A good strategy helps tremendously in attaining any kind of goal. Putting an effective strategy together takes wisdom—the kind of wisdom we learned about in James 3. But here, James confronts the ugly, selfish result of false wisdom. The church is fighting, coveting, and speaking evil about one another. They want things their way, but they are looking for answers in all the wrong places.
James’s original readers prided themselves on being religious. But by criticizing others who are not as religious as they are, they reveal how far from God they themselves have strayed. Every time they open their mouths, they’re slandering others. They seem more interested in building their own status than in loving their brothers and sisters.
James is calling them, and us, to humility, to an accurate understanding of our place in regards to God. An essential element of humility is prayer, but not the sort of praying James’s audience had been practicing. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly. . . .” They were asking with selfish motives, relegating God to the role of benevolent benefactor and assuming He would give them whatever they asked—if they even bothered to ask.
As soon as we say it’s everyone else’s problem and not ours, then it becomes our problem. The solution is not to argue better or to prove that we’re right and others are wrong. The solution is to humble ourselves, to admit where we have fallen short, to pray for the things that God cares about, to mourn over our sinfulness, to receive God’s grace.
Are there “fights and quarrels” in your life? If you’re not seeing eye to eye with someone, do what you can to set that relationship right.
Find a humble way to serve your church or community. Clean up, fix up, help those who routinely get neglected. This is not about you getting props for a good deed, but about showing the love of God to others.