I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving, or at least survived it. Maybe if youíre lucky, youíll have enough strength to carry you through Christmas too. The holidays can be hard, but itís hard any time family is constantly around. It seems very rarely can you make it from November to January without making at least one of your family members mad.
One Thanksgiving, one of my kids threw a brick into my stepfatherís swimming pool and we werenít allowed back at the house for three years. It seems silly now, but putting up with screaming children and estranged family members in your own house for three days will make anyone act slightly irrational.
If we canít even get along with family, how can we be expected to get along with people who arenít even blood? Every one of us can point to someone we just donít get along with. If itís not someone in your family, itís probably a person at work or school who just rubs you the wrong way, or a neighbor that doesnít know where his yard ends and where yours begins.
We can usually point to some circumstance that makes us feel this way about them, and itís usually something they did. Often, our first response for our unhappiness is to blame something or someone among us, but in the book of James, the author gives a different perspective about where our real source of your conflict comes from.
In James 4:1 he says,ďWhat causes fights and quarrels among you? Donít they come from your desires that battle within you?Ē
Throughout most of the book of James we see this kind of critique about our actions. We think others are to blame, but it turns out that itís usually an issue with our own hearts. Our battles with each other are actually caused by an overflow of a battle inside of us. What is causing this battle? James says itís over our desires, an inward struggle with those around us to get what we want. In the next verse, he explains the details of this inward war.
ďYou want something but you donít get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want ...Ē
Wow, harsh. Maybe we havenít actually killed anyone, but James is saying that when we want something and perceive someone to be stopping us from getting it, thatís when we get nasty with one another. Thatís where our anger actually comes from. This is hard to hear because the moment I have to take some responsibility for my anger, then I canít use my sad story as leverage to stay mad at you. I donít even want to be partially to blame. I want to blame you, that way Iím just a victim.
As a parent, it is easy to see in your kids what causes fights. Isnít it because they want something and they canít get it? How many times have you told them to quit being so selfish? Maybe God sees us this way too. He knows that the root issue is that we didnít get our way. When we look at the bridges weíve burned or the relationships that ended nasty the way God sees them, itís easy to see just how much like selfish little children weíre all capable of being.
How can we stop this quarreling in our own hearts from affecting our relationships around us? In verse 7, James shows that how we choose to relate to God greatly affects how we relate to people:
ďSubmit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.Ē
And in verse 10:
ďHumble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.Ē
Our tendency is burn people who stand in our way and blame them when we donít get what we want, but James is telling us to hand over the whole fight over our selfish desires to God. It seems counter-intuitive because we want what we want on our own terms, but submitting our desires to God is the only way to quench them. When we give Him control, itís a lot easier to love people instead of blaming them for being in the way.
Pastor Eric Partin is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Destin and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.