James 4:1-5
Conflict in Marriage

Christian Marriage: Session 5

Conflict in Marriage


The Source of Quarrels

1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 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. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5
Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? (James 4:1-5)


  • The source of strife: “your passions are at war within you…You desire and do not have…You covet…”

  • “What the heart finds desirable, the mind finds reasonable, and the will finds doable.” – Tim Keller

  • James’ diagnosis: passions…desire…covet…passions You adulterous people!

  • The source of our conflict: idolatry


Idols of the Heart


Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts,” (Ez 14:3)


  • “A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart…That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.” (Martin Luther’s Larger Catechism, “On the First Commandment”).

  • Four primary idols of the heart: ______________________________________________

  • Comfort: I know that I am okay so long as I have what makes me comfortable.
  • Power: I know that I am okay when others treat me with deference and recognize my status/strength.
  • Approval: I know that I am okay when others like me.
  • Control: I know I am okay when I am in control of the situation.


Idolatry doesn’t rely on evil things, but good things elevated to ultimate things.


What we need to discern: what idols do we gravitate towards?

You find out where your idols are by where your most uncontrollable emotions surface.

Pulling Idols Up by the Roots

What causes quarrels and conflicts among you? The idolatrous passions, so until the idols are removed, the conflict will remain.

All idols are false Saviors with false promises who say: Give me everything to earn salvation.

Jesus, the true Savior, offers a better promise: I gave everything to give you salvation

Practical Conflict Resolution Advice:

  • Never use the word “never” or “always” in a negative light: You always do that!
  • Never use the word “divorce” in any conflict, never even open the door to that idea.
  • Never leave the house in the heat of an argument—different room maybe.
  • Assume the best about your spouse: Love believes all things (1 Cor 13:7)
  • Until you can state your spouse’s side of the argument in a way that they would say, “Yes, that is what I mean,” you are not ready to respond.
  • Use “I” more than “you” statements: I feel unloved You are unloving
  • View “sin” as the enemy, not your spouse. You and your spouse are on a team together against the sin that has disrupted your unity.
    • As sin is confessed, talk through what repentance looks like
  • Always see yourself as the biggest contributor to the problem, be the biggest sinner and biggest repent-er.
  • When apologizing, say: “I am sorry for X, will you forgive me?” and “I forgive you”—instead of just “I’m sorry” and “It’s okay.”
  • Aim for reconciliation, not a cessation of hostility. Warmth, not just calm.
  • Always speak to/about your spouse that encourages respect in front of your children.
  • Don’t withhold forgiveness till you feel it has been “earned.”
  • Overlook offenses when possible, but don’t stuff conflict until you explode.
    • Don’t assume your spouse can read your mind.
  • Regularly invite your spouse to give you feedback and evaluate expectations.
  • Pray!


Aim at heaven, you get earth thrown in; aim at earth, you get neither. – C.S. Lewis


Home Discussion Questions:

  1. Which of the four main “heart idols” am I drawn to?
  2. Where do my most uncontrollable emotions generate from?
  3. What do I have a hard time forgiving?
  4. What must I have in my life for me to feel like “I’m okay”?
  5. What does Jesus offer in the gospel as a better promise than our idols?