Look in the mirror
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (Jas 4:1)
So James has just introduced the idea of peace and righteousness and then asks about quarrels and fights. Where do they come from? I will offer the suggestion that in the first question, the “you” is among the congregation and that in the second question, the “you” is the individual Christian. In this way I read this to be:
What is the cause of the quarrels and fights in your congregation? Is the cause not found in the passions that lie within each Christian?
It is a common theme in the Bible that we look to ourselves. Jesus urged us to remove the log from our own eye before helping another with a speck in theirs. (Mt 7) Paul urged in 2 cor 13:5 to “Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith” and it also seems to fit the context to have James locate the source of conflicts in the group within those individuals. To put it in the first person: The biggest problem with the congregation is ME!
Of course, if I am the biggest problem in the congregation, then I am also the solution to the biggest problem of the congregation. So many times we fail to see how we contribute to problems in our relationships. We are only too happy to put the blame anywhere but with ourselves. Many more fights and quarrels would be ended if a person would stop and ask “am I contributing to this conflict?” or “What is driving my push for this or that position?”
You may recall James 1 that taught us not to blame God for our sin because they from our own desire. You will recall in James 2 he started with a desire to show partiality for the rich. Chapter 3 confronts those who desire to be teachers. Conflict, desires, misunderstandings in relationships with God and others and on and on. It isn’t in God, it is in us.
Whenever one seeks to promote or help improve his status and especially doing at the expense of others, there will be fights, quarrels and lack of peace. If you are trying to get your own way, and especially if you are trying to get your way over God’s way, you will cause all sorts of conflicts.