Page 2 of 11
SERMON STUDY NOTES
UNDERSTANDING AND HANDLING CONFLICT IN THE
SUBJECT: “Worldly Desires, The Source of Our
TEXT: James 4:1-12
PURPOSE: To share the human factors involved in conflict
in the church and to
offer biblical solutions for the conflict.
is a strong word in any language.
In Greek the word is Agon;
from the verb ago, implying force or violence. Strife,
contention, contests for victory or mastery such as
pertained to the Greek games of running, boxing, and
wrestling. Paul plainly uses the word in this fashion
(1 Tim.6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7) and applies the word to the
struggles in the Christian life (1 Cor.9:24). A race
struggle, contest, contention (Phil.1:29; Col.2:1;
the text before us, James uses two powerful and destructive
words. “Where do ‘wars and fights’ come from among
you?” these are between people in the church, not
internal conflict in individual people.
speaks of the conflict in general; “fights” of it
specific manifestations. Discord in the church is
not by God’s design. Since conflict is not by God’s
design, we need to focus on some preventive
face it, the first five verses here in James chapter
4 present a dark, depressing, disgraceful and divisive
picture of a local church. But again, this is not
a desire or design of our Lord, His portrait is just
the opposite; one of delight, decency, delicacy and
dignity. Both Jesus and Paul anticipated the potential
for conflict and offered the one way around it – unity
(John 13:34,35; 17:21; 2 Cor. 12:20;Phil.1:27).
actions of James 4:1-5 is a far cry from what Jesus
and Paul commanded and requested of the people of
God. What, then, can be done to prevent
the “wars” and “fights” which are so prevalent in
many churches today? The immediate context is insightful (James 3:13-18).
This passage describes a striking contrast
between “heavenly and demonic” wisdom.
13 contains a question and an application. “Who is
wise and understanding among you? Let him show by
good conduct that
his works are done
in the meekness of wisdom.” The phrase “wise and understanding”
is filled with valuable insight. First, “wise” is
the common Gk. Word for speculative knowledge and philosophy, but the Hebrews infused it with
the much richer meaning of skillfully applying
knowledge to the matter of practical living. The word
for “understanding” is also interesting and is used
only here in the NT and refers to a specialist or professional who could skill-
fully apply his or her expertise to practical situations.
James is asking who is truly skilled in the art of
I want you to notice the request in the last part
of verse 13. “Let him (the wise and under-standing)
show by good conduct
that his works are done is the meekness of wisdom.”
“Meekness” is a good thing and is also rendered ‘gentleness,’
it is the opposite of arrogance and self-promotion.
In other words, the Greeks described it as power
under control. Wisdom here in verse 13 is the kind
that comes from God ( Job 9:4;28; Prov.1:7; 2:1-7;
Rom.11:33; 1 Cor.1:30; Eph.3:10; Col.2:3; James 1:7).
14-17 are a vivid description of demonic wisdom. James
says, “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking
in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.
This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly,
sensual, and demonic. For where envy and self-seeking
and every evil thing are
there.” Verse 14 uncovers two devilish and dangerous
actions. “Bitter envy.” What’s that? The Gr. term
for “bitter” was used for undrinkable water. But when
combined with “envy” it defines a harsh, resentful
attitude toward others. It gets worse. “Self-seeking.”
Sometimes translated “strife,” it refers to selfish
ambition that engenders antagonism and factionalism.