If I am remembering correctly, my sister was in high school on a morning we quarreled over a magazine.
I am four years younger than her, so I would have been somewhere between the 5th-8th grade at the time of this argument.
Our fight eventually engaged our mother as a referee between us.
Interestingly, when my mother handed me the magazine I had been fighting so hard for, I recall feeling strangely disappointed.
Why did reading James 4:1-6 prompt this memory?
James wrote to Jewish Christians who were dispersed among the nations. (James 1:1) The book focuses on the practical living out of one’s Christian faith through our behavior.
In the passage above, James centers on the reasons for quarrels and fights among his readers.
What are these passions that war within us that cause quarrels and fights? (4:1)
James shows these passions or emotions, as distinguished from reason, or intense driving, or overmastering feelings or convictions, related to the things we desire or covet that we want or are prohibited from obtaining without extreme actions, even murder. (4:2)
Other translations use the word pleasures, cravings, or selfish desires instead of the word passions.
These passions are not good passions. These types of passions, pleasures, cravings, or selfish desires get stirred by our sinful natures. Using the word covet, where one feels an inordinate desire for what belongs to another, helps explain why these corrupt feelings have the potential to lead us even toward committing murder.
James 4:2 ends with an interesting phrase, “You do not have, because you do not ask.”
Whom is James saying they should ask for the things they are quarreling and fighting over?
Remember, this is a letter written to Jewish Christians dispersed among the nations. James is writing to instruct, correct, and encourage them to live out their faith practically. Real satisfaction in life comes only when we ask God for His good and perfect gifts.
But James continues with additional warnings about why, even when we ask God for what we want, we still do not receive them. (4:3)
Describe a time you realized you asked God for something for selfish reasons. What happened as a result?
Worse yet, James calls his readers “you adulterous people!” James is borrowing the Old Testament idea that God is the Husband of His people and the New Testament Church is the Bride of Christ with the use of the term adulterous.
Anytime our desires depart from the desires of the Lord is akin to breaking a marriage vow, in this case, a spiritual vow in exchange for friendship with the world. This then makes one an enemy of God. (See also 2 Tim 3:4)
Why does James speak with such intensity?
Review James 4:5
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.” 
What is the spirit that God has made to dwell in us?
Consider the following passages to answer the above question, keeping in mind James is writing to Jewish Christians.
23 “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 
8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 
If one has received the gift of the Holy Spirit, yet we are to allow the Holy Spirit to counsel and guide us rather than following our own selfish desires. If we instead continue to quarrel and fight with fellow believers out of selfish desires, it is right that God would yearn jealously over this.
Amazingly, James continues with:
6 But he gives more grace. Therefore, it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 
Our hope is always found in God’s extravagant grace. Our responsibility is to humble ourselves before Him and seek His wisdom instead of continuing to quarrel over selfish passions.
So why did this passage of James remind me of a quarrel I had with my sister many years ago over a magazine?
With the intervention of our mother, I won the argument to have the magazine. So why was I disappointed?
Something inside of me felt that the whole point of the argument had been missed, but I could not put words to what I was sensing. Yet, I have never forgotten this feeling.
Today, having studied this section of James, I think the reason for my disappointment was that, although our mom had convinced my sister to let me have the magazine, the root of our struggle with each other was unresolved.
The bigger struggle was a heart matter. A deeper spiritual understanding we both needed to discover.
Today, I am reminded that whenever my heart moves towards quarreling; I need to humble myself before the Lord and seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit to reveal what is truly motivating me.
How has this passage of James affected you today?
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.