Sermon Manuscript

The Cause and Way Out
of Fights and Quarrels
James 4:1-10

If you have a family I can promise you… you have been made fun of, you’ve been given a nickname, your feelings have been hurt, you have had your stuff stolen or broken or simply turned up missing and no one admits anything, and you have been in a fight. Family is good, but it is also broken. You see your family at their best and at their worst. You get an up close view of their hearts. It can be perplexing when we see the stuff that people will argue about.

Last year the kids and I were sitting in the living room on a Saturday afternoon relaxing. One kid was begging to go outside and throw the football, the others refused and ridiculed him for wanting to throw. I was tired, and wanted to cheer everyone up (while expending as little energy as possible), so I quietly reached over to the coffee table and pretended to grab an invisible football from the top of the table. I then looked at the kid who wanted to throw the football and said, “quick catch the football". He looked at me funny, and then I drew my arm back and threw the ball to him. He confusedly looked at me and then put his hands up and slowly moved his hands up and reluctantly clasped the air as if to grab a ball in the air. I let out a yell of “Yeah, good catch. Throw it back.” The confused look then turned to a smile, and he threw it back. I leaned to the side and caught it. I threw it back to him. Then suddenly another kid said “Hey throw it to me.” But since they didn’t want to throw earlier, we said no and kept throwing it back to each other. Within a few seconds we had an all out war going on because we were not sharing our invisible football with those who didn’t want to play football. One kid is crying, another is debating the merits of what we are doing and another stomps off mad. We had a fight over an invisible football. Who does that?? Where do things like this come from??

In your family there will be fights and arguments, and if you are not prepared this can be confusing, but finding the way out of those arguments can be even more confusing.

We are looking at a passage that helps us understand the cause of fights and quarrels and also the way out of fights and quarrels.


What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:1-10 ESV)

The Cause Of fights

What do you say is the source of your arguments and fights with others? When you are in an argument with someone and are asked what happened? What is your answer? Probably state what the other person did wrong. He did this or that. Now those could be true and have a place for discussion, but James has a surprising place for the true source of fights, quarrels, and battles.

James says it is the desires inside of us. V1. It's not what someone else did to you. Though others might have done wrong or have problems inside. Our own natural impulses wants, desires, covet are at play and out of line. They fester and then corrupt.

This is astounding because no one ever says this. No one wants to admit their problems come from within. You did this. Or I forgot to take my medication! It is always someone else. Pride keeps us from seeing and admitting our faults.

Cultures today can’t fathom how our internal desires would lead us astray. We are supposed to feed our cravings. Give yourself whatever you want. That reflects an unbiblical understanding of human nature. The Bible teaches we are all flawed and sinful. Our main problem is the selfish spirit that dwells in us.

There is a progression here. 1) We want something. 2) We do not get it. 3) The desire builds. It is OK to want a toy from your brother. But he says no and you beat him up and lock him in the bathroom so you can play with it. Its OK you want someone to do their work properly, but why get angry and destroy them with your words. Or perhaps you just want some peace and quiet around the house and the kids keep interfering. None of those are bad, but the desire builds up and unleashes in hurtful ways.

The desires welling up and overflowing from inside of us can be surprising. Newlyweds are surprised when they get married and see how selfish their spouse is. You are married to a sinner. It does not excuse it, but it does make sense of it. When dating it’s easy to hide your flaws for the hour and a half you are together. In family you see them when they are not trusting God. You get a glimpse of what life looks like when someone is not trusting the Lord, when they are not doing the right things. You don’t see their on “air personality.”

If we are honest with ourselves I think this makes sense to us. We can buy the nice house, send our kids to the best school, do all the things that we think remove evil from us and yet it still shows up in our living room.

We are all sinners. We sin in thoughts, words, deeds, desires. And we do that with others and we experience it from others too.

What do you want? Why do you want it so bad?

