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Richard Marvin Butkus (born December 9, 1942) is a former American football player, sports commentator, and actor. He played professional football as a linebacker for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL) from 1965 to 1973. Through nine NFL seasons he was invited to eight Pro Bowls, named a first-team All-Pro six times, and was twice recognized by his peers as the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. Renowned as a fierce tackler and for the relentless effort with which he played, Butkus is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most intimidating linebackers in pro football history.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Butkus played his entire football career in his home state, which began at Chicago Vocational High School. As a college football player at the University of Illinois, he was a linebacker and center for the Fighting Illini. A two-time consensus All-American, he led the Illini to a Rose Bowl victory in 1963 and was deemed the most valuable player in the Big Ten Conference, and in 1964 he was named college football's Lineman of the Year by United Press International (UPI). He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

Butkus was drafted by the Bears as the third overall pick in the 1965 NFL Draft. He soon established himself as a ball hawk with his penchant for forcing turnovers. In his NFL career, he intercepted 22 passes, recovered 27 fumbles (a record when he retired),[a] and was responsible for causing many more fumbles with his jarring tackles. His tackling ability earned him both admiration and trepidation from opposing players. According to Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones, Butkus "was a well-conditioned animal, and every time he hit you, he tried to put you in the cemetery, not the hospital." In 2009, the NFL Network named Butkus the most feared tackler of all time.

Butkus is credited with having defined the middle linebacker position, and is still viewed as the "gold standard by which other middle linebackers are measured."[1] He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, and his No. 51 jersey is retired by the Bears. Following his playing career, Butkus began careers in acting, sports commentary, and celebrity endorsement. He is active in philanthropy through the Butkus Foundation, which manages various charitable causes.

Early life[edit]

Richard Marvin Butkus was born in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of eight children, but the first to be born in a hospital. He was a large baby, weighing 13 pounds 6 ounces (6.1 kg) at birth.[2] His father John, a Lithuanian immigrant to Ellis Island who spoke broken English, was an electrician and worked for the Pullman-Standard railroad company. His mother Emma worked 50 hours a week in a laundry. Butkus grew up in the Roseland neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. Being from the South Side, he grew up a fan of the Chicago Cardinals, and attended their games at Comiskey Park. An older brother, Ron, played football for three colleges and tried out for the Cardinals before quitting due to a bad knee.[4] For four years starting at age 15, Butkus worked with his four brothers as a mover.[5]

Butkus played high school football as a fullback and linebacker for coach Bernie O'Brien at Chicago Vocational High School. He preferred linebacker, where he made 70 percent of his team's tackles. In Butkus' first year on the varsity team, Chicago Vocational surrendered only 55 points in eight games.[4] In 1959, he was the first junior to be honored by the Chicago Sun-Times as Chicago's high school player of the year.[4] Injuries limited his play as a senior, but he was still heavily recruited by colleges to play football.[2]

College career[edit]

Butkus played center and linebacker from 1962 through 1964 at the University of Illinois for the Illinois Fighting Illini football team. In his first year on the varsity team, he was named to the 1962 All-Big Ten Conference football team as the third-team center by the Associated Press (AP) and second-team center by United Press International (UPI).[6][7] In 1963, Illinois compiled an 8–1–1 record and defeated Washington in the 1964 Rose Bowl. Butkus was named the team's most valuable player for the season, as well as being awarded the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the Big Ten's most valuable player.[8] He was a unanimous choice as a center for the 1963 College Football All-America Team, earning first-team honors from all seven major selectors.[9]

As a senior in 1964, Butkus was named the team's co-captain along with safety George Donnelly.[10] UPI deemed Butkus college football's Lineman of the Year for 1964,[11] and he was named the player of the year by the American Football Coaches Association and The Sporting News.[12] For the second consecutive season he was deemed the Illini's most valuable player. He was chosen for the 1964 All-America team by five of the six major selectors. Butkus also finished sixth in Heisman Trophy balloting in 1963 and third in 1964, rare results both for a lineman and a defensive player.[13] According to statistics kept by the university, he completed his college career with 374 tackles: 97 in 1962, 145 in 1963, and 132 in 1964.[14]

Professional career[edit]

Butkus was drafted in the first round by both the Denver Broncos of the American Football League and the Chicago Bears of the National Football League. After several days of recruiting by both the teams and leagues, his decision to sign with the Bears was viewed as a major victory for the NFL.[15] Although the Bears offered him less money than did the Broncos, playing for his hometown team and coach George Halas was more enticing.[16] His rookie contract was worth $200,000.[17] Along with fellow future Hall of FamerGale Sayers, Butkus was one of three first-round picks for the Bears in the 1965 NFL Draft. The pick they used for Butkus had been acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers.[18]


Succeeding Hall of Famer Bill George at middle linebacker, Butkus made an immediate impact as a rookie.[19] He established himself as a ball hawk by intercepting five passes and recovering seven opponents' fumbles, and he was also credited unofficially with having forced six fumbles.[20] Against the New York Giants on November 28, he intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble, and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Week by the AP for the first of four times in his career.[21] He finished third in balloting for the AP's rookie of the year award, behind Sayers and Ken Willard of the San Francisco 49ers, with AP sportswriter Jack Hand remarking that Butkus would have certainly won if there was a separate award for defenders.[b][22] He was named a first-team All-Pro by the AP and was invited to his first of eight straight Pro Bowls.[23]

In 1966, Butkus was named the second-team middle linebacker on the All-Pro teams of the AP, UPI, Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), and New York Daily News, with each selector placing him behind Ray Nitschke of the Green Bay Packers.[24] He reclaimed the first-team spot on the UPI and NEA teams in 1967, the AP team in 1968, and the Daily News team in 1969, all of which he occupied through the 1970 season.[23]

Butkus scored the first points of his career on November 9, 1969, when he tackled Steelers quarterback Dick Shiner in the end zone for a safety. He also recorded 25 tackles in the game, and for his efforts was recognized as the NFL Defensive Player of the Week by the AP.[25] That 38–7 win for the Bears was their only one of the season; they finished with a 1–13 record, which was the worst in franchise history. Additionally, Butkus' five-year contract had reached its end. A number of Bears players, including Butkus, expressed interest in being traded or cut by the team,[26] but he signed a multi-year contract extension prior to the 1970 season to remain in Chicago.[27] The contract raised his salary from $50,000 per year to nearly $100,000 per year.[17]

