Previous Page: Moral Clarity and Owning Up

Part of owning up is seeing and saying what God sees about our behavior. But God also wants us to evaluate our desires. That is because our desires are at the root of destructive conflict. Let me explain.

What causes conflict?

How would you answer that question? We have already said conflict comes from disagreements. It also involves morally wrong behavior. But let me ask you, why do we find that disagreement on one issue barely registers and disagreement on another leads to fighting and alienation? If the problem is misunderstanding and communication, why do we not have more conflict?

God offers a very different answer. He asks the question and then answers it:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:1-3)

Are you surprised?

The root of conflict is our desires

God says that our desires are the problem. He gives two reasons. First, we have conflicting desires within us. In other words, we do not even know what we want. Second, we desire something too much.

Some people think that the Bible is against our evil desires. God does name some desires as evil. They are present in us because of our corruption. But God also identifies “over-desires.” An over desire is when we want something that is good but we want it too much. As a matter of fact, we come to believe that if we do not get it, we will suffer terribly. The thing we desire is our life.

Its called idolatry

The language of the Bible for these over desires is idolatry. Idolatry is not worshiping images of gods, like the picture at the top of this page. Idolatry is wanting or preferring someone or something more than we want or prefer God. God is our life, security, satisfaction, joy, purpose. When I look for those in anything or anyone else, I am making that thing or person God.

That is why I will fight for it, even kill for it.

One of the metaphors God uses for idolatry is adultery. Adultery is the sin of allowing another person to take the place of my spouse in my heart and actions. Spiritual adultery is when I allow another person or thing to take the place of God. And guess what, people murder their spouse to get their “lover.”

Idols are many

Idols take many forms. Parents can determine that if their children fail their life will be over. So they live and labor to make their children succeed. Anyone can determine that their life will achieve its fullest meaning if they become wealthy, or hold a powerful office, or become famous. They bend their whole life to achieve those, even sacrificing marriages and friendships along the way. You get the idea.

Idols and conflict

If you want to know why you are easily provoked on one issue and not another, look for the idol underneath it. Maybe you don’t care about your fitness but you do care about your reputation. When someone disagrees with you about best exercises, it is comes to you as a fairly objective discussion. But when they say people think of you as out of style, you take issue. No, you defend your wardrobe. More than that, you call them tasteless. They poked your sleeping idol into a rage.

You have to get below the surface

I am not talking here of therapeutic categories. This is not about being an introvert or extrovert, about being a Type-A, or being inclined to depression. This is about the power inner desires you have to make a god out of someone or something. Part of the benefit of conflict is the way God uses them to put a light on our “gods.” And when we address the idol, we will find it affected more than one area of our lives.

Confessing idols

part of applying the 7 A’s of confession is admitting the presence of the idol that is at work in the conflict. Applying the same principles, that looks something like this:”I want to admit to you that I spoke harshly to you. I insulted you when I called you stupid. But worse than that, I got angry because you threatened by god of being right all the time. You questioned my perfect wisdom and I lashed out. Being right was more important to me than God’s true word.”

Next Page: Forgiveness