There are some other things at work in this passage. James attributes our main problem to our desires within. But you also have to note the place of the world and the devil. It is our love with the world that causes the problem. Those things act upon us but James says the main problem is internal. There is a spiritual battle at play.

Sponge: Pressure on top, pressure inside. We are like sponges. You don’t know what is inside a sponge until it gets squeezed and then you discover. So when life happens look at what squeezed you but also look at what comes out of you. Rage, anger, malice, deceit.

We have to address the squeezing and pressure from the top, but sometimes we can’t control that and that is where we focus on our internal desires. We need those purified. Ex:

Your passions are at war within you. An angry person is not at peace internally. A murderous person is not at peace internally. An adulterous person is not at peace internally. What you see on the outside of someone is reflective of their inner soul. Whatever rules your heart rules your life. If you are in love with money you will be angry when you lose it. If you mom is in love with order and peace she will struggle when those are not here.

This helps us understand our own inner struggle. Other people are not our primary problem. It also helps us understand when others get mad at us. In life people, even people close to you, may say things about you, and what they say is more revealing about them than it is about you.

Consequences. We are Adulterers. Enemies of God. Proud. We need changing. We have to address things internally. These things reveal who our God truly is. The psalmist searched his heart to see where he might not be following God (Psalm 139). Do we do that? Do you read Scripture to see what thoughts, attitudes might not be in line with what God calls you to have?

Be cautious of advice and solutions that do not deal with the deeper underlying spiritual realities. If you want to experience true and deep down transformation then you must incorporate this thinking into your life. I want to speak about how our culture handles conflicts, desires, hurts, etc. We often receive advice that removes any need for our Savior or God’s word.

Heath Lambert’s "A Theology of Biblical Counseling" (p321-325): We live in a secular and therapeutic culture. It often lacks the influence of the Scriptures in understanding problems. Our culture attributes physical causation to many problems and ignores the spiritual roots and implications. The Bible teaches we are physical and spiritual beings. Not all serious problems are medical problems. There are physical problems that need physical treatment and there are spiritual problems that need spiritual treatment. Be careful not to reduce problems so that the solution is take two of these and call me in the morning.

I'm concerned that many Christians are not aware of this distinction. We live like Jesus is there for our eternal needs but has nothing to say about our present needs. Don’t confuse spiritual and physical solutions. If you have a heart condition don’t apply the remedy of faith and repentance. If you need to repent of idolatry don’t get a prescription for medicine.

Too many people take doctors advice like it came from Sinai. Medical treatment is helpful and you should get it, but you should expect it to be secular and therapeutic and that you will need to supplement that care with a spiritual diagnosis. “The diagnostics for mental disorders is not infallible and it fails to recognize the spiritual aspect of problems” (Lambert)

If you are getting advice or counsel you have to ask yourself if the person counseling you has a biblical worldview. Does he believe in sin and wrong/even evil behavior. Does he believe in a redeemer who loves us and promises to change us? Does he believe in the power of repentance and faith?

We need both of these. I know the church has at times given too simplistic an understanding of complex problems. But I think our medical community does the same. An integrated approach is the best but unfortunately there tends to be a separation of the two.

Too many people have relational issues and come back from counselors being told of a condition and a medicine to take. There was not talk of wrong behavior, sin, owning up to wrongs.

Many people believe in Jesus for their salvation, and than treat that like an airplane ticket they will one day use, but for now that salvation is distant and fairly irrelevant to their daily life. We have to change that. This teaching helps us see just how deep and profound the salvation is that Jesus brings. We need saving from ourselves and a work that goes into the depth of our hearts, and that is exactly what God does for us through Christ.

This shows just how deep we need saving. It is not just on the outside. We need someone to change our hearts and purify us from the inside, to the core of who we are. That is what Jesus promises. That is the hope we have for restoration. That is the hope families look to and long for.

