James 4:1-4 – “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?”
An idolatrous heart will produce idol words, words that serve the idol that grips us. It is hard for us to hold our desires loosely. Instead, they tend to take hold of us. Our desires tend to get elevated to a position where they should never be. Here is what happens: A desire battles for control until it becomes a demand. The demand is then expressed (and usually experienced) as a need. (“I need sex.” ”I need respect.”) My sense of need sets up my expectation. Expectation when unfulfilled leads to disappointment. Disappointment leads to some kind of punishment. ”You want something, but you cannot get it. You quarrel and fight.” So when James says, “You adulterous people,” he is not changing the subject. He is saying something very significant. Adultery takes place when I give the love I have promised one person to someone else. Spiritual adultery occurs when I give the love that belongs to God alone to something or someone else. James is saying that human conflict is rooted in spiritual adultery! This is a momentous thought! We will not solve our problem with angry words until we humbly address the adultery and idolatry of our hearts.
Paul David Tripp, War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2000), p. 59.