Verses 1 and 2a states that all conflicts are a result of man's selfish desires and the pursuit of those desires at all costs without any regard to the impact on others. Disputes occur when we feed the flesh instead of the spirit. The source of these selfish pursuits is man's unwillingness to be content with what God has blessed him with instead of being always driven to obtain more. Fights occur when man chooses his way over God's way, and unfortunately, man will go to get lengths to get what he wants instead of pursuing God.
Verses 2b and 3 point out the problems with our prayers and why we don't receive what we want: we fail to ask God or we ask but the request is based on our selfish desires. God cannot grant us something if we fail to ask, and He will never give us anything when we ask with an impure heart, wrong motives, what will cause us harm or for what is outside His will for us.
Verse 4 - Christians who live like they belong in the world by pursuing their selfish desires and failing to put God first in their lives are guilty of spiritual adultery and are enemies of God. Worldliness draws us away from God. As Christians we live in the world, but we are not to live as the world does; we are to be different. Worldly Christians are ineffective disciples; because the sin in their life they will not be able to have the impact on the world that God intends. Rather the world is having an impact on their lives.
Verse 5 - God's jealousy is righteous because we belong to Him because of His only Son's death on the cross.
Verse 6 - God will grant us grace to overcome our selfish desires, but we must first humble ourselves before him.
In verses 7 through 10 list the way to overcome temptations and worldliness:
- submit to God - accept His authority over your life
- resist the devil - decide to obey God and take a stand against sin. There is the promise if we resist the devil, he will flee from us.
- come near to God - turn from the world; There is the promise that God will draw near to us if we first draw near to Him.
- wash your hands - cease sinful actions
- purify hearts - the heart is cleansed from sinful attitudes. Note the ceasing of sinful actions and cleansing the heart of sinful attitudes can only occur after we have submitted to God, resisted the devil and drawn near to God. Steps 4 and 5 cannot be done without God's help.
- grieve, mourn and wail - show true remorse for sin and repent
- humble yourselves before the Lord - this is to know that you are in need of His mercy. The promise here is if you humble yourself before the Lord, He will lift you up.
Verses 11 and 12 - Criticism is a form of judging others; we elevate ourselves by putting others down. When we criticize and judge, we are acting like the world and are not glorifying God. Our words should help and build up others and not hurt them or tear them down. The only one who can judge mankind is God; we can't and don't need to do His job for Him.
Verses 13 through 17 - When we make plans we must be sure we are inside of God's will. We should not hold onto our aspirations for the future tightly, but always be aware that God can change them without warning. God has authority over all the world and that includes are future. A person's reaction to God altering their plans can be very telling of the person's spiritual maturity and their view of God's authority over their life. Our attitude should be "If it is the Lord's will, we will...(fill in the blank with what you have planned).
Verses 14 and 16 specifically warn us against procrastination by reminding us of the brevity of life and that if we know of a good deed, we should do it. Failure to know what is good and not do it is a sin.