In admonitioning us, James 4:1-2 employs some very strong language. Listen to the rhetorical question and answer in these verses.
"Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don't have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn't yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. The Message
James then proceeds to tell us the implications of pandering to our lusts and cravings in verse two.
"You wouldn't think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you'd be asking for what you have no right to. You're spoiled children, each wanting your own way." The Message
There are people who have been put off the Christian faith because of the un-Christian behaviour of other Christians that should know better.
Several of us have heard the unfortunate story of Christians stabbing other Christians in the back. Or even accounts of people in Christian leadership using their power and influence to kill or hinder the dreams and callings of those they are supposed to be nurturing in the faith.
Envy can be a very destructive power. Its fruits are often fights and quarrels. Lust can make saints act like adulteresses (James 4:4).
James speaks of "pleasures that wage war" (James 1:1 NKJV). Here he makes reference to the human cravings of pride and lust that we all know about.
Those who are truthful enough to admit their weaknesses will deal with them (James 4:7-8). Others will try to justify them. Several use their weaknesses to pile misery on other people.
We have all witnessed the scene. You are upset and furious because the other person 'excelled more than you would like, or exhibited a gift you envy.' Rather than rejoice in the progress of another you feign being hurt because of how the person talked. This you follow-up with actions to frustrate the progress of the person.
Like David you send Uriah to the battlefront. Uriah dies in battle and no one knows you are guilty of murder (2 Samuel 11). Well, no one but the person that matters most - God.
Do you see what James means in James 4:2?
The subtle manipulation of other people due to 'lust that wars within us'. The using of our emotions, uncontrolled temper, position of power, influence over the children, whispering to friends. We all know the weapons we use to commit murder.
James calls people who commit the above crimes adulteresses. Strong words I know, yet ones we need to heed.
James 1:5 has been said to be the most common verse in the book of James. Yet, there is a lot more content in this letter that the church needs to hear. James 4:17 is one such verse.
In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don't do it, that, for you, is evil. (James 4:17 The Message)