Devotional: ‘The Sin of Thinking Only of Ourselves’


Whenever we have conflict with someone our first thought is to blame them; yet James tells us that often the problem is ourselves.  James 4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 

Much of our conflict with others comes from us not getting our way. James tells us that if we are going to learn how to resolve conflict with others, we must first learn how to resolve the conflict within ourselves.

The word translated as ‘passion’ (lusts – KJV) is the Greek word hedone from which we get the English word – ‘hedonism.’  Hedonism a philosophy esteems personal pleasure and happiness as being our top priority in life. Though we rarely ever hear this word used, it is a perfect description of the way many think and live. Even as I write this I am reminded of the times when a Christian has tried to convince me that doing what is wrong is actually right because after all – “God wants us to be happy.”

It is true, God does want us to be happy; however, if our happiness comes before our holiness, then it is not the will of God. James tells us –

James 4:2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? 

Not only do we have conflict with others and ourselves, we also have conflict with God. James tells us that whenever we put our happiness ahead of God’s holiness, we become guilty of the sin of spiritual adultery. Though the accusation of committing adultery seems rather strong, it is a concept found throughout scripture. More than once God accused the nation Israel of committing spiritual adultery. The prophet Jeremiah wrote “Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 3:20 ESV) 

Someone has described spiritual adultery as – “Trying to straddle the fence with one foot in the world and the other heaven. We cannot have both.” [1] Jesus reinforced this truth when He said that no man can serve two masters. Eventually we love and serve one master more than the other. [2] 

As I bring our study today to a close, another passage of scripture comes to my mind. The Bible says that one day Jesus stopped and cried out to the crowd that was following Him – “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)  According to Christ, we cannot truly be one of His disciples as long as we are committing the sin of thinking only of ourselves.

[1]   July 5, 2016

[2] Matthew 6:24

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