You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet but you cannot have what you want… (James 4:2).
Want! “But Mommy, all I want is what I want when I want it,” came the whine came from three-year-old Molly. The story brings a chuckle every time her mother retells it. But aren’t we all a bit like Molly? All we want is what we want when we want it. What’s so bad about that?
James challenges this inborn propensity toward selfishness. Our fights and quarrels have wants, or “desires,” as their root, he says. The word here for desire is hedone, from which we get “hedonism.” The meaning is simple. “Pleasure, desire, enjoyment.”
Pleasure and enjoyment are not wrong. But when we “don’t get what we want when we want it,” what is our response? That’s where James probes our heart. Do we pout? Inwardly stomp our feet? Throw a temper tantrum? Harbor jealousy? Quarrel and fight?
James gives us a heart check. First culprit? Lack of prayer…more specifically, the lack of prayer with a surrendered heart:
You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure (James 4:2,3).
James makes us squirm a little more. He checks our motives. Why do we want what we want in the first place? Is this something God would want to give us? And if so, are we willing to wait for His timing? “Wait training” seems to be one of God’s preferred methods for purifying my wants.
During this time of year when our “wants” can run wild, let’s pause. Reflect. Ponder God’s Word in the matter.
Lord, we’ve learned from James that all good gifts come from You. Your delight is to give to Your children. But I confess, Lord. Sometimes my wants run ahead of Your will for me. Slow me down. Let me examine my wants in the light of Your Word. Remind me to ask You for what I want; and give me a willing heart to wait for Your answer in Your time. Above all, turn my eyes outward. Make me more sensitive to the the wants of others…for truly, giving is Your preferred antidote to greed-Amen