What causes strife among you? James 4:1

Lover of pleasure or God? 2Tim 3:4

There is some concern during this time of trouble about disunity among God’s people, more so for some than anything about health or the economy.

In 2 Tim 3, Paul mentions times of difficulty during the last days. We are in the period of the last days. And he goes on to say people have become lovers of self rather than lovers of God.

Philedonoi is the Greek word for pleasure here and it is translated hedonism. Many of us are familiar with that term meaning to do whatever brings you pleasure.

What causes strife? James 4:1 says it is that our passions are at war within us. This is being said to believers, not just random people in the world. The word passions is also the same Greek word meaning hedonism, or pleasure. This is what we mean typically when we talk about worldliness.

Socrates contrasted hedonism and reason - hedonism meaning evil pleasure. Jesus is reason, He is sensible. Pleasure and passion stand opposed to reason and logic. There is such a thing as virtuous pleasure which operates under reason, so to speak.

Another poet Epictetus contrasted love of pleasure vs. love of man.

Philo a Jewish philosopher contrasted the love of pleasure vs. the love of God.

So we can see based upon these contrasts how being caught up in what I want and the things that make me feel good is in opposition to loving and serving God and others. The world around us is built on hedonism.

True pleasure emerges from purpose, from what is meaningful, from being in alignment with God.

In both passages we have mentioned, we can see the cause of strife - me not God i.e. when we make ourselves the center of the universe, not God. If we focus on me, we will have problems with relationships.

This attitude causes problems such as those we see now - if you don’t agree with me on some worldly issue, you no longer love your fellow man. That is a worldly attitude, that is an attitude where everything is about you and your opinions.

So what James is saying is if you are struggling with this, it is actually a struggle within. Most movies, most stories are not really about the external issue, at the core they are about internal struggles. Great stories show an internal struggle that turns around and transforms the individual.

Let’s take the issue of home school vs. public school. It fits this passage. If you are confident in your choice, there is no need for strife. If you are arguing about this, there is something within you that is seeking validation of your choice. People in this situation start searching for data to support what they think. The internet is built for this, for causing opposing views that lead to arguments.

So let this be a word of warning. Be aware. This is about an internal struggle. Because we aren’t focused on loving God, we are focused on pleasure seeking and seeing ourselves as the center of everything.

Am I too focused on my passions? Ask yourself this question:

What worries me most? Is it money, status, health, freedom, acceptance? These are types of things causing the battles we’re having now. 2 Tim 3:2-5. They don’t matter. That isn’t what life is about. The spiritual is so much more fulfilling and valuable than the worldly. This grasp we want to take on life is liking grasping after the wind. What James tells us is it is the spiritual pursuits that will deliver true fulfillment. Our boasts should be in the Lord. There is a whole lot of anxiety about life right now. That is exactly what Jesus says should NOT be our focus. Seek first the kingdom of God.... pleasure that fulfills comes from purpose.

If we’re going to find lasting pleasure, pleasure that matters, we will do what God created us to do - love and serve Him and love others.

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