its fatal result (“those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of heaven,” Galatians 5:19-21). The character and conduct formed by the Spirit’s instruction and guidance is fruitful and robust, free from law’s condemnation (Galatians 5:22-23). Those who belong to Christ extinguish the flesh as the controlling factor of their lives (Galatians 2:20). Christians deliberately and methodically eliminate the influences and cravings of the flesh, so the fruit of the Spirit can thrive in their hearts and lives (Colossians 3:5). It is no accident that Christians bear the fruit of the Spirit. Through repentance, the heart has been conditioned to serve a new Master, Christ Jesus. The heart that is humble, repentant and responsive to the gospel is the perfect soil for bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Luke 8:15).
Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5, NKJV)
In today’s verse, Paul places sensual and sexual sins (including covetousness) in our members. To strike a death blow against sin we must consciously cease using our bodies to fulfill sinful desires and lusts (see Rom. 6:12-13). Our every thought is to be brought “into captivity to the obedience of Christ” in order to walk by faith and not according to the flesh (2 Cor. 10:2-4). Analyze your actions to help you take inventory of your heart’s desires. Are your desires pure or putrid in God’s sight? Remember, how you live graphically displays the Master you serve.