This Sunday School lesson continues the message from James 3:13-18 where we learn:
- True wisdom shows itself in humility – a modest view of one’s own importance
- The opposite of this wise humility is bitter jealousy – a resentful anger towards others because of their abilities, advantages or achievements – and selfish ambition – a strong desire to do something that does not take into account the needs of others
- Jealousy & Selfishness are stated as being Earthly, Unspiritual, & Demonic
- But the wisdom that comes from God is Pure, Peace-Loving, & Gentle at ALL times. And as God’s people we are to be Peacemakers – who in Matthew 5:9 are called Blessed & Children of God.
James then addresses the cause for the quarrels going on in the church which are evil desires. Desires are simply the things we want.
James is writing to the Church in Jerusalem which was predominately Jewish. As the first recipients of The Law, we can assume they already knew that desiring another man’s wife or another sister’s furniture was sinful and not acceptable to God. James could have been referring to those types of things but I believe he was getting at something else.
As humans we desire basic things like food, clothing, & shelter. We desire to further our education and to work in a certain field. We may desire a spouse and children. We may desire to start a business or run for public office. We may have a desire to go into ministry or to serve as a missionary.
All of these things are good. Indeed the bible says of our desires:
- Psalm 37:4 – Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
- Psalm 145:16 – You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
- Psalm 145:19 – He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.
So the next question is what makes a desire Evil?
I believe what James is telling us based on his previous conversation in Chapter 3, is that our desires become evil when we don’t humbly submit or surrender them to God.
- You want something that you see someone else has but you don’t – in humility- surrender it and the getting of it to God
- You get upset when you see someone with the thing you want – whether it’s a spouse, or a business, or a certain type job, or even if it’s an experience like traveling to far-away places
- You then decide to try to get it yourself – by any means necessary
- You don’t ask God for it. And even when you do ask – your motives are wrong. You only want what will give you pleasure……hmmmmm what does that mean?
- In a sense most things we ask God for are things that will benefit us in some way and often they just benefit us. This alone does not make them bad. According to John Piper, “they should always be subordinate to spiritual desires; kingdom desires; fruit-bearing desires; gospel-spreading, God-centered desires; Christ-exalting, God-glorifying desires. And when our natural desires are felt as a means to these greater desires, then they become the proper subject of prayer”
James next connects our use of worldly tactics to get what we want to befriending the world and making ourselves an enemy of God.
Obviously those in the church who were doing this were not aware of the severity of what they were doing so James connects the dots for them and calls them to repent.
So how should we as Christians handle our desires?
By surrendering them to God in prayer and allowing Him to fulfill them according to his will. It’s the enemy who attempts to deceive us into thinking either 1) that nothing is more important than what we want or 2) that God doesn’t have anything good for us:
- Psalm 34:10b – “but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing”
- Psalm 84:11b – “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly”
- Luke 12:32 – In Red, Jesus says “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”
- Romans 8:32 – “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
This week’s lesson lines up with what Pastor Kneeland told us at Watch Night Service when he said “It’s Time to Surrender All” – this includes our desires.
I leave you with this from Brother DeAngelo. I still get the choir text messages and he sent a text to the choir a few weeks ago and he put it like this “Surrender All & Watch God Do Big Things!”