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James 4:2

ESV 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.
NIV You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.
NASB You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.
CSB You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and wage war. You do not have because you do not ask.
NLT You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.
KJV Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

What does James 4:2 mean?

James continues making the case to his Christian readers that they are living according to the world's wisdom. They are not trusting God to provide while serving others, which is the wisdom of heaven.

Driven by bitter envy to get what they want, and a deep ambition to serve themselves, James's readers continue to kill, quarrel, and fight. This is not necessarily a direct accusation of murder or mayhem. A major point of James's words are the effects which worldly wisdom leads to. We have no way of knowing how violent this conflict had become. Had someone actually been murdered, or was James equating their hatred of each other to murder? Perhaps, but regardless of the severity, it's clear these religious people are off track.

At the heart of the problems is their response to not getting what they want out of life. In those moments when we realize that what we want is still out of our grasp, we always have a choice. The world's wisdom tells us to sacrifice everything to get what we want, including the welfare of others. The world will tell us to fight, to scratch, to wound, if that's what it takes. Driven by envy for what they want, James's readers are frustrated when they keep coming up empty. So they fight.

James identifies their root problem: These believers in God refused to trust Him to provide what they needed. They refused to even ask God for what they wanted. God might say no, after all. They were not willing to trust that if God would not give it to them, it was something they could live without for now. They would rather hurt someone else in attempting to provide it for themselves.
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