When they are together, and spoken in isolation from concern for others or for God, they are two of the most dangerous words any human can utter. Both James and Jeremiah ring that bell for us today. The remnant, ragged as it is, of survivors left after the king of Babylon's assaults on Judah and Israel, asks the prophet to prevail on God as to where they should go and what they should do. They are conflicted, and many want to flee to the South, to Egypt and to the last remaining bastion against the onslaught of the Babylonian Empire. "Let's go somewhere safe. We want to be safe."
God's word back to the people? Stay in place. Plant and tend your vines and fields. Work your crafts, and God will be your shield. Sound familiar? It sure does, and yet the people not only hesitate, they choose to act in opposition to that command. They take Jeremiah and leave for Egypt. They isolate want, desire, from the direction they get from God...and the result is not good. It is not good at all.
James does us a favor and focuses that call to self-awareness away from Jeremiah's theatrical flare to a more personal and direct venue: our own individual wants. These, he says, are too often distractions in our pursuit of a life in relationship with God in Christ. We want a bigger kitchen, a nicer car, a new and higher-end cell phone....and then somehow God's call to us winds up simmering on a back burner. I know that happens too often in my life, and I have seen it happen in others. Sometimes, it isn't even a desire for the "good" stuff that distracts us. Worry and stressing can become conduits for distraction as well. Add to the list conflicts with other people due to the dramas of liking or not liking them? The menu of things that draw us from keeping our eyes on God is nearly complete.
It's so easy for us to loose our way when desire, or stress, shatters our ability to dial down on what God is always asking of us: to place the "now" and the "here" of being with and in God versus concern over what will be, and where will we be, when we ultimately have no real control over that abstract thing people call "the future."
Mind you p's and q's now, says God. Care for the person in front of you with your whole being. Embrace the task before you with your whole heart and mind. Answer the call to get up (or in some cases, remain in place) and follow God's direction.
Easier said than done...and yet when we do embrace that manner of life? Well then, all manner of grace abounds; and "I Want" becomes "Thank You."