"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?"
I wonder if James was a parent, because he knew how to ask a pointed question, one that you and I as parents deal with almost daily.
So where do the fights at home come from? He continues (in James 4) with a rhetorical question: "Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?"
Well, that nails it, doesn't it? Why are there fights at your house? Because a child -- sometimes an adult! -- wants what they want, and they don't get it when and how they want it, so they fight. Period.
Daily we encounter selfishness. Daily we battle it within ourselves. Daily it overflows from the mouths and body language of our children. So what do we do? If I had that nailed down, I'd write the book, do the conference and fix the world, but short of that I'll keep turning to Scripture to wash over me and my family until transformation comes. I think that's the only way it will work for you, too!
Continues in verse 2, "You desire and you do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel."
Don't think that sounds too harsh -- replay your children's words (or yours). What mean things have been said? Selfishness is powerful! People kill over it. Marriages break up over it. Children leave the home sometimes in mid-to-late teen years just so they can simply do as the please (ignorantly not realizing they will be more restricted than ever, but that's another blog post).
Let's begin to get to some helpful parts of the passage, continuing in verse 2: "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."
We must teach our children and remind ourselves that it is not each other that ultimately satisfy us, but the Lord, and Him we must seek with our desires. Howver simple or great, we must take our desires to Him. If we submit to Him, He either alters the desire or fulfills it. He sets it right in our heart. And our heart is the issue!
Our children are drawn in by the world. They are manipulated by the enemy through the media and selfishness around them to believe you are owed personal, momentary, immediate satisfaction. God, being a personal Father, says, "Come to me with your desires."
When our children fight because they don't get what they want, let's work hard to avoid fighting back. Let's turn each occassion into a teachable moment in which we a) call out the sin graciously; b) point to why it happened (if possible); c) instruct what the action should have been, then d) most vitally! Re-direct the child to the places in the Word of God where there is instruction about it. This will take a little time and effort to find those places. But the working of the Holy Spirit in the heart and on the mind of the believer is the only thing that transforms.
Where the selfishness is mimicking the world's standards, we must teach them about verses 4 and 5, where our friendship with the world is literally called 'adultery' against God. Verse six points out the attractiveness of humility to God, and his resistance of the proud.
These teachings are vital to our households. As we make progress in understanding and processing these truths in our hearts, fights will decrease. What those we love want will matter more. Work at it! Mere behavioral management won't work -- we must get to the source of the problem, as James did.
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