Living Without God
“People who live without God face five dangers. It stifles the prayer life. It makes them a friend of the world and an enemy of God. They neglect God’s will in their lives. It produces insult and slander of fellow believers. It produces people who plan their lives without seeking God.” –T.D. Lea, Holman New Testament Commentary, 1999.
James chapter 4 deals with this topic. The fact that verse 1 uses the plural “quarrels and fights” tells us that this was an ongoing problem for those to whom he was writing. But, isn’t this an ongoing problem for all of us? Do we not all struggle with our own fleshly desires and passions daily? Any personal goal that contributes to one’s own accomplishments rather than to God’s will or plan for one’s life can be listed among these “evil desires” to which James refers. Examples of this include, but are not limited to: money, reputation, success, and possessions.
At the root of the issues to which James addresses is what is today known as the philosophy of hedonism. In my reading, I have come across many definitions for “hedonism,” so I will offer a very basic one for our purposes here:
“Hedonism is the belief that the chief purpose of living is to satisfy self, above everything and everyone else.”
In James 4:1, the Greek word used for “desires” is the same that is related in the history of its meaning to the English word “hedonism.” Jesus used the same word in Luke 8:14 to describe individuals who were “choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures…and fail to mature.”
These desires are remnants of our former nature, before we were saved, but they constantly attempt to surface and take control of our lives. Romans 7:14-15 speaks to this:
14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.
These desires will remain with us while we are here, on earth. As Christians, it is our duty to:
“fight the good fight of faith” [1 Timothy 6:12]
“taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” [2 Cor. 10:5]
and remember that:
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” [1 Cor. 10:13]