Despite the ineptitude of the Bears as a team, Butkus developed a reputation around the league as one of its best players. In both 1969 and 1970, he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the NEA, which was voted on by NFL players.[28][29] He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in September 1970 with the caption, "The Most Feared Man in the Game".[30] A panel of NFL coaches that year named Butkus the player they would most prefer to start a team with if they were building one from the ground up.[31]


Prior to the 1971 season, Butkus underwent preventive surgery on his right knee; he had torn ligaments in high school, but was able to continuing playing due to strong muscles compensating for the injury.[32] In 1971, he recorded 117 tackles and four interceptions, leading the Bears in both statistics. He also scored a single point; in the closing minutes of a game against the Washington Redskins on November 14, the score was tied at 15 and the Bears had lined up to kick an extra point. The snap went over holder Bobby Douglass' head, who then raced back to retrieve the ball and looked to pass it. Butkus, who was playing as a blocking back, ran into the end zone and leapt to receive the pass for the winning score.[c][34] Butkus later called the play his favorite of his career.[31] Despite the statistical output, for the first time since 1966 Butkus was not named to a major All-Pro first team, instead earning second-team honors from the NEA and Pro Football Writers Association.[23]

Butkus sparked controversy in 1972 with the release of Stop-Action, a memoir describing the final week of the 1971 season. The Bears had lost their final five games in 1971, and Butkus used the memoir as an outlet to voice his frustrations and grievances. In particular, he harshly criticized the Detroit Lions organization, saying, "I think they are a lot of jerks, from the owner, the general manager, the coach on down... If we were voting for a jerk team or organization they'd have my vote all the way."[36] The Lions responded with a 38–24 win over the Bears in Week 3 of 1972.[37] After the game Lions linebacker Mike Lucci, whom Butkus had labeled a "crybaby", denied that the book had any bearing on the game's outcome, but told reporters that "Butkus should just keep his mouth shut and play football." Butkus, who was notoriously cross with reporters, also denied the attribution and accused the media of sensationalism.[38] Bears teammate Gale Sayers later said he did not like the book, feeling Butkus was above such name-calling.[39] The season as a whole was another productive one for Butkus, who reclaimed the first-team middle linebacker spot on the major All-Pro teams and was invited to his final Pro Bowl.[23]

Early in the first quarter against the Oilers in 1973, Butkus pounced on a fumble in the end zone for the only touchdown of his career. Houston tight end Mack Alston accused Butkus of intimidating the officials, saying he "grabbed the ball and started yelling 'touchdown, touchdown,'" after which "the officials looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and called it a touchdown."[40] His season was cut short after nine games by a lingering right knee injury, which he had been playing through for years, but was further agitated after it gave out in Week 5 against the Atlanta Falcons.[41] Prior to the 1974 season an orthopedic surgeon told him, "I don't know how a man in your shape can play football or why you would even want to."[42] The injury ultimately forced him to retire in May 1974 at age 31.[43]

Lawsuit against Bears[edit]

Butkus' retirement came with four years remaining on a five-year contract with the Bears, which was to pay him $115,000 per year through 1977, came with a no-cut, no-trade clause, and was payable even if surgery was needed. The contract also promised necessary medical and hospital care which, according to Butkus, the Bears neglected to provide him, causing irreparable damage to his knee. The Bears also told him he would not be paid if he could not play. He filed a suit against the Bears' team doctor in May 1974 asking for $600,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.[44][45] It was eventually settled out of court when the Bears agreed to pay Butkus the full value of his contract. The episode caused a rift between Butkus and Bears owner George Halas, and the two did not speak for the next five years.

Profile and reputation[edit]

Dick was an animal. I called him a maniac. A stone maniac. He was a well-conditioned animal, and every time he hit you, he tried to put you in the cemetery, not the hospital.[47]

— Deacon Jones, Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end

Standing 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) tall and weighing 245 pounds (111 kg), Butkus was an exceptionally large linebacker during his era.[13] This size was a common trait in his family, as all four of his brothers and his father each stood over six feet tall and weighed over 200 pounds. He was also diligent with his conditioning. In high school he would push a car up and down a street to strengthen his legs,[48] and in college he developed a routine of running at trees and dodging them to emulate avoiding blockers.[49] Despite his size, he also had the speed and agility to make tackles from sideline to sideline and cover tight ends and running backs on pass plays.[50]

Hall of Famer Bill George, who Butkus succeeded as the Bears' middle linebacker, said, "The first time I saw Butkus, I started packing my gear. I knew my Bear days were numbered. There was no way that guy wasn't going to be great." At one point, Butkus gained a reputation as one of the best players on an otherwise bad Bears team in the late 1960s; during his tenure, the Bears won 48 games, lost 74, and tied 4.[52]

Consistently cited as one of football's meanest, toughest, and most feared players, Butkus was renowned for his intimidating profile and style of play.[17] He was known to snarl at the opposition prior to plays.[53] Quarterbacks would complain of Butkus biting them in pileups.[54] Lions tight end Charlie Sanders recalled Butkus poking him in the eyes with his fingers through his face mask.[55] He once intercepted a pass from Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton near the goal line, and instead of taking the ball into the end zone for an easy touchdown, he took aim at Tarkenton to run him over.[5] When asked by a reporter if he was as the rumors suggested, he replied, "I'm not so mean. I wouldn't ever go out to hurt anybody deliberately. Unless it was, you know, important—like a league game or something."

He played angry, often "manufacturing" things to make him mad, because he felt it gave him a competitive edge.[50][57] After the Bears lost to the Lions in their first match-up of 1969, Lions rookie running back Altie Taylor told reporters that Butkus was overrated. The next time the teams played that season, Butkus responded by chasing Taylor out of bounds after a play and causing him to jump into the stands at Wrigley Field.[58]

Butkus became most notable for his tackling ability, and the ferocity with which he tackled opponents. He was named the most feared tackler of all time by the NFL Network in 2009.[60] Once during practice, he hit a metal football sled so hard that he crumpled it and left a piece of it dangling off. "Tackling wasn't good enough," recalled former Bears defensive end Ed O'Bradovich. "Just to hit people wasn't good enough. He loved to crush people."[58] Butkus is credited with having made 1,020 tackles in his NFL career.[13][61][62]

Butkus recovered 27 fumbles in his career,[a] an NFL record at the time of his retirement.[13] One of his greatest strengths was his ability to rip the ball from a ball carrier's hands. Although back then the statistic was not kept, it has been noted that Butkus would certainly be one of the all-time leaders in the forced fumbles category.[58][31]

Film and television career[edit]

Since his career as a player, Butkus has become a celebrity endorser, broadcaster, and actor. He has appeared in films such as The Longest Yard (1974), Cry, Onion! (1975), Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976), Gus (1976), Superdome (1978), Cracking Up (1983), Johnny Dangerously (1984), Hamburger: The Motion Picture (1986), The Stepford Children (1987), Spontaneous Combustion (1990), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), Necessary Roughness (1991) and Any Given Sunday (1999), and as a regular character on TV shows such as Blue Thunder, My Two Dads, Vega$ and Hang Time. He portrayed himself in both the critically acclaimed TV movie Brian's Song (1971) and the 2002 comedy Teddy Bears' Picnic.[65] Butkus has also made cameo appearances in episodes of several television shows.

