You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:2-3)
This passage centers upon fulfilling the desires stemming from our needs, real or imagined. Caught up in sin, we lust for things we need or desire, but we cannot obtain it. No matter how strong the effort, if we seek our own desires instead of godly desires, we will not achieve what we hope to accomplish. We will forever crave and reach without receiving fulfillment.
The problem does not lie in seeking, as if desire itself betrays us. God wants us to seek godliness. The living seek. We strive to meet the needs that God created us to meet. That striving at least partially defines physical life. The problem addressed in this section of Scripture is desire that is evil. That is, in order to meet our desires, we take evil pathways. We cannot find true satisfaction along such pathways.
So we lust and do not obtain. We murder and covet, but we cannot obtain. Whatever lengths we go to obtain what we seek, even to the point of murder, we cannot find fulfillment. We cannot find fulfillment because we do not seek it from God. We do not ask God to supply those needs.
We Do Not Ask God
Asking God implies prayer, but also more. It implies that we seek the fulfillment of our needs by submitting to His will. We look into the word of God and find that pathway of righteousness, so that we may fulfill our needs in an appropriate, godly manner.
Some people are confused about this. They think that there are so many ways to find fulfillment in life, and Christians merely choose to follow the Bible’s way. They miss the point completely. God created us with needs, and revealed the pathway of righteousness that will allow us to meet those needs. That process of meeting our needs actually draws us closer to God. So the more we live according to the Bible, the more fulfilling our life becomes. The end result is that we become more godly. When Jesus said He came to give us life in John 10:9-10, He was talking about this pathway.
But, instead of making such decisions, we tend to ignore God’s wisdom. So we lust, but never obtain. Thinking it to be the best (or only) way to meet our needs, we sin against God. We do more than we ever thought we would. But even with all of our searching, we do not have because we do not look to God for the way or ask Him for the supply.
But sometimes we do look to the Bible for the way to meet our needs, still with improper motives. Sometimes, religiously-minded people look at the word to meet their desires and still do not find the answers. We look to find support for our needs, but the problem is that our ideas are what we seek. So we “ask” and do not receive, because we “ask amiss”. To “ask amiss” means that we are seeking wisdom from the Bible, but we are not actually looking for what the Bible says. We are seeking God’s approval for our own desires and plans.
How is that possible? Paul mentioned this in 2 Timothy 3:5 where he wrote of people who had “a form of godliness” yet deny its power. That is, they look at the Bible and follow it to a degree, but they do not trust its power to help them. They seek answers from the Bible to support their own agendas and plans. Thus, they gain support from others by pointing to and twisting passages of Scripture to fit their agendas, and then salve their own conscience in the same way.
We might think that people would never intentionally do this, but it happens constantly. People practice such things without giving it a second thought, and, I am convinced, without even realizing they are doing it.
These two verses should make any conscientious person pause and examine himself, but we often dive headlong into the future, thinking others should be the ones to consider the admonition. We could not possibly be guilty of such things as this, so we think.
These verses show us why wars and fights occur in churches. It is always the result of self-seeking and sin.
Until we love truth more than comfort, our fate will be sealed. But there is hope for us if we will earnestly seek the pathway of righteousness. The book of James helps us identify the path we have chosen, and points us to the beautiful power found in the word of God. Whether that powerful word is applied to corporate worship or individual decisions during a given day, the answers are there. Honest seekers will find and apply the answers.
Are you sure that you are seeking the pathway of God?
See you tomorrow!