You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet but you cannot have what you want(James 4:2).
“But Mommy, all I want is what I want when I want it,” came the whine 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 hedonefrom 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’s our response? 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. What’s at the root of these wrong responses? The first culprit he mentions may surprise you: A 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).
He calls out our motives, making us squirm a little more. Why do we want what we want in the first place? Is this something God would want to give us? If so, are we willing to wait for His timing?
I’ve discovered that “wait training” seems to be one of God’s preferred methods for purifying our wants. He desires for us to learn how to wait in faith, with a trusting and thankful heart.
During this time of year when our “wants” can sometimes run wild, let’s pause and reflect:
Lord, all good gifts come from You. You delight to bless Your children. But I confess. Sometimes my wants run ahead of Your perfect will. Slow me down. Let me examine my wants in the light of Your Word. Remind me to ask You for what I want. 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 wants of others…for truly, giving is Your best antidote to the “I want what I want when I want it” syndrome.