Butkus returned to the Bears as a color analyst on radio broadcasts in 1985, teaming with first-year play-by-play man Wayne Larrivee and former St. Louis Cardinals quarterback Jim Hart. Butkus was hired as the replacement for Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder on CBS' pregame show The NFL Today in 1988,[66] serving as an analyst through 1989. He was named as head coach of the XFL's Chicago Enforcers franchise, but was replaced with coach Ron Meyer for the league's only season in 2001.[67] Instead, Butkus served as the league's director of competition and, during the second half of the season, a color commentator for the league's regional telecasts.[68]

Butkus promoted the "Qwik-Cook Grill", a grill utilizing newspaper as its main fuel, on TV infomercials in the 1990s.[67] Butkus starred in a 2005 FedEx commercial entitled "I'm Sorry Dick Butkus", developed by BBDO New York. In the commercial, Butkus is brought in to help a small business go global.[69]

In 2005, as part of the ESPN reality series Bound for Glory, Butkus served as head football coach of Montour High School in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.[70] He coached the team to a 1–6 record before departing with two games remaining in the season, saying he had fulfilled his contract for the show.[71]

Legacy and honors[edit]

USA Today called Butkus the "gold standard by which other middle linebackers are measured."[1] Although not the creator of the middle linebacker position—which is credited to his predecessor Bill George—Butkus is recognized as having defined the role.[47][61] He is also recognized for having set the benchmark for the success of Bears middle linebackers, which continued with Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher.[72] Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell, known for his hard-hitting running style, cited Butkus as his hero growing up.[73]

After his university years, Butkus continued to receive recognition for his college career. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.[74] His No. 50 jersey is one of only two retired by the Illinois Fighting Illini football program, the other being the No. 77 of Red Grange,[75] and he was an inaugural inductee into the Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016.[76] Butkus was named to the Walter Camp Football Foundation's All-Century Team in 1999, compiled to honor the best college players of the 20th century.[77]

Butkus was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, his first year of eligibility.[78] The Hall's voters also named him to the NFL's 1960s All-Decade Team and 1970s All-Decade Team, deeming him one of the best players of both decades.[64] On October 31, 1994, the Bears retired Butkus' No. 51 jersey along with Sayers' No. 40 jersey during a ceremony at Soldier Field.[79] In 2004, a sculpture featuring Butkus, Halas, and seven other former Bears greats was unveiled at Soldier Field.

Butkus is consistently ranked among the top players in NFL history, being named the ninth-best player in NFL history by The Sporting News in 1999,[80] the tenth-best by the NFL Network in its The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players series in 2010,[81] and the eight-best by the New York Daily News in 2014.[82] In 2017, NFL senior analyst Gil Brandt ranked Butkus as the third greatest linebacker of all time, behind Derrick Thomas and Lawrence Taylor.[83] He was also selected the 70th greatest athlete of the 20th century by ESPN.[84] In 1994, he was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, compiled to recognize the best players of the NFL's first 75 years as adjudged by NFL officials and media personnel.[85]

Honoring his contributions to Chicago sports, Butkus was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.[86] On August 24, 2013, he was inducted into the National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame.[87]

In 1985, the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando, Florida created an award in his name. The Butkus Award is given annually to the most outstanding linebacker at the high school, college, and professional levels as chosen by a nationwide panel of 51 coaches and sportswriters.[88]

As an homage, actor Sylvester Stallone named his pet Bullmastiff Butkus after the dog ate a security blanket. He was described by Stallone as "a ferocious-looking little devil", and he decided to name him after Butkus, "possibly the fiercest football player in history".[89] The dog later starred alongside Stallone in the Rocky film series.[47]

Personal and later life[edit]

After his retirement, Butkus moved to Malibu, California, where he resides as of 2017. In November 1993, his home narrowly survived the Old Topanga wildfire.[90] Butkus married his high school sweetheart, Helen Essenberg, in 1963 while they were students at the University of Illinois.[91] She attended Fenger Academy High School, only a few miles away from Chicago Vocational.[55] Together they have three children: Ricky, Matt, and Nikki.[92]

Matt Butkus played college football for the USC Trojans as a defensive lineman, and joins his father in philanthropic activities such as the "I Play Clean" campaign. Butkus' nephew, Luke Butkus, was hired on February 19, 2007, as the Bears' offensive line coach, and in 2010 joined the Seattle Seahawks staff in a similar position. He joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as assistant offensive line coach on January 28, 2013 and as of 2016 is an assistant coach at his alma mater, the University of Illinois.[93]

In August 2001, Butkus underwent quintuple bypass surgery to remove blockages in his arteries. After the surgery, he co-authored a book entitled The OC Cure For Heart Disease with Lawrence J. Santora, the doctor who performed the diagnosis.[94]


Through The Butkus Foundation, Butkus has supported many charitable causes following his NFL career. The Butkus Foundation, Inc. was formed to manage the receipt and disbursement of funds for his charitable causes. These causes include:

  • The Butkus Award, instituted in 1985, is one of the elite individual honors in football. The Butkus Foundation takes stewardship of the award recognizing athletic achievement and service to the community while honoring the nation's best high school, college, and professional linebackers. An independent selection committee is composed of 51 people, including professional, college, and high school scouts, and sports journalists.[88]
  • The Dick Butkus Center for Cardiovascular Wellness is a nonprofit organization in Orange County, California with a cardiac screening program that uses specialized testing to help identify those at risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac death.
  • The I Play Clean Campaign addresses the issue of steroids among high school athletes. The campaign educates and encourages high school athletes to train and eat well, without resorting to illegal steroids and performance-enhancing products.[96]



