“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure?” (James 4:1a, NKJV).
The word “cause” can mean something I engage in because I think it will make a difference. Or it can mean I am responding to something that “caused” my reaction.
How many of the shooters have had a “cause” that they thought justified their behavior? Cause as in provoking incident. Cause as in feeling “justified” to try to set things right. How many people taking to the public air ways spewing vile stuff feel like they have a “cause”? What about so many in positions of power who are taking advantage of others sexually? Do they have some sort of score to settle? How is it that they can feel justified in what they are doing?
This verse from James would indicate that the most basic cause of all of this vile behavior is seeking of pleasure. For some, revenge is pleasure. For others, intimidation. For many in our culture, it is an unbridled pursuit of “what feels good to me.” For many, the only pleasure they know comes at the expense of others.
I work with addicts. Using almost always has a “cause” of somewhere between the avoidance of pain and the seeking of pleasure. “If I can’t be happy, at least I can do something to avoid the pain.” The lack of pleasure becomes the cause for using. As a nation, we have drifted to a place where we see pain as evil and pleasure as good. That is not healthy.
When my pain or my pursuit of pleasure is valued at a high level, it allows me to justify some very evil behavior. “The customer is always right.” In the name of getting what we want, when we want, how we want, harsh complaints have become acceptable. Demanding perfect service is the norm. Lawsuits are quickly contemplated. We regularly speak to one another in vile, disrespectful tones.
Godly pleasure comes after we have given our lives for God or for others. “After” sometimes means that there is a period of pain before the pleasure kicks in. Sometimes, good behavior “causes” us pain for a while. Those who have raised children the right way understand this “after.” When we give in to children’s desires in the short term, it makes life easier for that moment. But the day will come when the parent wishes he had endured the short term pain to build godly character in his child.
Yes there is a “cause” worth fighting for (not fighting in the literal sense!). That cause is growth of character. As I said in a previous blog, I believe in character. There are no quick solutions to building character. There will be no quick solutions to the current sickness of our nation. And there will be pain if we are to move in a better direction.
“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure?” What is right is what is good for the community—not what is the most pleasurable for one particular individual.
Biblically, what is right is what honors God. And God says that what is right is when we learn to put others first—when we start to care about more than our momentary pleasure. That is how God defines love. Many in our nation now defines love as “something that gives me pleasure.”
If we continue to be driven by a pain/pleasure center, we will continue to see deepening rounds of violence. We will see more and more sexual abuse. There will be more and more displays of vile attempts to destroy the reputations of others. The selfishness of man runs that deep.
Heart change is the answer. Pain generally shows us where we need to grow. It points out things that need to change. Pleasure should be the outcome of doing the right things. The deepest pleasure comes when we are pursuing our God created purpose.
Do you find yourself seeking pleasure or avoiding pain? Or do you focus on personal growth and being a blessing to others? As a nation, we need to shift away from the pursuit of pleasure to the pursuit of purpose.
There is a desire in the younger generation to “make a difference.” Growth in character—heart change is the real difference maker. Without it, we will continue on the path of a pleasure seeking generation which becomes more and more violent. The two are
connected. Is your highest goal pleasure or growth?