The fourth chapter of James begins with a question, “Where do wars and fights come from among you?” Our current world situation makes this opening question as relevant as it has been in any generation. War and conflict has existed in every era of human existence. No civilization has been untouched. Historians have observed that in the 5,600 years of recorded human history, there have been approximately 15,000 wars that have been fought. In fact, the 20th century alone saw more casualties of war than all the preceding centuries before it combined. It is obvious that all throughout history, war has been the rule on earth while peace has been the exception. Conflict comes in multiple sizes, shapes, and forms.
Why is this the case? James is going to tell us that there are causes behind the conflict that we often see and experience. In just the first three verses, he uses words such as quarrels, fights, war, and murder. These are all words that speak of conflict. What is the cause of conflict? The problem lies within, not without. External struggles are often merely the symptoms of internal struggles. A person not at peace with himself can surely not be at peace with others around him. It may be hard for us to understand, but James says that war and conflict are merely symptoms. A symptom is defined as an outward feature that indicates an inward condition. A symptom is not a cause—it is a direct result of something deeper. Ultimately, the real source of conflict, whether it be personal or relational, goes back to where we are seeking our contentment. It is a matter of the heart.
The Prince of Peace is the solution to our conflict! This world will never find peace without embracing Christ. History will march on to spawn new conflicts, to be sure. But there is coming a day when Jesus Christ will return to usher in a kingdom of peace upon every corner of this war-torn planet. In that day, just as Isaiah the prophet foretold, our swords will be beaten into plowshares and the lion will lie down with the lamb. Even so, come Lord Jesus!
For more, read James 4:1-6