  1. ^ abDavis, Nate (November 4, 2010). "Who is NFL's greatest player ever? NFL Network reveals No. 1 Thursday night". USA Today. Retrieved July 25, 2017. 
  2. ^ abNelson, Murry R. (2013). American Sports: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas (illustrated ed.). ABC-CLIO. pp. 212–214. ISBN 0313397538. Retrieved June 25, 2017. 
  3. ^ abcAcocella, Nick (November 19, 2003). "Butkus was ferocious for struggling Bears". ESPN Classic. Retrieved June 23, 2017. 
  4. ^ abTelander, Rick (July 12, 2004). "Forever Growlin'". Sports Illustrated. 101 (2). Retrieved August 5, 2017. 
  5. ^"1962 All-Big Ten Teams". Toledo Blade. Associated Press. November 27, 1962. p. 24. Retrieved June 24, 2017. 
  6. ^"Pick Big Ten All-Star Squad". Galesburg Register-Mail. United Press International. November 27, 1962. p. 12. Retrieved June 24, 2017 – via 
  7. ^"Dick Butkus Named MVP By Tribune". Freeport Journal-Standard. December 23, 1963. p. 13. Retrieved June 24, 2017 – via 
  8. ^Johnson, Lew (December 29, 1963). "Four Unanimous Choices". The Lawton Constitution. p. 11. Retrieved June 24, 2017 – via 
  9. ^Liska, Jerry (September 15, 1964). "Like a Rich Banker, Pete Elliott Has Gilt-Edge Assets At Illinois". Mt. Vernon Register-News. Associated Press. p. 8. Retrieved June 25, 2017 – via 
  10. ^"Dick Butkus Top Lineman". Valley Morning Star. United Press International. December 10, 1964. p. 10. Retrieved June 23, 2017 – via 
  11. ^Bradley, Ken (December 16, 2014). "Sporting News all-time College Football Players of the Year". Sporting News. Retrieved August 13, 2017. 
  12. ^ abcd"Dick Butkus". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved June 23, 2017. 
  13. ^"Illinois: The Record Book"(PDF). University of Illinois. 2011. Retrieved June 22, 2017. 
  14. ^Rathet, Mike (December 3, 1964). "Butkus Will Sign With Bears Today". TimesDaily. Associated Press. p. 22. Retrieved August 1, 2017. 
  15. ^"Butkus Takes Lesser Sum of Money To Play for Chicago". Dixon Evening Telegraph. Associated Press. December 4, 1964. p. 11. Retrieved August 13, 2017 – via 
  16. ^ abcEubanks, Lon (September 13, 1970). "Bear linebacker Butkus monster on Sunday". Southern Illinoisan. p. 45. Retrieved August 2, 2017 – via 
  17. ^Pierson, Don (April 16, 1989). "Bears Didn't Blow It The Last Time They Had 3 First-rounders". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 1, 2017. 
  18. ^Cosgrove, Ben (December 3, 2013). "Dick Butkus in 1965: The Baddest Rookie the NFL Has Ever Seen". Time. Retrieved July 24, 2017. 
  19. ^"Dick Butkus Proving Budding Football 'Thief'". News-Journal. December 19, 1965. p. 36. Retrieved June 24, 2017 – via 
  20. ^Hand, Jack (December 1, 1965). "Butkus Defensive Player Of Week". Anderson Daily Bulletin. Associated Press. p. 19. Retrieved August 13, 2017 – via 
  21. ^Hand, Jack (December 22, 1965). "Chicago's Gale Sayers Named Rookie of Year; Polls All But 7 Votes". The Post-Crescent. Associated Press. p. 10. Archived from the original on February 17, 2017. Retrieved June 27, 2017 – via 
  22. ^ abcd"Dick Butkus Stats". Sports Reference. Retrieved July 3, 2017. 
  23. ^"1966 NFL All-Pros". Sports Reference. Retrieved July 23, 2017. 
  24. ^"Bears' Star Dick Butkus Selected Best On Defense". Fond Du Lac Commonwealth Reporter. Associated Press. November 13, 1969. p. 39. Retrieved July 23, 2017 – via 
  25. ^"Virgil Carter's Outburst Draws Stiff Fine from Chicago Bears". Great Bend Tribune. Associated Press. December 17, 1969. p. 11. Retrieved July 23, 2017 – via 
  26. ^"Chicago Bears Sign Butkus To Multi-Year Pact". Anderson Herald. United Press International. May 31, 1970. p. 20. Retrieved July 23, 2017 – via 
  27. ^"Butkus Beats Out All Other 'Front Four'". Pampa Daily News. Newspaper Enterprise Association. December 22, 1969. p. 4. Retrieved July 3, 2017 – via 
  28. ^Berkow, Ira (January 10, 1971). "Dick Butkus Named NFL's Defensive Player Of Year". Post-Herald and Register. Newspaper Enterprise Association. p. 22. Retrieved July 3, 2017 – via 
  29. ^McDill, Kent (2013). 100 Things Bears Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. Triumph Books. p. 16. ISBN 1617495778. Retrieved August 6, 2017. 
  30. ^ abc"Bears in the Hall – Dick Butkus". Chicago Bears. Retrieved July 24, 2017. 
  31. ^"Surgery slated for Dick Butkus". Star-News. United Press International. January 28, 1971. p. 1-D. Retrieved August 1, 2017. 
  32. ^Lowitt, Bruce (November 15, 1971). "Bears Nip Redskins, 16–15 On Butkus' Conversion Grab". The Journal News. Associated Press. p. 23. Retrieved July 24, 2017 – via 
  33. ^Olmert, Michael (October 16, 1972). "In 'Stop-Action,' the Bears' Dick Butkus may have taken his title too seriously". Sports Illustrated. 37 (16). Retrieved July 25, 2017. 
  34. ^"Angry Lions Smash Bears, Butkus 38–24". The Times Recorder. United Press International. October 2, 1972. p. 10. Retrieved July 25, 2017 – via
  1. ^ abcSome sources state Butkus recovered 25 fumbles.[64][62]
  2. ^The AP did not give separate rookie of the year awards to offensive and defensive players until the 1967 season.
  3. ^The score was worth one point as the NFL had not yet adopted the two-point conversion.

Home / Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary / James / Chapter 4

Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.

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Adam Clarke Commentary

Ye lust, and have not - Ye are ever covetous, and ever poor.

Ye kill, and, desire to have - Ye are constantly engaged in insurrections and predatory wars, and never gain any advantage.

