It’s You. Hi. You’re the Problem. It’s You.

One thing we all have in common is that we experience conflict in relationships. It doesn’t matter how perfect a relationship looks on the outside. At some point, fighting and disagreements will happen.

What may surprise many of us is that conflict was a common experience in the early church, too. Whenever I hear people blissfully longing for the golden days of the early church, I kind of want to tell them to go read the New Testament again.

Take the book of James, for instance. In chapters 3 and 4, James accuses his readers of being arrogant, weak-kneed, and double-minded. He accuses them of prejudice and hypocrisy. And he says they are guilty of being hard-hearted, self-centered, and hateful. (Nobody hits quite as hard as James. Not exactly “positive and encouraging.”)

When James opens up chapter 4, he asks, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” Why in the world is all this happening, anyway?

If I were to ask you that question (and you were honest in answering it), what would you say?

What causes quarrels? What causes fights? That’s easy—they do.

We are quick to think that the reason we experience conflict is because someone else is the problem. You fight with your boss because he’s a jerk. You fight with your wife because she’s unreasonable. You fight with your neighbor because she’s obnoxious.

But James prompts us to think deeper. Here’s his answer: “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (vv. 1–2).

We have conflict because somebody keeps us from something that we want, something we feel entitled to, some way we wanted our day to go. He goes even further, saying this causes our anger to burn against them, stirring up resentment, and even bringing up the desire to murder them (v. 2).

In other words, the rage in our hearts isn’t the result of other people. They don’t make us fight. We make us fight. When it comes to conflict, Taylor Swift has it right: “It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem. It’s me.”

Conflict comes from us being kept from what we want. And that, James says, points to our idolatry and lack of trust in God. Ouch.

The key word here is “covet.” This isn’t just wanting something. It’s wanting something so badly that you can’t imagine being happy or content without it. While the desires themselves might not be wrong, the passion with which we long for and pursue them is. And the quarrels all around us are proof.

Whether we’re longing for more money, more respect, more success, a better family, or whatever, nothing is supposed to control our hearts such that without it we despair. Nothing should so control our desires that we become deeply discontent, or rage at others because we don’t get that thing.

Our contentment, our peace, and our joy are to be dependent on God alone—being in his will, being in his presence, surrendering control to him. Because the deeper we depend on that relationship, the more our other relationships will begin to fall in line.