What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 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. 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, ESV)
My wife, son, and I got into watching the television show Big Brother a couple of years ago. I’m not sure how many of you reading this have actually watched the show, but it’s basically a group of people locked up in a house for a couple of months competing for $500,000. People are voted off each week until only one remains and that person is the winner. Needless to say, since the people in the house are the voters, there are all kinds of mind games being played. Everyone wants to win the money, so everyone is trying to figure out how to get everyone else to keep them in the game. Although many seem to be fooled into thinking they have developed great relationships with fellow cast members, more often than not, this is only a charade by the others to get what they want.
It is really easy for me to sit back and be critical of the casts and how they are often willing to do and say anything to get what they want. However, truth be told, we all struggle with being real with others to some degree. We are all guilty of manipulating others to get what we want.
With the needs that we are all walking around with (things like love, acceptance, security, and significance), we often find ourselves desiring for one or more of these to be met in our lives. Instead of a cash prize, our needs being met is the thing we seek. That’s when we come to a fork in the road: will we choose faith in our Father to provide what we need or manipulation to get what we want? The path we choose determines whether our relationships thrive or take a nose dive. James 4:1-5 is clear that when we focus on getting what we want, we will do sinful things to make it happen. When we choose to manipulate, we argue, fight, cheat, steal, and hate others. We treat others like objects that we can use to get what we want.
Walking by faith is synonymous with trusting the Lord to provide for my needs. If I am manipulating, even in a seemingly small way, then I am not trusting Him. I am taking my life and my needs into my own hands. I am deciding that He may not provide, so I will find a way to get what I want on my own. I will put on a mask and make everyone around me think I am something when I am not, to gain their acceptance. I will fool others into thinking I am capable of things that I am not, to gain a sense of significance. I will be nice to others so that they will take care of me, to feel secure.
But we are not the authors of manipulation. Satan is the great deceiver. In other words, he is the great manipulator. He wanted what he wanted and turned from God to try to get it. He even blatantly tried to manipulate Jesus to do what he wanted Him to do. When we manipulate others, we’ve been manipulated by the Enemy. We’ve been deceived into thinking we can do something to provide for our own needs. Even though we may feel that we are in control, we are not.
Manipulation strips us of our ability to be real with others. It destroys any chance at authenticity in our relationships. It thoroughly prevents us from enjoying others just as they are. And at the end of the day, it never gives us what we really need. At best, it gives us false security, acceptance, etc. because those giving us those things are giving them to us on false pretense. They are loving the act I am putting on (the cunning manipulative device of the day), but they are not freely choosing to love the real me!
Manipulation is a type of bondage: once you go down that path, there’s no way out except to keep putting on masks, or choosing to come clean and enjoy the life and freedom that comes from trusting Him. Maybe that’s one big reason why many cast members on Big Brother start “losing it” emotionally after a few weeks. Manipulation stresses us, traps us, and drains the life out of us.
Maybe we can take a look at shows like Big Brother and realize the cast members are not struggling with different things than us. The show might simply demonstrate the wide-spread issue of the desire to get what we want through manipulation rather than looking to our loving and perfect Provider. It can serve as a reminder of just how dependent we must be on the One who can truly meet our needs.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19, ESV)
(originally posted Aug 25, 2013)
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