This leads him to speak, in general, of the source of the many controversies in these churches. This he finds in those insatiable desires which allow no one to be at rest. "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts, that war in your members?" Like Paul, James here presupposes an inward conflict in man, the conflict between flesh and spirit. As the power of evil is by Paul termed the law in the members, because in the body is the outward manifestation of man, and there the dominion of sinful desire shows itself; so James, in like manner, speaks of the lusts that war in the members. In the case of the unrenewed, the power of the sinful desires is opposed only by the activity of man's higher spiritual nature, which is too weak, however, to gain the victory over the opposing force. This conflict, which leads to no decisive result, and leaves man in unreconciled disunion with himself, is described by Paul in the seventh chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. It is otherwise with the Christian, the regenerated man. In him also this conflict is continued, but with this difference, -- that in him the higher spiritual nature has been strengthened through the divine life imparted to him, whereby he is enabled to overcome the opposing sinful desires. But he must maintain the conflict in order to gain the victory; otherwise, the evil principle gains upon him more and more, and may at length succeed in wholly extinguishing the higher life. James exhorts to the maintenance of this warfare, and gives warning of the danger which threatens him who intermits it, as was the case with many in these churches. For there were doubtless many here, as appears from the rebukes of James, who called themselves Christians, but were yet strangers to the new birth, and stood in just the same relation to these two opposite tendencies as those who still belonged wholly to the world. Hence James says to them: "Ye covet" (namely earthly goods which ye may use in the service of your lusts) "and have not; ye kill, and desire to have [ye hate and envy], and cannot obtain."
In the original of the above passage it is said, "Ye murder." Luther has translated it "Ye hate," not without reason so far as respects the meaning; for it is hardly possible that James should speak of murder, in the proper sense, as so prevalent. But James purposely, without doubt, selects the very strongest expressions, in order to designate with the utmost precision the nature of that evil, which, whatever may be the outward form of manifestation, is still the same. Thus murder stands as the climax in the expression of hate and envy. For in the very nature of hatred and envy lies the desire, to remove their object out of the way. The selfishness which here betrays itself, sees in the existence of that object an obstacle to its wishes, from which it would gladly be freed. Even if the overt act has not yet been committed, and the power of the higher tendency is still too great to allow it, yet does it lie in the very nature of the emotion; and the divine word reveals to us, in the concealed germ of the heart, the very same thing which afterward, when expressed in act, becomes an object of general abhorrence. Hence Christ declares in the Sermon on the Mount, in opposition to the mere external conception of the Mosaic Law, that whosoever is angry with his brother, is in danger of the judgment, i. e. of damnation. And the Apostle John says: "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer."