In our first post, we learned that our primary symptoms are fights, quarrels, unfulfilled desires, insults, anger, bitterness, and murder.
THE SECONDARY SYMPTOMS: ABSENCE OF PRAYER OR SELFISH PRAYER
James 4:2b-3 You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
I can honestly say that fights happen in my marriage more often when I am distant from God. I think this is true of everyone. The next phrases in our passage shows our secondary symptoms: Prayerlessness and the Magic Genie Syndrome.
Prayerlessness is simply not recognizing that you need God. This can be from stubborn refusal to talk to God, but it can also be from passively forgetting to rely on God. The Magic Genie Syndrome is where we treat God like a Magic Genie who must grant us a wish. Both of the symptoms are dangerous because both deny God the place that he deserves in our lives.
On the day that I fought with my wife about the patio, I had no connection with God. On the other side, I have also had fights with someone else and asked God to give me what I wanted in the relationship.
THE DIAGNOSIS: AN INFECTION OF IDOLATRY AND A BROKEN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
The next verse identifies these symptoms regarding our prayers and diagnoses our illness.
James 4:4-5 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
“Adulterous” is the key word here. James started to develop a theme of covetousness, desire, and inappropriate prayer in the first few verses. In the word “adultery” James alludes to many Old Testament passages that illustrate our relationship with God with a marriage relationship. Over and over again, the people in the Old Testament committed idolatry, which God likened to a spouse cheating on a faithful partner. In verse 5, James tells us that God jealously longs for our love, but we are cheating on him.
What does idolatry (adultery to God) have to do with fights with one another? Answer: they are connected by our root desires. It has been said that “anything that we are willing to sin to get is an idol to us.” When a desire causes us to fight with one another, we are sinning, and that desire has become an idol to us.
When we identify idolatry as the illness, this entire passage makes much more sense. Why does he connect our fights with our prayer life? Answer: because if we are not praying then we are not worshiping the true God, which creates a void in our life that will be filled with good things that have become too important to us (idols). If we are praying that God would give us idolatrous things, it is like asking a spouse for an extra $20 to take different lover out to eatl; it is not only adulterous, but it is also an insult to the spouse and the relationship.
The old phrase, “Hell hath no fury like a lover scorned,” finds its most basic meaning in our relationship with God. If God is scorned for another lover, we will face the fury of God’s wrath in hell. The gospel tells us that he is willing to forgive our affair if we come to him through Jesus Christ. Christ died on the cross for our sins. In other words, he was punished on the cross for our idolatry, fights, and murders so that we could be forgiven. Through faith in Christ, we are made spotless and blameless in God’s sight. We are given a new nature that desires to be faithful to him.
The Solar System
Imagine, just for a second, that we were able to pause time and change our solar system around so that the earth was at the center, Jupiter was where our moon is, and the Sun was where Pluto is. When we un-paused time, what would happen?Would the sun continue in Pluto’s orbital path? Would Jupiter continue in the moon’s cycle?
No. Science tells us that the solar system would be flung into chaos and the earth would collide with Jupiter.
The point of this passage is to tell us that when we try to make our desires the center of the universe, we find chaos and destruction in our relationships with one another.
We need to reorient our life around God and prioritize him above everything. As we do that, our bad desires become less desirous and our good desires find their appropriate place. Without our desires controlling us, we are free to pursue love and preference for one another, which means we have less fights, less quarrels, and less of a need for CSI.
The third post will give the treatment for the illness of idolatry.