Who Is James Addressing?
Take a moment to read this whole thought in James, and as you’re reading ask yourself: who is James talking to?
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. – James 4:1-3
Is James really talking to Christians here? I know it’s hard to believe, because he mentions words like fights, quarrels, kill, and covet. Yet he is talking to Christians. More importantly, he is giving us a great reminder of the proper attitude you need to have when you come to prayer. It’s like James is giving you a litmus test to bring with you when you go to pray.
Why Are You Asking? A Look at Motives
Looking closely at having not because of asking not reveals that the problem is not really in the asking. The problem is in the reason why you are asking.
James identifies some of these wrong motives, but the ultimate desire that drives all the others is the burning desire to get something you do not have. This is known as coveting. To covet is to be jealous of something that someone else has, or to possess a strong eagerness to get something that does not belong to you.
How do you know if you are experiencing this emotion? One way is to think about how you feel when you see others around you being blessed and it seems like God is passing you by. Do you rejoice in the blessing of others or do you despise them? When someone shares about how God has blessed them, do you feel the need to try to trump their blessing with one of your own?
When someone gets a new job, promotion, new house, new car, or any myriad of material blessings...do you find yourself being excited for them, or envious of them instead? If you do, then be careful; because the “covet monster” could be stirring inside you. So the next time someone shares what God is doing in their lives, rejoice with them! The Bible says we should rejoice with those who rejoice. (Rom. 12:15)
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