Paul's Passing Thoughts

James 4:1-4; You Do Not Have, Because You Do Not Ask

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 11, 2009

A pattern throughout the book of James is the author’s pattern of stating a problem, explaining the source or reason for the problem, and then pronouncing the necessary correction. Chapter 4 begins with the problem of “quarrels” and “fights” among the Jewish believers he is addressing [By the way, the fact that Bible writers address Jewish believers separately in the New Testament without any encouragement to assimilate into a church melting pot does not fair well for New Covenant Theology or Amillennialism].


James states the problem, quarrels. Then he states the cause, desires. Then he sites 3 corrections that also revisit the causes and further qualifies them.


The first correction seems brutally pragmatic, but remember, this is James writing. They don’t have because they don’t ask God and not having incites the desires within them. Lack of want always creates temptation, but if your needs are met, the temptation isn’t there, pretty basic. Do you think the Bible is void of these kinds of raw, practical applications? Granted, James is going to go much deeper than this, but remember what Paul’s counsel is to singles who struggle with lust: Get married! [1Cor 7:8,9]. Likewise, let’s say the Holy Spirit convicts you that you like to pray in public to show everybody how spiritual you are. Christ said to fix the problem by praying alone more than you pray in public, knowing that the private prayer is what you will be rewarded for in this life and the life to come [Matt 6:5,6]. And by the way, he encourages you to do it in order to get a reward. Oh my!!! Christ does however, put his finger on the problem. The motive thats driving this sin is the desire to be rewarded by men rather than God. More could be said about that but I digress.


James seems to be developing his instruction in a progression of cause and effect. At it’s most basic, individuals are trying to obtain their desires by their own means and God is not cooperating. They are totally dependent on self and not mindful of God. In other words, good old fashioned pride. They want to obtain their desires by their own strength so they can keep all the credit and glory for themselves as a self-esteem booster. They will fight others to get their way and the prize they seek, the supposed right to boast and feel superior to others.


Remember, James is dealing with religious people. So when all of the fighting and frustration leads to a total dead end, then they pray. We have all partaken in this kind of dead, drab, lifeless prayer time. It is this way because our life is marked by “you do not ask” [usually, you do not pray], then when you do pray, it is not a bold partaking at the throne, crying “abba, Father!”,it is a “double minded” faithless prayer driven by selfish “desire.” Along with this prayer comes the feeling we get when we only call our earthly parents when we want something.“Ya, I’m at a real dead end. All that’s left now is prayer, who knows, maybe God will give me what I want.” 3 words: ain’t gunna happen.


Where does this selfish desire come from that is “warring” within you, and causing all of this mess? That’s verse 4, friendship with the world. Friendship with the world trashes our communion [prayer]

with God in three way’s according to James in verse 4. First, friendship with the world feeds and gives provision to the fleshly desires James speaks of in verse 1 [Rom 13:14]. Sinful desires reside in the flesh and will be there till the Lord comes for us. Friendship with the world inflames this lust and empowers it to wage war within us [Gal 5:17]. As Christians, we keep the sinful desires dummed down and weak for lack of provision.


Secondly, friendship with the world makes us an enemy of God and then we expect to be able to go to God in prayer and get something while feeling the love. Again, 3 words: ain’t, gunna, and happen.

Thirdly, friendship with the world saps our desire to pray. This brings us full circle back to “you do not ask.” In turn, not praying according to the will of God feeds our propensity to fellowship with the world and fulfill the lust of the flesh. We are only then driven to cry out to God in the desperate result from a barren land, and without understanding of how we got there in the first place. If all of that is not enough, this whole nasty downward spiral gives Satan a foothold in our life [verse 7].


Friendship with the world is a subtle affair that creeps in unaware through attitude, beliefs, and influence. It also rushes in quickly to fill every void in our lack of spiritual duty and discipline, and the forces of darkness stand by to help with eagerness.


How friendly are you with the world? The answer can be found in another question: How often do you pray, and what kind of prayer is it?


Let it not be so with us. Let us instead rush the throne of God boldly with every want for ourselves and others, with every concern and deep desire according to the Spirit. We do not have because we do not ask. Christ came that we could have life and have it more abundantly, let us pray accordingly.