Ye have not, because ye ask not - Ye get no especial blessing from God as your fathers did, because ye do not pray. Worldly good is your god; ye leave no stone unturned in order to get it; and as ye ask nothing from God but to consume it upon your evil desires and propensities, your prayers are not heard.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on James 4:2". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https: 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Ye lust, and have not - That is, you wish to have something which you do not now possess, and to which you have no just claim, and this prompts to the effort to obtain it by force. You desire extension of territory, fame, booty, the means of luxurious indulgence, or of magnificence and grandeur, and this leads to contest and bloodshed. These are the causes of wars on the large scale among nations and of the contentions and strifes of individuals. The general reason is, that others have that which we have not, and which we desire to have; and not content with endeavoring to obtain it, if we can, in a peaceful and honest manner, and not willing to content ourselves without its possession, we resolve to secure it by force. Socrates is reported by Plato to have said on the day of his death, “nothing else but the body and its desires cause wars, seditions, and contests of every kind; for all wars arise through the possession of wealth.”

Phaedo of Plato, by Taylor, London, 1793, p. 158. The system of wars in general, therefore, has been a system of great robberies, no more honest or honorable than the purposes of the foot-pad, and more dignified only because it involves greater skill and talent. It has been said that “to kill one man makes a murderer, to kill many makes a hero.” So it may be said, that to steal a horse, or to rob a house, makes a man a thief or burglar; to fire a dwelling subjects him to the punishment of arson; but to plunder kingdoms and provinces, and to cause cities, towns, and hamlets to be wrapped in flames, makes an illustrious conqueror, and gives a title to what is deemed a bright page in history. The one enrolls the name among felons, and consigns the perpetrator to the dungeon or the gibbet; the other, accompanied with no more justice, and with the same spirit, sends the name down to future times as immortal. Yet in the two the all-discerning eye of God may see no difference except in the magnitude of the crime, and in the extent of the injury which has been inflicted. In his way, and according to the measure of his ability, the felon who ends his life in a dungeon, or on the gibbet, is as worthy of grateful and honored remembrance as the conqueror triumphing in the spoils of desolated empires.

Ye kill - Margin, or “envy.” The marginal reading “envy” has been introduced from some doubt as to the correct reading of the text, whether it should be φονεύτε phoneute“ye kill,” or φθονεῖτε phthoneite“ye envy.” The latter reading has been adopted by Erasmus, Schmidius, Luther, Beza, and some others, though merely from conjecture. There is no authority from the manuscripts for the change. The correct reading undoubtedly is, ye kill. This expression is probably to be taken in the sense of having a murderous disposition, or fostering a brutal and murderous spirit. It is not exactly that they killed or committed murder previous to “desiring to have,” but that they had such a covetous desire of the possessions of others as to produce a murderous and bloody temper. The spirit of murder was at the bottom of the whole; or there was such a desire of the possessions of others as to lead to the commission of this crime. Of what aggressive wars which have ever existed is not this true?

Desire to have - That is, what is in the possession of others.

And cannot obtain - By any fair and honest means; by purchase or negotiation: and this leads to bloody conquest. All wars might have been avoided if men had been content with what they had, or could rightfully obtain, and had not desired to have what was in the possession of others, which they could not obtain by honest and honorable means. Every war might have been avoided by fair and honorable negociation.

Ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not - Notwithstanding you engage in contentions and strifes, you do not obtain what you seek after. If you sought that from God which you truly need, you would obtain it, for he would bestow upon you all that is really necessary. But you seek it by contention and strife, and you have no security of obtaining it. He who seeks to gain anything by war seeks it in an unjust manner, and cannot depend on the divine help and blessing. The true way of obtaining anything which we really need is to seek it from God by prayer, and then to make use of just and fair means of obtaining it, by industry and honesty, and by a due regard for the rights of others. Thus sought, we shall obtain it if it would be for our good; if it is withheld, it will be because it is best for us that it should not be ours. In all the wars which have been waged on the earth, whether for the settlement of disputed questions, for the adjustment of boundaries, for the vindication of violated rights, or for the permanent extension of empire, how rare has it been that the object which prompted to the war has been secured! The course of events has shown that indisposed as men are to do justice, there is much more probability of obtaining the object by patient negotiation than there is by going to war.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on James 4:2". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". https: 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war; ye have not, because ye ask not.

James' reference, "ye kill," is not to be taken as an indictment of the Christian communities addressed by him as murderers. "The word kill is to be taken in the sense of hatred proceeding from envy, as in 1 John 3:15: whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.'" Of course, all of the New Testament writers were aware of the Master's teaching in Matthew 5:21,22, where the antecedent motives and attitudes leading to murder were exposed and judged as murder. The blunt, powerful charges made in this verse are difficult to punctuate; but Tasker's arrangement of them in a parallel seems to be commendable:

You desire and do not have; so you kill.

And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war.

The frustration and misery of the selfish, pleasure-craving soul are eloquently portrayed in this verse.

Obtain ... Roberts said that "obtain" means "to attain one's goal or purpose (cf. Romans 11:7).

Ye have not, because ye ask not ... There is no hint here that if they had prayed for the ability to gratify their lustful pleasures God would have given it; rather, that their willful selfishness had dried up the springs of prayer within them.

John William Russell, Compact Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1964), p. 575.

R. V. G. Tasker, The General Epistles of James (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), p. 86.

J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 126.

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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on James 4:2". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https: Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Ye lust, and have not,.... The apostle proceeds to show the unsuccessfulness of many in their desires and pursuits after worldly things; some might be like the sluggard, whose soul desireth all good things, and yet he has nothing, Proverbs 13:4 because he does not make use of any means, even of such as are proper and necessary, and ought to be used:

ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain; some, instead of kill, which seems not so agreeable, read envy; and then the sense is, they envy at the good and happiness of others, and covet after another's property, but cannot enjoy it; all such envy and covetousness are fruitless, as well as sinful:

ye fight and war, yet ye have not; go to law one with another about each other's property; or rather, make a great stir and hustle to get the things of the world; rise early, and sit up late; strive who should get most, and quarrel about what is gotten, and seek to get all advantages of one another; and yet still have not, what at least is desired and strove for:

because ye ask not; of God, whose blessing only makes rich: instead of all this worldly stir and bustle, and these strivings and quarrellings with one another, it would be much more advisable, and, in the issue, be found to turn to more account, to pray to God for a blessing on your endeavours; and to ask of him the good and necessary things of life, in submission to his will, and with thankfulness for what he has bestowed.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on James 4:2". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https: 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, 2 because ye ask not.
(2) He reprehends them by name, who are not ashamed to make God the minister and helper of their lusts and pleasures, in asking things which are either in themselves unlawful or being lawful, ask for them out of wicked motives and uses.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on James 4:2". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https: 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Ye lust — A different Greek word from that in James 4:1. “Ye desire”; literally, “ye set your mind (or heart) on” an object.

