Pride and Conflict: James 4:1-3

Conflict photo 300x228 Pride and Conflict: James 4:1 3What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. (James 4:1-2 HCSB)

In the times that I have read James 4 in the past, It struck me as mostly addressing the relations between tribes, groups or countries. But in reading it recently, it was impressed on me that this passage is very much related to my interpersonal relationships as well.

 The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines conflict as follows:

 a: competitive or opposing action of incompatiblesantagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons)

 b: mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands

 …Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
(James 4:6)

It’s probably rather obvious to all that conflict generally occurs as a result of incompatible ideas, or opposing needs, desires or demands. But the extent to which pride comes into play may not be as obvious initially. When we think or behave in a way that dismisses other’s opinions and assume our’s to be superior, we miss out on opportunities to learn and grow through our relationships. We lose the chance of expanding our understanding of God and others. While we certainly may be “right” about any particular idea or belief, the unwillingness to even listen to the suggestions or opinions of others displays an attitude of arrogance which reveals a level of pride in us.

Arrogance leads to nothing but strife,
but wisdom is gained by those who take advice.

(Proverbs 13:10)

Going further, often when we close ourselves off to other attitudes, advice, or ideas, we can find ourselves in conflict with another. We place a high priority on winning; on having our desires realized. And when we are presented with a situation in which we act without seeking the other’s viewpoint, in other words, when we make an assumption that we already know all of the pertinent facts, we can find ourselves being the cause of conflict. It is a demonstration of self-centeredness in that we are seeking the outcome that seems best for us, not for the other person; as a refusal to seek understanding of another persons thoughts or wishes only proves that one’s own ideas are all that are important to the oneself. This arrogance and pride can cause us to be dismissive of other’s needs, to act in a way that is not helpful and perhaps even harmful, and it demonstrates a lack of care and compassion for others.

 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant…
(1 Corinthians 13:4)

In our relationships with anyone, especially our friends and loved ones, we should strive for humility rather than pride and arrogance. We should always seek to understand the other and be open to understanding the opposing point of view. If we are in the wrong, we should quickly seek to make the situation right; even to the point of humbling ourselves by admitting our failure. We should seek to change our stubbornness to cooperation when both parties ideas or actions would serve to honor God. God does not tell us to always be the one who is right; He tells us to always be faithful to Him.
Though the Lord is exalted,
He takes note of the humble;
but He knows the haughty from a distance.
(Psalm 138:6)
  • How have your actions toward other people proven to breed conflict rather than understanding?
  • Can you think of any times recently when your prideful actions have served to usher in negative results and had undesired consequences? Could any of these consequences have been avoided by pursuing a humble stance rather than one of pride and arrogance?

“And what else is the cause of all transgression, but that man’s ignorant pride will have his will preferred to the will of God.” ~William Cowper

  • Proud of yourself? (
  • Solving Hot Relationship Issues (
  • The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God. (
WilliamOKC1 1 Like

Great stuff Dan. For me this resonates in conflicts I've had with other believers regarding moral issues like homosexuality. When I first got re-converted, I was around a lot of Liberal folks and found myself arguing with them about whether or not homosexual activity was ok with God. I ruined some friendships because I was too harsh in my proclaiming my new understanding of God's will... On the one hand I felt it was so very important to be clear about the morality issue.... but I forgot about how patient God had been with me for so long and I didn't show respect for others as I should have. Still learning but I hope I have learned a few lessons about this and your post is an excellent reminder for me. Over the last few years a key scripture for me has been 1Peter3:15 "Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it WITH GENTLENESS AND REVERENCE".

johnsimon214 2 Like

Your article is insightful and correct. You say "we should strive for humility rather than pride and arrogance" and that is correct. The problem with us human beings is that we have been taught all our lives to be focused on the "I". 

What I mean is that we are born and raised as self centered people. We define ourselves and our role in humanity by our own selfish needs, wants and desires. We have three influences in our lives: the Id, the Ego, and the Super Ego. These all are self focused and we treat ourselves as more important and valuable than any other person, place or thing.

This is precisely why conflict occurs. When you believe your opinion to be correct, above all other opinions, there is another person who believes the same way and now you have two opposing force meeting head to head. 

As Christians, we must remove ourselves entirely from the equations. Listen to the words of Jesus: "Let your will be done, not mine." If we surrender entirely to the will of God and give up the notion of "I" as being more important than anything else, the conflict will cease and the two opposing views can combine to form a new view.

This is precisely what the ancient Greek philosophers taught. You have a thesis, I have an anti-thesis. Rather than sticking to them, we get together and come up with a new thesis that combines both, agree with each other and support each other. The conflict never exists. 

All this, of course, is dependent upon the thesis and the antithesis being in agreement with the Word of God and in His will. 

There is always room for negotiation and reworking of ideas in Christian fellowship. What we need to do is to destroy the "I" and replace it with "Him": Jesus.

Dan7005 moderator 1 Like

@johnsimon214  Hi John,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.  I agree - eliminating the "I" from our approach to life and in our interactions with others is what we are called by Christ to do.  I'm sure I am blinded by my own selfishness to many of the times that I elevate myself above others.  It's been one of the biggest struggles that I have had since becoming a Christian.  When I examine the motives behind much of my behavior, it is startling to see that even in the "good" things I do, I often have self-serving motives!


johnsimon214 1 Like

@Dan7005 @johnsimon214 It is amazing to see how we frail humans operate. Let's say you do a good deed for someone. Perhaps changing the flat tire on an elderly person's car in the rain while you were wearing your best suit on the way to a wedding. That is a good deed and very nice of you but if you do the good work because it makes you feel good, then you are doing it for a selfish reason. 

Look at Jesus and his example of suffering. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that God would take away the cup of suffering he was about to endure. Jesus, the human, did not want to die on the cross. He did not what to have the crown of thorns placed on his head. He didn't want the beatings which he knew he was about to receive. He prayed that God wold find some other way for the sins of man to be forgiven. Yet he said "not my will, but yours", and he accepted the punishment for our sins. 

What Jesus did was to remove the "I" from the situation. What he wanted was no longer important. In this same manner is what we are called to do. If you see the elderly person in the rain with a flat tire and you are wearing your best suit on the way to a wedding and you don't want to help them. You know that this is a mistake on your part. you know that you will miss the wedding. You know that this is going to be miserable. You hate doing it. Yet you do it any way regardless of how you feel, know you are killing the "I". 

We must see others as of higher stature than ourselves. The thing is this. If I see you as higher than myself and you see me as higher than yourself, we are both on equal ground. None is higher than the other. We care for each other and we protect each other. This is the same thing that soldiers do in battle. There is no one greater than another. Soldiers take care of each other and don't leave a man behind. In battle, ranks disappear and they fight as one. There is no black, white, Hispanic, man, woman, gay or straight. There is only the soldier and they are equal and one. This is how Christians must see themselves.

We are equal in everything and under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We are all equal subjects and none is greater than the other.