In a Nutshell
James digs deeper. His admonition is no magic that will automatically bring peace. He explores the war-like context in which his readers live.
* * * * *
Why, at the point where he identifies wisdom's connection with peace, does James move on to a diagnosis of disputes, wars and conflicts?
Those conflicts and disputes [that erupt] among you, where do they come from? Do they not come out of your cravings, at war within yourselves? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Faithless adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
James tells his readers that a wisdom is available that makes all of life right, to be as God intended. This decisively brings peace into our lives. And immediately he returns to discuss conflicts and disputes. Why do that?
Recall what he had written about faith and works! Remember his words about words! Just writing about peace, or noting a couple of beautiful sentences that can be harmonised with music of a poetic quality to rival one of David's psalms, does not bring about the fruit God-intends our lives to express. What is he on about?
Clearly, peace and righteousness are not just words. They are creational fruit that result from a person's ongoing walk with God. The important thing is that friendship with the Good Shepherd. This means a cessation in friendship with God's enemies. This means a deepening of friendship now with God. One therefore is to approach the world in the same way that the One who made us searched out our widowed and orphaned humanity! We approach the world as the image-bearers of a Heavenly Father who sent His Son to save the world!
Make no mistake, James says. Wars and conflicts are no fate. They are not some temptation flung at us at random to see if we are strong enough to survive. James broached this already when he discussed the trials that must be endured by those who follow Christ Jesus. These wars are part of the fibre of our human lives. But they are no longer the source for our living in this world. Murder and pillage, rape and destruction, are the diseased fruit of a deeply compromised humanity - but these must be decisively repudiated. The "wisdom from above" knows of no simultaneous limping in two directions - trying to befriend God while maintaining friendship with the world is what James wrote earlier:
… as a wave tossed about on the seas, … such a double-minded person is unstable through and through (1:6,8).
Where does this double-minded piety come from? It comes from an inner dependence upon ourselves and it is a hopeless cause. It doesn't know what is truly needed and so it cannot receive what it demands.
The Lord God knows us through and through. He is not fooled by our feigned purity. James speaks to his readers as those who are corporately trying to have it both ways - they want their lawful marriage but they also lust for another "deep and meaningful" relationship on the side. As a result they do not face the fact that they are living a lie. They have been told "Make no mistake!" (1:16). They have been told to cease lying (3:14). Here, once more, James tells them that they cannot have it both ways. What? Does scripture actually endorse having it both ways, in double-minded adultery? That is what in fact any person who, in straying from the way of wisdom, "the wisdom from above", is proclaiming loud and clear by their deeds, even if they will not permit themselves to say so!