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Read Introduction to James


“You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”


You murder

“Murder” is the final consequence of frustrated desire. The idea has the possibility of lethal hatred rather than literal murder. In any case, the idea is that covetousness results in destructive behavior. Absalom was a good example of this (2 Sa 15-17) when he tried to kill his father, David. David killed Uriah because he lusted after Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba.   James clearly addresses “you murder” to believers. 

1 Pe 4:15, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.”

and covet

This is not the main word for “covet” as in 3:14. The idea in this verse is to boil with desire toward something that belongs to someone else. This person does this because he deems himself lesser than someone else is and wants the same for himself. He takes the next step and tries to tear down what is in the other person. 

and cannot obtain.

The word “obtain” means to attain to, to reach, to hit the mark, to gain one’s end, to be successful. Coveting never reaches its goal. A bad feeling about someone else does not improve our place in any way. 


We cannot attain a high place by putting others down.


Some people are never satisfied. God can give them the moon, but they will be frustrated. If we do not get what you want, we manipulate our way to get it. Some people lust for money to such a degree that they will kill for it. A man falls for another man’s wife, and that drives him to murder his own wife.  

We think that we can build ourselves up by tearing someone else down. We believe that someone else’s failure brings our success. If someone has an accomplishment, we diminish it by some negative comment about him. Our jealousy drives our judgment because we feel diminished by his success. Coveting seeks to hide one’s own inadequacy by detracting from others.