There was a little boy whose younger brother got very ill. To help their ill son feel better, his parents brought him a really great stuffed tiger. When the older brother saw the tiger, he wanted one too. He went to his parents, crying and screaming that he wanted a stuffed tiger just like his brother’s. When the parents bought him a stuffed dog instead, he was furious, and threw the stuffed dog on the floor. Thinking about it later, the older brother was surprised at the strength of his desire for the stuffed tiger. He wanted to be strong and care for his sick brother, but his craving for the tiger took over.
Sometimes we behave like that little boy. We say we have things in control. We think that our good intentions drive what we do, but in fact, our inner passions and desires are really in the driver’s seat. The Letter of James points out that sometimes it is our inner desires that make war with the other parts of ourselves (James 3:16-4:3). James reminds us that the question is not if we will have inner desires and passions. The challenge for a disciple of the Lord is to determine what we will do with the desires and passions. In other words, what desires, what passions will we allow to direct our lives?
For a disciple, our number one desire is to be in union with God. To live our lives passionately guided by God’s grace, mercy and care. If that is not our primary desire, then others will take over. Fixing our eyes first on God is what gives perspective to our inner desires. It is the difference between the desire to look good or to be good. The desire to love another person or to get what we want out of someone. The desire to truly care for others or to be praised because we are so caring. The desire to speak the truth or to say what we think somebody wants to hear. The list goes on and on.
We will always have desires and passions, some good, some bad. It is a waste of time to beat ourselves up because we have desires that are not good. It is much better to follow the advice of St. James who assures us that if we set our sights on God, if we cultivate peace rooted in the Lord, that is what we will get.
Together in faith,
Very Rev. Christopher Smith, Rector