In light of that let me give you some questions to ask yourself:
What do you want? Why do you want it so bad?
What is at the root of that issue?
Who is your king? Who is your God?
What does the Bible say about these?
How does faith in Jesus guide, inform or change my attitude and behavior.

Discussing these is what Christian fellowship should look like. If the church were doing this more people would be coming into it rather than counselors. Not all counseling is bad. Some of it, particularly where people have had traumatic events can be extremely helpful, but even those people experience deeper healing through Scripture and real/meaningful conversations.

The Way Out.

It’s helpful knowing why we got into an argument, and it is equally helpful knowing how to get out. What do you do when you and your wife are in a stalemate and constantly arguing? A lot of struggles result from our pride of going against God. It may be against his command. We are called to love our neighbor, we do not love them, and so they get mad at us and make life difficult. Can’t control others but can control yourself.

Submit to God. Stop going after things you shouldn’t go after. God’s laws are more important. Love others more than yourself. If we are quarreling with others then somewhere in there we are probably not loving our neighbor. Somewhere in there we are not doing what God calls us to do and we are not believing the things we are called to believe.

"Submit" as a good soldier puts himself in complete subjection to his captain. We have to realign with his will. Sometimes even praying doesn’t work because we ask wrongly!

Do what he tells us to do. Get help. Look if your head is hurting you need to humble yourself and go to a doctor. Get help. Work. God often works through other people. If you and your husband can’t resolve differences talk to someone about it. Your pride will keep you from getting the help you need.

What does God call me to do in this situation?
Am I following God the way I should be? Why or why not?

God wants us to have wholeness. Cleanse your hands/purify your heart. This demonstrates the wholeness that he wants us to have. If you are in an argument with someone else ask yourself, are my hands clean? How have I contributed to this. Take out the log in your own eye, and then go about it the right way. **What do the actions of your hands say about the attitude of your heart. **

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Seems to imply that many of your problems are because of a distance between you and God. How is that possible, God is omniscient. He is everywhere. Present here, and in China, and to the ends of the universe. How is he not near me?

You can be on the couch next to your spouse and angry at them, ignoring them, disinterested in them, and you can do the same with God.

“James denies that the Spirit of God rules where depraved lusts prevail.” Calvin

Again, it highlights that when in arguments the issues are often spiritual. The solution is repentance. It is turning back to God.

Repenting is not something you do once. **Living for Jesus is living a life of repentance.** Our kids are getting to the teen years and we have noticed some new challenges with them. But one of them came up to me and said dad, I wanted to say I’m sorry for being disrespectful to you earlier. Will you forgive me. I threw a celebration when I heard that and said, “that right there is a great sign of maturity.” We are going to sin and we need to learn to own up to our failings. You experience God in those moments.

Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter (Jam 4:9 ESV). True sorrow for wrongs leads to joy. In Christ we know forgiveness for our wrongs. Sadness is part of healing.

Ask yourself: How can I draw near to God? Is God trying to get my attention?

If you want to change get around people that will help bring about that change. Get around God. Spend time with him, in his word. Pray. Get around people that will help you do those things.

Trust the Lord to exalt you. Much of our warring and arguing is simply the product of a lack of trust in God. Our hearts are anxious, worried, fearful. Humble yourself and trust the Lord to exalt you.

What promises of God are you not believing?
What is more important or of greater power to you than God?


When you have a quarrel, a conflict, and disappointing season of life you have to see that God is working in you. He is changing you. A lot of times when people have resentment and anger toward God it reflects their self righteousness, that is the thought that everything they do is right and there is nothing in them that needs refining. This teaches differently. Friction refines and sharpens.

What is God doing in this?

Trip down river in llama float. How do you get out of that. Sometimes things happen that has no bearing on you. Like a tornado dropping down and destroying your home. But often the things that happen to us are the result of our decisions, actions, practices. A habitual practice of being angry at your kids will lead them to a place of thinking you do not care about them. You now have to change. You cannot keep doing the same action that got you into that situation and expect a different result.