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. (James 4:1-2 ESV)
James is not referring to a physical killing when mentioning murder. He is actually referring to the destruction of reputations and relationships between people. Quarrels tend to escalate with anger, which can lead to fits of rage and yelling.
Have you ever had an argument where you said something you later regretted? Your words may have went too far that not only offended other people but also deeply wounded them. Now that memory of you is locked into their minds, and they will never forget what you said.
What was once a safe and loving relationship has become a toxic haven of mistrust; and now that person is keeping record of all the things you have done wrong. It is no wonder why offering forgiveness is such a difficult thing to do.
Envy and covetousness will make you say or do things because you have a selfish, unhealthy desire. Consequently, your relationships will become less important to you. They die because you pay less attention to them. Your speech becomes indiscriminately rude and abrasive because you are not getting your way. Pride has become the fortress where you hide. It feels safer in there because you are the ruler and no one can ever tell you what to feel, say, or do ever again. James calls you a murderer if you act this way because your behaviors negatively affect others; you infect their hearts and minds, provoking them to sin and thereby perpetuate even more incivility.
I suppose that is why James reminded us that “Good opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). The grace he gives is not just mercy and forgiveness.; he will also give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). James wants you to break the cycle of incivility.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:8-10).