have not — The lust of desire does not ensure the actual possession. Hence “ye kill” (not as Margin, without any old authority, “envy”) to ensure possession. Not probably in the case of professing Christians of that day in a literal sense, but “kill and envy” (as the Greek for “desire to have” should be translated), that is, harass and oppress through envy [Drusius]. Compare Zechariah 11:5, “slay”; through envy, hate, and desire to get out of your way, and so are “murderers” in God‘s eyes [Estius]. If literal murder [Alford] were meant, I do not think it would occur so early in the series; nor had Christians then as yet reached so open criminality. In the Spirit‘s application of the passage to all ages, literal killing is included, flowing from the desire to possess so David and Ahab. There is a climax: “Ye desire,” the individual lust for an object; “ye kill and envy,” the feeling and action of individuals against individuals; “ye fight and war,” the action of many against many.

ye have not, because ye ask not — God promises to those who pray, not to those who fight. The petition of the lustful, murderous, and contentious is not recognized by God as prayer. If ye prayed, there would be no “wars and fightings.” Thus this last clause is an answer to the question, James 4:1, “Whence come wars and fightings?”

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on James 4:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https: 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Ye lust (επιτυμειτε — epithumeite). Present active indicative of επιτυμεω — epithumeō old word (from επι τυμος — epiπονευετε και ζηλουτε — thumos yearning passion for), not necessarily evil as clearly not in Luke 22:15 of Christ, but usually so in the N.T., as here. Coveting what a man or nation does not have is the cause of war according to James.

Ye kill and covet (πονευω — phoneuete kai zēloute). Present active indicatives of πονευς — phoneuō (old verb from ζηλοω — phoneus murderer) and πονευετε — zēloō to desire hotly to possess (1 Corinthians 12:31). It is possible (perhaps probable) that a full stop should come after επιτυχειν — phoneuete (ye kill) as the result of lusting and not having. Then we have the second situation: “Ye covet and cannot obtain (επιτυγχανω — epituchein second aorist active infinitive of πονευετε — epitugchanō), and (as a result) ye fight and war.” This punctuation makes better sense than any other and is in harmony with James 4:1. Thus also the anticlimax in ζηλουτε — phoneuete and ουκ εχετε δια το μη αιτεισται υμας — zēloute is avoided. Mayor makes the words a hendiadys, “ye murderously envy.”Ye have not, because ye ask not (ουκ εχετε — ouk echete dia to mē aiteisthai humas). James refers again to δια — ouk echete (ye do not have) in James 4:2. Such sinful lusting will not obtain. “Make the service of God your supreme end, and then your desires will be such as God can fulfil in answer to your prayer” (Ropes). Cf. Matthew 6:31-33. The reason here is expressed by αιτεω — dia and the accusative of the articular present middle infinitive of υμας — aiteō used here of prayer to God as in Matthew 7:7. αιτειστε — Humās (you) is the accusative of general reference. Note the middle voice here as in αιτεω — aiteisthe in James 4:3. Mayor argues that the middle here, in contrast with the active, carries more the spirit of prayer, but Moulton (Prol., p. 160) regards the distinction between αιτεομαι — aiteō and aiteomai often “an extinct subtlety.”

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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on James 4:2". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https: Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Ye lust

See on desire,1 Peter 1:12; and Mark 4:19.

Desire to have ( ζηλοῦτε )

Rev., covet, and are jealous, in margin. See on James 3:14.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on James 4:2". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https: Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Ye kill - In your heart, for "he that hateth his brother is a murderer." Ye fight and war - That is, furiously strive and contend. Ye ask not - And no marvel; for a man full of evil desire, of envy or hatred, cannot pray.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on James 4:2". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https: 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Because ye ask not; that is, of God. The meaning is, that they do not obtain the happiness which they desire, because they seek to effect their ends by contention and violence, instead of relying upon the providence and goodness of God.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on James 4:2". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https: 1878.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

2. The sense of the words themselves, πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖ τὸ πνεῦμα ὃ κατῴκισεν ἐν ἡμῖν, is very variously given. α. πρὸς φθόνον is by some referred back to λέγει,— ἡ γρ. λέγει πρὸς φθόνον: “An putatis, quod scriptura in vanum loquatur adversus invidiam? Spiritus desideria excitat, sed meliora desideriis carnis:” so Du Mont, in Huther. But this “desideria excitare” is an unexampled sense of ἐπιποθεῖν. Gebser takes this connexion, and renders, “Think ye, that the Scripture speaks in vain, and enviously?” And nearly so Œcumenius, ἢ δοκεῖτε ὅτι κενῶς ἡ γραφὴ λέγει, ἢ πρὸς φθόνον; οὐδὲν τούτων· ἀλλʼ ἐπιποθεῖ κ. τ. λ. But, as Huther remarks, this necessity for ἤ sufficiently condemns this view: and thus ἐπιποθεῖ would be left here without any qualifying adverb to fill out its sense. β. Taking then πρὸς φθόνον with ἐπιποθεῖ, we have the following various views taken:

ι. πνεῦμα as the subject. And herein

A. τὸ πν. = the human spirit, in its natural condition. So Hottinger, “Animus hominis natura fertur ad invidendum aliis:” so also Beza, Laurentius, Grot., al., and E.V.

B. τὸ πν. = the Spirit of God, whom God hath caused to take up His dwelling in us: and then

a. πρὸς φθ. = “ad invidiam:” in which case the clause is interrogative: “Num ad invidiam proclivis est Spiritus, qui nobis inest? minime:” similarly Bed (“Numquid spiritus gratiæ, quo significati estis in die redemptions, hoc concupiscit ut invideatis alterutrum”), Witsius, Calv., Wolf, al.

b. πρὸς φθ. = “contra invidiam:” so Luther, der Geist.… gelüstet wider den hass,—Pareus, Bengel, al.

c. πρὸς φθ. = “invidiose:” so De Wette, much as the interp. given above, neidisch lieht (uns) der Geist: so Schneckenburger, and in substance many old Commentators (see Pol. Synops. v. p. 1459, Colossians 1), rendering it “usque ad invidiam:” e. g. Tirinus, Menochius, Cajetan, al.

II. πνεῦμα as the object, supplying ὁ θεός as the subject, understanding πν. the human spirit, and taking πρὸς φθόν. adverbially. So Wiesinger, “The Love of God jealously desires as an object your love:” so Theile, supplying however ἡ γραφή as the subject, as also does Œcumenius, continuing from the words cited above, οὐδὲν τούτων· ἀλλʼ ἐπιποθεῖ ἤτοι ἐπιζητεῖ τὴν διὰ τῆς παρακλήσεως αὐτῆς ἐγκατοικισθεῖσαν ἡμῖν χάριν: and below, πνεῦμα τὴν ἀγαθήν φησι προαίρεσιν.

