Read James 4:1-10
1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (NIV)
James reaches a point in the letter where he discusses the lack of peace we often have. He is a bit more blunt in saying this. But he is lifting up the things people can see. There are quarrels and fights among the believers. There are those who are openly coveting things of this world or things others have and are frustrated with their own circumstances. There is basically a lack of peace in the body and spirit.
I see this a lot today. People say that they don’t have peace. They are troubled by what they see in the world. And whenever we have a national election, it just gets worse. James points the answer for us. He says that the more we seek the things of this world, the more we separate ourselves from God. This has a negative effect on us and the peace we can have.
He makes an interesting statement in vs 2 and 3. He first says that we don’t have what we want because we have not asked God for it. And he immediately follows that up with saying, you don’t get what you ask for because you ask with wrong motives. This all goes to seeking to live in God’s will. If our asks are aligned with God’s will, then God will grant us the things and ideas we need. They may not always come as we ask them, but God will help us to live and act in his will.
I have found this to be true. God will not make us rich or healthy or to be free of trouble. He may do these things to some for his purpose. But his purpose is easy to discern – to love God with all we have and to love neighbor. Is what we ask for aligned with this purpose. I have seen people healed so that others might see God’s power. But our effort should always be to seek God and to help others.
For me, when James tells us to grieve, mourn and wail, to change our laughter to mourning and our joy to gloom, he is not talking about being a forever dower person. He is telling us to look at the world and see with they eyes of God. When we see the people who chase after the world, who are hurting, who are oppressed, we grieve and mourn with them. This is the thing that helps us to move to action. And as we humble ourselves before God, he will lift us up and us for His glory.
It is hard not to think about the good things in this world and desire them. We all desire a nice home, plenty of food and health. We desire friends and families that our whole. We desire nice things. But when we allow these to replace our seeking God and his love, we become what James calls an “adulterer.” We are seeking for wholeness and peace in the wrong place. It may satisfy for a while. But it never satisfies forever.
I have seen this in my own life. I have wanted and made bad financial decisions in my life seeking things. I have also seen the peace that comes as I let these desires go. Have you seen a change in your own life as to the things that you seek as you age? What does it mean to mourn and humble oneself in this life?
Thank you to all who have added comments.
Blessings and Peace