The Causes of Fights and Quarrels

Rev. Chip Hammond

Ask my kids what thing Dad dislikes the most and they're likely to tell you "quarreling," "fighting" or "arguing." It disturbs the peace of the house, drives "wedges," and makes for a generally unpleasant and ungrateful atmosphere.

The cause of quarreling is always the same, varying only in the specifics. "He wouldn't play what I wanted him to;" "He wouldn't play the part I wanted him to play;" "He wouldn't give me the book I wanted to read." The commonality is, "I wanted, and I couldn't have, so I became angry."

With a pithy and practical wisdom, James asks, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. 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).

Are you engaged in a fight or quarrel of which you won't let go? Has a root of bitterness taken hold in you (see Heb. 12:15)? James places the blame with you. You want something from someone that they can't or don't want to give. They didn't live up to some expectation of yours, so you bear a grudge and harbor bitterness. They don't do what you want, say what you want, dress the way you want, or they committed the mortal sin of transgressing some proprietary standard you've created in your head.

"But I'm not really concerned for myself - it just concerns me that what they're doing isn't glorifying God." It sounds so pious. But there's a fool-proof test for the truth of it.

It's not unreasonable to want to see God glorified. But God is more zealous for his glory than you are or ever could be (see Is. 48:11), and he directs all things (Eph. 1:11). There is a time to speak and a time to be silent (Eccl. 3:7). If you never recognize the time to be silent, chances are your concern is born out of your own pride, not a desire for the glory of God. The desire is from wrong motives. You don't get what you want so you become angry, sullen, or withdrawn.

Are you facing a situation in which your "desires are raging within you," one that is causing "quarrels and fights among you?" "She didn't do what I wanted her to." "He didn't play the part I wanted him to play." "They wouldn't give me what I wanted."

What is needed is wisdom. Again, James tells us, "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness" (James 3:17-18). It is a wisdom begotten in love, which "is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs" (1 Cor. 13:5).

So the next time you get "miffed," take a hard look at why. It's because you desired something, and didn't get your own way, isn't it? "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the Word planted in you, which can save you" (James 1:19-21).

If you heed the Word implanted it will bring redemption and peace, not only in the age to come, but right now in your church, in your family, and in all your relationships.