In judging of the above interpretations (the classification of which I have mainly taken from Huther), we may notice, that to interpret πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖ, as if it were κατὰ φθόνου ἐπιθυμεῖ, see Galatians 5:17, is to do violence to the construction and meaning of the words: besides which, there is no mention here of envy, as a human passion, the discourse being of the enmity to God incurred by those who would be friends to the world; of God’s enmity to the proud and upholding of the humble. So that God must be the subject of this clause, as expressed by τὸ πνεῦμα ὃ κατῴκισεν ἐν ἡμῖν. This being so, our only rendering of πρὸς φθόνον will be as above, adverbially, as so very frequently, e. g. πρὸς δίκην, πρὸς ἡδονήν, πρὸς χάριν, πρὸς λύπην, πρὸς ὀργήν, πρὸς βίαν, πρὸς ὕβριν, &c. &c. See Palm and Rost’s Lex. under πρός, vol. ii. p. 1138, Colossians 2, where many examples are given, e. g. πρὸς χάριν ἢ πρὸς ἀπέχθειαν δικάζειν, Lucian: πρὸς ὀργὴν ἀκούειν, &c. With regard to the sense above given, as fitting into the context, Theile well says, ἐπιποθεῖν with an accusative, “desiderio alicujus teneri,” to love eagerly, as reff. 2 Cor., Phil., introduces us into the same figurative realm of thought in which μοιχαλίδες placed us before. The Apostle is speaking of the eager and jealous love of God towards those whom He has united as it were in the bond of marriage with Himself.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on James 4:2". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https: 1863-1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

2Ye lust, or covet, and have not. He seems to intimate that the soul of man is insatiable, when he indulges wicked lusts; and truly it is so; for he who suffers his sinful propensities to rule uncontrolled, will know no end to his lust. Were even the world given to him, he would wish other worlds to be created for him. It thus happens, that men seek torments which exceed the cruelty of all executioners. For that saying of Horace is true:

The tyrants of Sicily found no torment greater than envy. (129)

Some copies have φονεύετε, “ye kill;” but I doubt not but that we ought to read, φθονεῖτε, “ye envy,” as I have rendered it; for the verb, to kill, does in no way suit the context. (130)Ye fight: he does not mean those wars and fightings, which men engage in with drawn swords, but the violent contentions which prevailed among them. They derived no benefit from contentions of this kind, for he affirms that they received the punishment of their own wickedness. God, indeed, whom they owned not as the author of blessings, justly disappointed them. For when they contended in ways so unlawful, they sought to be enriched through the favor of Satan rather than through the favor of God. One by fraud, another by violence, one by calumnies, and all by some evil or wicked arts, strove for happiness. They then sought to be happy, but not through God. It was therefore no wonder that they were frustrated in their efforts, since no success can be expected except through the blessings of God alone.

The language of the whole passage is highly metaphorical. He calls their contentions “wars and fightings;” for the whole tenor of the passage is opposed to the supposition that he refers to actual wars. He adopts a military term as to inward lusts or ambitious desires, that they “carried on war” in their members; the expedition for their contests was prepared within, mustered in their hearts. Then the character of this war is more plainly defined, “Ye covet,” not, ye lust; “ye kill,” or commit murder, for “ye envy;” when ye cannot attain your objects, “ye wage war and fight,” that is, ye wrangle and quarrel. Avarice and ambition were the two prevailing evils, but especially avarice; and avarice too for the purpose of gratifying the lusts and propensities of their sinful nature, as it appears from the third verse.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on James 4:2". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https: 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

Ver. 2. Ye lust and have not] viz. To the satisfying of your lusts; for that is an endless piece of work. Lust still cries Give, give; and is ever sick of a spiritual dropsy; the barren womb, the horseleech’s daughter, the grave, is nothing to this gulf, to this curse of unsatisfiableness.

Because ye ask not] He must be of a sedate spirit that prays to purpose. How shall we think God will hear us when we hardly hear ourselves? Married couples must agree, that their prayers be not hindered, 1 Peter 3:7. There is no sowing in a storm; no taking medicine in a hot fit, as said before.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on James 4:2". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https: 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

James 4:2. Ye kill, and desire to have,— We must take the word φονευετε,ye kill, in a softer sense than the common meaning of the word. As wars and fightings, in the first verse, are interpreted quarrels and contentions; so here, ye kill, and desire to have, may be interpreted, "Ye are ready to murder and use violence, like the Jewish zealots, that you may satisfy your covetous desires." The thought or inclination to murder, may possibly here be called murder; in the same sense as St. John says, Whoever hateth his brother, is a murderer, 1 John 3:15. And in this sense Dr. Heylin understands and renders the verse, You are full of desires, but you have not what you desire: you destroy with hatred and envy, but cannot get what you would have: you contend and strive, but without success, because you ask not.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on James 4:2". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https: 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

The Jews, at the writing of this epistle to them, did vehemently lust after liberty, and freedom from the Roman yoke, and for dominion and government over other nations; believing that their Messiah was to be a temporal prince, who should enable them to lord it over the Heathen world: "Now, says our apostle, though you lust for liberty and dominion, yet you have it not: and though, in an eager pursuit after these things, ye kill and slay, yet you do but lose your blood and labour, for ye cannot obtain what you thus inordinately seek, and irregularly covet; you should go to God in prayer for what you desire: but if at any time you do pray, it is not in a right manner, with a right intention and for a right end. It is to consume it upon your lusts; namely, that having the liberty you desire, you may possess the good things of this world you lust after, and may lord it over the Heathen world."

Learn hence, that we pray amiss, when our aims and ends are not right in prayer.

Learn, 2. That then our aims and ends are not right in a prayer, when we ask blessings for the use and encouragement of our lusts.

Learn, 3. That prayers so framed are usually successless; what we ask amiss we are sure to miss, if the Almighty has any kindness for us. In prayer we must consider three things, the object, the manner, and the end: We must not only guard our affections, but secure our intentions; for prayers that want a good aim, do also want a good issue; Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on James 4:2". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https: 1700-1703.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

James 4:2 describes in a lively manner the origin of these external strifes. The stages are ἐπιθυμεῖτε … φονεύετεκαὶζηλοῦτε … μάχεσθεκαὶπολεμεῖτε; the second succeeds the first because it is without result, and the third the second for the same reason.

