Your Passions at War within You
The ancient symbol for the Church is the ark that carried Noah and his family through the treacherous waters of the Flood. I love this because it’s a beautiful reminder to us that the Church of Jesus Christ (manifested in a local body) is supposed to be a place of safety, a shelter, a bulwark against the storms of the world—its temptations, its evils, its continual wars and struggles. Christians struggle not against flesh and blood as that of worldlings but against the rulers and powers and spiritual forces of evil in this present age (Ephesians 6:12). These are the opponents from which the Church protects us by sustaining us through the word, the fellowship, prayers, and the table (Acts 2:42).
But James shows us another side of ourselves when we forsake the divine cover the church offers for the turf and the trinkets of the world. And why do we battle over these things? Because of our passions which are at war within us. Inside every human heart is a sea of conflicting passions compelling us to have and to control. Indeed, these various passions become our taskmasters as we suffer to quench them—and quenched, they must be. Thus, envy forces us to take what someone else has or trample someone to death on Black Friday.
James provides the answer to this problem, but even that we pervert: “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions.” No. You may not have trinkets. There are too many other things to ask for—holy things, matters of the Kingdom. Ask to grow in godliness. Ask that the word be preached with integrity and go forth to conquer souls. Ask that the Church be a bulwark of the truth. Ask any of these but ask not for things to spend on your passions. Such is effrontery before God, indeed, adultery: “Adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”
James was not a man of the world. You will remember that he had the knees of a camel from spending so much time in prayer. He concerned himself with widows and orphans and keeping himself unstained from the world. He understood that there is the body of Christ and that of the world, the children of God and those of the devil, the matters of the Kingdom and those of the hedonists (from the Greek, hedone, “passion”). Be sure to remain in the ark—even when you must go into the world. Remember the Rich Young Ruler; he’d been better off had he entered the ark.