Understanding the Role of Desires in Communication

Dr. Rob Green February 21, 2009 James 4:1-2



This is now the third week in our series.

  • Week 1:  Proverbs 18:19-21:  “Life and Death are in the Power of the Tongue”
  • We will not change our communication style until we are convinced that our words hold the power to be harmful or to be helpful, to build relationships or to destroy them, or to praise the Lord or disappoint him.
  • I hope you have been working as hard as we have.  Even at the NANC conference Stephanie and I were asking each other “Was that life giving communication or death giving communication?”
  • Week 2:  Proverbs 4:23:  “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life”
  • We saw how Jesus elaborates on this theme in Matthew 12:34 and Luke 6:45 where “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart”
  • That is why “I did not mean to say that” must be qualified with either ignorance/immaturity or with sinfulness.  It is not true that the words simply appeared.
  • Last week I tried to explain what I see with those who struggle with communication.
  • I gave you 5-6 different observations about their communication
  • I gave you 3-4 results of that communication.
  • The connection between Proverbs 4:23 and Proverbs 18:21 is not only that communication begins in the heart but the type of communicating I do with you is an indication of what I want to accomplish.
  • We were left with this question --- How could that be?  What explains this
  • Week 3:  James 4:1-2 and James 1:13-15

Review of Homework

I asked you to identify 2 people in your life that you tend to struggle with the most in your communication. 

  • Maybe it is your spouse (we often do the best and the worst with those we are closest to), maybe a parent, an in-law, a co-worker, a professor, a fellow-student in the lab.  2 people that you specifically want to work on your communication and
  • 1 person (a friend, spouse) who will keep you accountable. ----- it can even be a small group thing!

Your assignment was to think of 2 people you want to communicate in more godly way and 1 person that will help to keep you accountable.

Understanding the Role of Desires in Communication

At the end of our time last week we looked briefly at James 4:1-2.

It was here that we learned:

  1. The conflicts, the arguments, the destruction of relationships is controlled by our desires / pleasures
  2. This means that once we have a certain desire in place we then take the appropriate action in order to get that desire.
  3. Lust so you commit murder (remember David and Bathsheba)
  4. Envious so you fight and quarrel (in order to get what they have)

James 4:1-2 gives us good news and bad news.

  • The good news is that we have an explanation for every sinful jab we have given someone, we have an explanation for every stupid argument we have ever had with our kids or our spouse, and we have an explanation for every good conversation as well.  There was a desire driving that communication.
  • The bad news is that we have to recognize that it is our desires that lead to those conversations.  There is no way I can blame the other party.  Even if they are fussing and whining themselves that does not give me the right to fuss and whine myself.  They did not make me say what I said, I said what I said in order to accomplish the desire I wanted to accomplish.

Let’s look at James 1:13-15 where this same progression was made clear.

Point 1:  Temptation comes from our own desires (1:13-14)

James anticipates one of the potential excuses in this passage for our sinfulness.  In the process of answering that excuse helps to eliminate all others in the process.

  • The excuse is that somehow God is the cause of our temptation.

We do not know the details of how God is responsible here but the church was clearly charging God with some measure of culpability for their sin.

In the answer to that charge, James reminds us that we are wholly responsible. 

  • We are tempted by our desires.  In the words of James 4 we want and do not have so we take the appropriate action in order to get what we want.  It was the desire that drove us.

INPUT – In this text, some were using God as an excuse, what are other excuses that you have heard?

  • Satan made me do it
  • Another person made me do it
  • It is that time of the month
  • I was in a bad mood

I will admit that these things can make it more difficult, but they DO NOT determine your response.

Point 2:  Temptation grows into sin (1:15a)

The second point of the text is pretty clear that the desire which led to temptation is what leads you into sin.  Now that desire has been given the proper opportunity to express itself. 

  • My desire to be right has been given an opportunity to shine when Stephanie says something that is only partially true.
  • Boom! Now I am able to express what was already in my heart.

Notice that we are still in the progression --- the desire --- the temptation --- the sin

Point 3:  Sin Leads to death (1:15b)

To say it another way sin leads to consequences.  Thus the picture is pretty challenging.  Our desires lead to temptation which leads to sin which brings forth death.

As we generalize this process out a bit it is possible to view it as follow

 So what we have been doing is working backwards.

  • We started in Prov. 18:19-21 [consequences :  Life and death]
  • We moved to Prov. 4:23 [words springing forth from the heart]
  • Now through James 1:13-15 and James 4:1-2 [desires that drive the words]

What I want to do for the rest of our time is dig deeper into this concept of DESIRE.  I have two tasks for each group.

Group Activity:   (We are building upon last week’s group activity)

I want you to imagine the most petty argument you can think of ---- (you can make one up if you don’t feel comfortable sharing a real one).  I want you to explain the argument and then think through the desires that each party was brining to the table to encourage them to say what they said.

I want you to list common desires for a man that result in communication problems and common desires for a woman that result in communication problems.

Here is the final assignment.

  • Please discuss with your accountability partner how you are doing with the 2 people you want to improve your communication with.
  • Please read Ephesians 4:17-24 and meditate on how this passage might continue to help us develop our progression. Prior texts include Prov. 18:21, Prov. 4:23, James 4:1-2, and James 1:13-15.

Dr. Rob Green


Pastor of Counseling and Seminary Ministries - Faith Church

Pastor of Counseling and Seminary Ministries - Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries

MABC Department Chair, Instructor - Faith Bible Seminary


B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Dr. Rob Green joined the Faith Church staff in August, 2005. Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the Council Board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Pastor Green has authored, co-authored, and contributed to 9 books/booklets. Rob and his wife Stephanie have three children.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.