ἐπιθυμεῖτε] here in a bad sense referring to τῶνἡδονῶν, James 4:1. It is evident that the object to be thought on is worldly possessions; James does not mention the object, because he only required to express “the covetous impulse” (de Wette). It is unsatisfactory to think only on the desires of individuals. James rather describes the conduct of the churches to whom he writes; these, discontented with their low position in the world, longed after earthly power to which, as the church of God, they thought they had a claim. This striving made them consider persecution as a reproach; on the contrary, James exhorts them to count it as a joy (chap. James 1:2). This also produced among them that respect of persons toward the rich of the world for which James blames them. This was also the source of internal division; the affluent in the church despising the poor instead of imparting to them of their wealth, and only striving after an increase of their riches; whilst the poor grudged the rich their possessions, and accused them of being the children of the world. Thus in these churches occurred the same strife which prevailed among the Jews, and was the source of factions among them.

By καὶοὐκἔχετε] the uselessness of ἐπιθυμεῖν is expressed, and also the motive to φονεύεινκαὶζηλοῦν is assigned; it is unnecessary here, with Gebser, Hottinger, de Wette, to explain ἔχειν = to receive; it rather means: to have, to possess. The meaning is: from the desire follows not the possession, namely, of what is desired.

φονεύετεκαὶζηλοῦτε] As here the external action is not yet described, but the internal disposition, φονεύειν cannot here be taken in its literal meaning, as Winer (p. 417 [E. T. 589]), Lange, Bouman think. Many expositors, as Carpzov, Pott, Morus, Augusti, Gebser, Schneckenburger, and others explain it adverbially: “even to murder and killing;” but the position of the words contradicts this explanation; if the idea ζηλοῦτε was to be strengthened by φονεύετε, it must be placed first. Other expositors, as Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, Piscator, Hornejus, Laurentius, Benson, Schulthess, Hottinger, and others, solve the difficulty by the conjectural reading φθονεῖτε; but this reading has not the slightest support in authorities. Nothing remains, as Wiesinger correctly remarks, than to explain φονεύειν here, with Estius, Calovius, also de Wette (who, however, wavers), according to 1 John 3:15, of internal hatred, and “to justify this word by the boldness of the expression prevailing in this passage; comp. πόλεμοικαὶμάχαι, στρατεύεσθαι, μοιχοί (more correctly ΄οιχαλίδες),” Wiesinger. It is true that then an anti-climax would seem to occur; but this is only in appearance, as in point of fact ζηλοῦν (hostile zeal already ready to break out in word and action) presupposes internal φονεύειν.

καὶοὐδύνασθεἐπιτυχεῖν] namely, that for which you hate and envy. What follows on this are πόλεμοι, therefore James closes with μάχεσθεκαὶπολεμεῖτε, in which likewise the answer to the question πόθενπόλεμοι, πόθενμάχαι is contained (Wiesinger). With οὐκἔχετε, which does not stand in the same relation to μάχεσθεκ. τ. λ. as καὶοὐδύν. ἐπιτυχεῖν does to φον. κ. ζηλ., James resumes the foregoing οὐκἔχετε and οὐδύνασθεἐπιτυχεῖν, in order to assign the reason of this “not having,” etc.; the reason is διὰτὸ΄ὴαἰτεῖσθαιὑ΄ᾶς, thus the want of prayer. That prayer for earthly things is heard, is not an opinion peculiar to James, but a divine promise; in which only this is to be observed, that the prayer must be no κακῶςαἰτεῖσθαι; see the following verse.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on James 4:2". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https: 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

James 4:2. ἐπιθυμεῖτε, ye desire) A kind of Anaphora whereby the sentiment is repeated with increased force. Ye desire, with disposition towards an object; ye kill and envy, with the action and disposition of individuals against individuals; ye fight and war, with the action of many against many.— φονεύετεκαὶζηλοῦτε, ye kill and envy) Ye kill through hatred and envy. One sentiment is expressed by two words. The same verb occurs, ch. James 5:6. He who covets any object, desires that the former possessor may be removed out of the way. He speaks of murderers, as in James 4:4 of adulterers. Comp. 1 John 3:15. Thus, φονεύετε, do ye murder?Psalms 62:3 (Septuagint), חְּרָצְחוּfor this Hebrew reading, holding a middle place between the others, is well supported by the Halle reviewers. And the tenor of the whole Epistle of James has a very close resemblance to the whole of this Psalm. See notes at James 4:7; James 4:12; James 4:14; James 1:3; James 3:10. See also Psalms 10:8.— οὐκἕχετεδὲ) See App. Crit., Ed. ii., on this passage.— διὰ, on account of) This agrees (coheres) with the threefold clause, and ye have not; and ye cannot obtain; but ye have not.— μὴαἰτεῖσθαι, your not asking) For the lustful, the murderer, and the contentious man, cannot pray.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on James 4:2". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https: 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Ye lust; passionately and greedily desire.

And have not; either soon lose, or rather cannot get, what ye so lust after.

Ye kill; some copies have it, ye envy, and many suppose that to be the better reading, as agreeing with the context, and with James 3:14; envy being the cause of strife there, and joined with emulation, or a desire of having, here. We read it according to other copies, ye kill, which, if he speaketh of wars in a proper sense, James 4:1, was, no doubt, the effect of them; and if he speak only of strife and contentions, yet they might proceed so far, that the death of some (though not intended) might be the consequent of them, and occasioned by them. Or, he may mean their murderous desires, killing men in their hearts, wishing for and gaping after their death, that they might gain by it; and this agrees with what he speaks of the frustration of their greedy desires, none being more frequently disappointed of their hopes than they that hope to be gainers by other men’s deaths.

And disire to have; or, emulate, i.e. ambitiously affect to have what ye see others have, grieving that they should have more than you.

And cannot obtain; viz; that which ye envy others’ having.

Ye fight and war: you wrangle and quarrel with your neighbours for what they have, that ye may get it for yourselves.

Yet ye have not; ye are still needy, though still craving; your lusts are infinite and insatiable in themselves, and no way helpful to you.

Because ye ask not; viz. of God by prayer, who hath promised to give to them that ask, Matthew 7:7, not to them that war and fight. Instead of humble seeking to God for what ye want, ye would extort it by force or fraud from one another.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on James 4:2". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https: 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Have not; real satisfying enjoyment, because you do not seek it in the right things or in the right way. Wars are the fruit of human wickedness. Let all men be at peace with God, and obey the command, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them," and wars will cease.

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