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Bible Commentaries

Box's Commentaries on Selected Books of the Bible

James 5




The book of James closes with a look at several practical teachings. James pictures the danger of God's judgments upon the extravagant rich. Their pride, cruelty, undisciplined living and cheating of their fellow men would result in the condemnation of Jehovah.

Many of God's faithful followers were being oppressed. They were taught to "be patient, for the Lord's coming is nigh." Patient carries the idea of being long-spirited, or forbearing. These brethren were taught to patiently endure these difficulties. Christians were not to murmur, or groan over the situation, because God would settle all accounts at Judgment.

The prophets and Job should provide brethren with encouragement concerning the value of patience under trials and sufferings. They are a wonderful pattern of hopeful endurance. Their patient continuance or waiting on God is the exact kind of persistence needed by every Christian.

James closed the chapter with one final look at proper and improper uses of the tongue. The tongue of a Christian should not be used to swear. Oats should not be necessary in order to cause a Christian to tell the truth. The Christian's tongue should also be used for prayer and asking for forgiveness. Christians are instructed to acknowledge their faults one to another, and to pray one for another.

The final word from James is "do what we can to bring back those that have strayed from the way of truth." It is a blessing both to the one doing the converting and to the one being converted when an erring soul is restored to Christ.

Verses 1-11

Retain the right attitude -- Jam_5:1-11 Wealth is not wrong within itself. The trouble with riches is in reference to wealth held without regard for the kingdom of God. The worldly rich that are described here are those who chose to just allow their belongings to be corrupted and spoiled, rather than to be put to some good use in the church. Man must learn that possessions are worthless without God.

The rust of their gold and silver witness against them that they have not been an honor to God. They will weep and howl as the judgment of God comes upon them for their self-hardened and rebellious life. Rich men have a tendency to say, eat, drink and be merry, yet God says, "weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you." It is difficult to possess riches without sin. It is so easy for riches to hindered a person's journey to heaven.

The words of James often echo the words of Jesus. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." ( Mat_6:19 ) The hoarding of wealth, while brethren are in need and good works are to be done brings a curse both upon the person and his goods. If my attitude is "me first" my life will be a wasted life.

It is a strange paradox that the miseries and dreadful judgments arise from the very things the rich man thought would make him happy. God charged these rich men with the terrible sin of covetousness, the sin of cheating their poor labors and the sin of living in pleasure while those about them were living in poverty. The cries of the poor, abused souls came into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Sabaoth is a military term meaning armies or hosts.

On Judgment Day, not only our actions, but also the circumstances of our actions, will be judged. An example of this truth is the poor widow who gave much because she gave all. ( Mar_12:43 ) Her gift was small based on amount, but very large based on circumstance.

Christians can be happy in this life if they develop patience. We must wait for God's deliverance, just as we wait for the crops to grow. We must be strong in heart, knowing that in judgment God will take care of the wicked. A variety of miseries came upon the prophets and Job. Many of the things they suffered were very grievous troubles. Yet, under all these things they continued to bless God and serve Him faithfully.

Verse 12

Refrain from improper speech -- Jam_5:12 : James condemns vain and rash swearing. The expression "Above all things" shows the importance of the right kind of speech. "Above all things" carries the idea that this is a matter we should "especially" give our attention to. A Christian does not need to confirm his word with an oath. Accustom yourselves to a true simplicity and plainness of speech.

A Christian must always tell the truth in all circumstances. Therefore, avoid the use of an oath to strengthen your assertions in ordinary conversation. To take an oath in court when lawfully called to do so is not the matter being considered in this text.

Christians "fall into condemnation" for not telling the truth simply. There should be no need for the use of oaths in our daily speech. The Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain .

Verses 13-18

Rely on prayer -- Jam_5:13-18 : James closed with a series of admonitions to assist Christians in daily living. He said Christians should: (1) Pray when in trouble, ( Jam_5:13 ) (2) Sing psalms when they happy, ( Jam_5:13 ) (3) Have others (the elders) praying for them, In the times of miraculous healing, the sick were to be anointed with oil in the name of the Lord, ( Jam_5:14-15 ) (4) Confess faults to one another and pray for one another. ( Jam_5:16 )

There is power in prayer. Elijah's prayer stopped the rain. ( Jam_5:17-18 ) The Almighty God answered his prayers, and He will do the same for us.

Verses 19-20

Restore the erring -- Jam_5:19-20 : To become a Christian you must hear the gospel ( Rom_10:17 ), believe in Jesus ( Joh_8:24 ), repent of sins ( Act_2:38 ), confess Christ as Lord ( Act_8:37 ), and be baptized to be saved ( Mar_16:16 ). Sadly many become Christian and then turn back to walk no more with the Lord. The epistle of James closes with an admonition to restore the erring.

Teaching, prayer, reproof, pleading and every sincere effort should be put forth to recover the wandering backslider from his damnation. We have a great responsibility to take care of our own soul. We also have responsibility to watch over the souls of our brethren. A Christian can err from the truth, and it frequently happens.

Let us learn that: (1) A Christian can depart from the living God. (2) The brother who "errs from the truth" is now a sinner. (3) The brother who has erred from the truth needs to be converted. (4) The one who converts an erring brother "hides a multitude of sins." (5) There is nothing worse than living and dying without God.

There are no farewell greeting, and no formal close of any kind to the book of James, just heart touching words about saving the lost. Remember, "to save another's soul is the surest way to save one's own soul."

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at Public Domain.
Bibliographical Information
Box, Charles. "Commentary on James 5". "Box's Commentaries on Selected books of the Bible". 2014.