16–22 November 2014.
This week’s scripture reading comes from James 4:1–2a: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire, but do not have; so you kill. You covet, but you cannot get what you want; so you quarrel and fight.”
What an accurate description of many of our sufferings today! Maybe we wouldn’t go so far as to kill someone to get our way, to get what we want, but this doesn’t mean that our actions are not just as dangerous. We are filled with so many desires today. Some of these are natural desires, the things we naturally want and search for. But others are desires that we have pushed on us. Advertisers and companies bombard us each day with messages about the new things we must have, the objects that will complete our lives and give us happiness, the products that will finally make us successful and bring us peace if we buy them. Do they work? Of course not! But that just gives advertisers a chance to sell us a new set of hopes and dreams tomorrow. We desire things, we desire money, and we are told to desire even more. But then when we don’t get the things we want, we feel dejected, we feel bitter and angry, and this leads us into quarrels, fights, and even violence. Is there any way out of this?
On the one hand, desires are good to have. We should all desire to improve in life, to be more loving and caring, to be wiser and more compassionate. Desires that are well-directed are good for us. But on the other hand, we must be careful not to let our desires run away with us. We must be careful not to place the luxuries that we want above the basic needs of others. Because when this happens—when our desires are no longer directed at the things that God wants for us but at the things our selfish hearts want—then we start to search for ways to oppress and harm others, to take what is theirs, to climb up and over them, kicking them away, just to grab hold of something that in end will just disappoint us and never satisfy us. Then this cycle of desire, violence, anger, and disappointment begins all over again. In 1 Tim 6:10, we read: “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Again, how accurate this is–because we do this to ourselves! We let our own selfish desires pierce our own hearts and make us suffer.
Let’s break out of this cycle today and practice setting aside all these selfish desires. Maybe then our conflicts can finally come to an end, and we can discover some peace.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis