Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 16
From where do wars and from where do fightings among you come? Are they not from that place created by your passions—which are like soldiers at war in your body’s members? You desire, but you do not have, so you murder; and you are jealous, and are not able to get what you want, so you fight and war. But you have not, because of your not asking; or you ask, and you receive not, because you ask evilly—so that you can spend it on your pleasures. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 4:1-3, mjlt)
Though we as believers in Yeshua are the many members of one, united Body, we nevertheless seem to have a knack for finding things to fight about. They can be petty disagreements (like over the volume or style of music in our worship services) or more serious arguments (such as disputes over doctrinal differences). Some fights are legitimate and worth having, as we confront sin or seek to defend the fundamentals of our faith. But many controversies arise out of jealousy and factions, which lead to division—these days, often before open confrontation ever breaks out in the first place. We just leave. Either way, infighting and unresolved conflict causes devastation and the weakening of Yeshua’s Body.
Such fighting and warring comes from our passions—not the kind of passion that makes us zealous for God, but the kind that makes us jealous over other people. We fight (or break fellowship) with other believers when our soulish senses become offended—when we are denied support for our positions and beliefs, as we watch our opponents gain support for theirs. This kind of fighting and separation comes not because of righteousness, but because of self-righteousness and our selfish, fleshly reactions.
In this, we become a body at war with itself. Like an auto-immune disease that sees normal bodily functions as a foreign, invading army, we seek and destroy, no longer able to recognize friend from foe. We lash out at our fellow-sharers in Messiah—or turn our backs on them—in a futile attempt to take back what we perceive we have lost. We justify our behavior, believing we have been harmed in some way, yet our actions do nothing but deliver our mutual destruction.
We “fight and war,” then, because we “desire… [what we] do not have”—favor, influence, getting our own way. And since we “do not have,” and “are not able to get” what we want, we murder our relationships with one another—jealous over what others possess that we believe should be ours. Rather than sharing in each other’s joy and success, we seek to steal it for ourselves.
And this reveals the reality.
The real reason we don’t have what we want is not because someone else got to it first. It’s not because another person has appropriated something they don’t deserve that we most certainly do. And it’s not a matter of being prohibited from getting what’s ours while another person continues to retain what’s theirs. No, the real reason we don’t have is because we are too consumed with envy to simply ask for it—we are too covetous to bring it before God.
Though it’s normally taken completely out of context as a remedy for meeting material needs, the fact is “you have not, because of your not asking; or you ask, and you receive not, because you ask evilly—so that you can spend it on your pleasures.” While elsewhere we are instructed to “ask… seek… [and] knock,” here, the asking is tied to how we deal with our desires—our desires to receive without humbling ourselves before the Giver; our desires to spend what we acquire on our “passions” and “pleasures.” Our motives are self-centered, jealous and evil.
Stop warring against yourself, gauging your wants by what other people have, and allowing strife or separation because of your own selfish envy. If you consider yourself lacking, don’t let your passions rule you and foster desire and jealousy in your heart. Instead, humble yourself, be at peace with your fellow believers, and inquire of the Master with selfless motives. Don’t be so self-focused that you won’t ask God for what you need—just make sure you first ask Him what He wants most from you.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!