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James 5:1, 411, 1320comment (0)

August 27, 2009

By Jay T. Robertson

Related Scripture: James 5:1, 411, 1320

Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

James 5:1, 4–11, 13–20

The Wicked Will Be Punished (1, 4–6)

Verse 1 expresses both the severity and the certainty of God’s judgment on the rich. The severity is suggested in part by the call for the rich to “weep and wail.” This is not the cry of repentance but rather the wailing that should characterize people who know they are under God’s judgment. The certainty of the judgment is indicated by the words “are coming on you.” Make no mistake — every sin either will be pardoned in Christ or punished in hell.

The reason for the divine judgment on the rich is not the possession of wealth but the sins associated with wealth. The first sin is injustice. James showed that the greed of the rich had manifested itself in the withholding of wages from those who had worked for them. In addition to the cries of the wages was “the outcry of the harvesters.” While the cry of the oppressed is not often heard on the earth, James assured us that their cry is heard in heaven. The Lord of hosts, a title of deity implying sovereign power and sustaining provision, hears and responds to the cry of the oppressed. The second sin charged against the rich is their luxury. Like the cattle in their fields, the rich gorged themselves on luxuries and failed to realize that they were headed for the final slaughter. The third sin charged is that of physical violence against the righteous. The wealthy landowners controlled the courts of the land; therefore the poor could not oppose them because they had no means of using the system. Thus they were helpless. The Lord of heaven’s armies are going to battle against the enemies of His righteous ones.

Your Future Is Secure (7–11)
The attention turns from rich to poor, from the evil oppressors to the righteous oppressed. Rather than fighting back, they were called to patient endurance and to trust in God to vindicate them. The rich would be punished for their oppressions; therefore suffering Christians should leave things in God’s hands. The key theme in these verses is patience. We are to exhibit Spirit-produced self-restraint that enables us to bear insult and injury without resorting to hasty retaliation. Christ-followers should have a grace-enabled “long fuse.” Patience is an attribute of God (Ex. 34:6; Rom. 2:4) and a distinctive trait of Christian character. Another form of patience is found in endurance. This word means “to remain under.” Christians are not quitters, even in hard times. Christians should expect suffering (2 Tim. 3:12). When it comes, it should be borne valiantly and without complaint. In the midst of persecution and hardship, we must keep before us the “coming of the Lord.”

James supplied three examples of patience. First he mentioned the experience of the farmer. The farmer patiently waits for his land to produce precious crops. Believers also must be patient with the attitude of watchful and constant expectancy. Second James mentioned the experience of the prophets — Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel and others — as an example of suffering affliction and patience. The prophets are known for their hard suffering and great patience. The point is when we find ourselves suffering for righteousness’ sake, we should strive to be like them in patience. Third he mentioned the experience of Job. Job did not give up under the severe trials that came upon him. Job sometimes erupted into impassioned outbursts, but in spite of all his trials, he maintained a persistent trust in God. May our knowledge of Him strengthen us to persevere and endure hardships in such a way that He will be glorified.     

Your Prayers Are Powerful (13–20)
Speaking mainly of prayer, James restated some of the letter’s key themes, including trials and misuse of the tongue. The ultimate way to “tame” one’s tongue is to “pray for” others. James exhorted us to “confess [our] sins to one another.” Sometimes confession in the faith community is necessary before healing can take place, since sin may be the cause of the illness (1 Cor. 11:29–30). “Pray for one another” is directed to all the readers of James’ letter and indicates that he did not expect prayer for healing to be limited to the elders. The righteous will have great power in prayer, as God grants their requests. 

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