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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

James 5

Verses 1-12

  1. INTRO:
    1. Title: In 1973 the O’Jays sang “For the Love of Money” (from 1 Tim.6:10).
      1. Remembered mostly for its chorus, Money money money money, MONEY!
    2. In 1923 a group of the world’s most successful financiers met at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. One was the president of the largest independent steel company; the greatest wheat speculator; the president of the New York Stock Exchange; a member of the President’s Cabinet; the greatest bear in Wall Street; the president of the Bank of International Settlement; & the head of the world’s greatest monopoly.
      1. Collectively, these tycoons controlled more wealth than there was in the U.S.Treasury, and for years newspapers and magazines had been printing their success stories and urging the youth of the nation to follow their examples.
    3. 27 years later, let’s see what happened to them:
      1. Charles Schwab - the president of the largest independent steel company - lived on borrowed money the last five years of his life, and died penniless.
      2. Arthur Cutten - the greatest wheat speculator - died abroad insolvent.
      3. Richard Whitney - the president of the New York Stock Exchange - was released some time ago from Sing Sing.
      4. Albert Fall - the member of the President’s Cabinet - was pardoned from prison so he could die at home.
      5. Jesse Livermore - the greatest bear in Wall Street - committed suicide.
      6. Leon Fraser - the president of the Bank of International Settlement - committed suicide.
      7. Ivar Kruegar - the head of the world’s greatest monopoly - committed suicide.
        1. All of these men had learned how to make money, but not one of them had learned how to live. (Paul Lee Tan; 7700 Illustrations p.824)
    4. Ch.5 answers, How should we live in the last days? - What does God want for our lives?
      1. James kicks into OT prophet mode as he denounces the very callous rich.
      2. He warns the rich & encourages the poor (i.e. the disenfranchised, the marginalized, those suffering injustice)
    5. It is not true the poor go to heaven & the rich go to hell!
    6. There are 4 categories all humans fit into:
      1. Poor Physically & Poor Spiritually (possess lil of worlds goods & are unbelievers)
      2. Rich Physically & Rich Spiritually (like Job & Joseph, rich economically & spiritually)
      3. Poor Physically & Rich Spiritually (have lil in way of possessions, but are born again)
      4. Rich Physically & Poor Spiritually (this is the group James addresses now)
        1. God’s concern is not with actual wealth, but with our attitude toward wealth & wrong priorities with wealth!
          1. He condemns dishonest & selfish wealth.
    7. History: Let’s remember, James is living in a day when Rome was a plutocracy, a government of the wealthy. (ploutos ‘wealth’ + kratos ‘strength, authority’)
      1. They controlled lawyers like pawns & often caused Christians to be persecuted.
      2. In 4:13 James spoke about individuals who planned as if there was no God; this group spent as if though there was no God. (Swindoll)
  2. Money money money money, MONEY!
    1. PRIORITIES! (1-6)
    2. (Message Bible vs.1-6) And a final word to you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You’ll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment. All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger. You’ve looted the earth and lived it up. But all you’ll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse. In fact, what you’ve done is condemn and murder perfectly good persons, who stand there and take it.
    3. It takes intelligence to make a lot of money, but it takes even greater wisdom to handle it.
    4. To live only to get wealth is to rob yourself of true riches.
      1. Wealth usually causes w/more worry & not more worship.
      2. God knows you have needs, & He will meet them if you practice Mt.6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
    5. What or Who is James writing against?
      1. Those who hoard money for selfish ends (2,3).
      2. Those who make money by oppression (4).
    6. Guilty of hoarding! (2,3)
      1. William Barclay says that in James’ day there were 3 main sources of wealth: Corn & Grain; Garments; & Gold & Silver.
      2. Not only were these 3 main sources for riches but they were also the 3 ways to show off your wealth!
        1. Food, clothing, & precious metals (rings, the coin of the land)
        2. If you were wealthy you “ate well”, “dressed extravagantly”, & “spent generously”.
      3. (3) NEB translates “You have piled up wealth in an age that is near its close.”
    7. Making money by oppression! (4)
      1. The day laborer in Palestine lived on the verge of starvation. His wage was small; it was impossible for him to save anything; & if the wage was withheld from him, even for a day, he & his family simply could not eat. (so the reason O.T. laws set up for them)
        1. Deut.24:14,15 You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates. Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you.
        2. Still like this today in so many places. [27 million enslaved today]
      2. Riches that have not been gotten righteously ever bring a curse w/them!
        1. The rust of unused/misused wealth eats not only into metal but into the misers flesh
        2. If we live the selfish life we are helping to oppress the poor; we rob ourselves from eternal benefits & blessings; & worse of all we rob God throughout the whole process
          1. All this robbery is known by God.
          2. Is your life strategy how to make & store money? Then you’re missing it.
    8. Selfish Lifestyle or unrestrained self-gratification! (5)
      1. “Eat, drink, be merry” then James adds, “then get fat & get slaughtered.”
      2. This reminds me of the vomitorium we see in Bet-Shean in Israel.
        1. Even an animal doesn’t do that???
    9. Taking advantage of the righteous! (6)
      1. Wow, escalates to this? (Murder)
      2. This all reveals the divine passion for justice.
        1. Is.1:16,17 Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.
    10. Life Lessons from James:
      1. God’s concerns is not w/actual wealth, but w/our attitude toward wealth.
      2. God’s counsel is not against people who are wealthy, but against the wrong priorities of the wealthy.
      3. Those who desire to be wealthy might struggle w/covetousness & lack of trust.
      4. The wealthy might struggle with conceit & might see their $ as their security.
      5. The proper priorities are fixing our hope on the Lord & being rich n good works
        1. Eph.1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
        2. It’s to stop thinking for a minute about your bank account & considering your soul’s account!
    11. Remember 4 things…
    12. God owns it all!
      1. Mt.25:14 For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.
      2. As owner, God has all rights. As manager you have responsibilities & rewards
    13. We are in a growth process!
      1. Mt.25:21a His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.
        1. Money is a tool to help you assume greater responsibilities.
        2. Are you becoming a better manager of your resources?
    14. The amount is not important!
      1. Lk.16:10a He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.
      2. In what little things have you been faithful in the past that have resulted in much? [maybe mine would be teaching 2 yr olds - adults today; faithful in preparing my lesson, in showing up, lovin kids] {though wasn’t using it as stepping stone or carrot}
    15. Faith requires action!
      1. Mt.25:24-30(read) This worker new exactly what to do, but didn’t do it!
      2. How is your faith in regards to your resources?
    16. PATIENCE! (7-12)
    17. Now James gives the Christian victims advice on how to live in this intolerable situation.
    18. Don’t miss, this isn’t only a rebuke & warning against the callous rich but this is an encouragement to the poor who have suffered abuse by the rich.
      1. He tells them to be patient & avoid turning on one another, for the Lord is returning again.
      2. Also, their suffering one day will disappear, just like the treasures of the rich.
    19. If you’ve sown the right seed you will eventually reap a harvest of blessing, so be patient
    20. If you’ve been exploited, be patient; the Judge is at the door.
    21. If you’ve been going through trials, be patient; God is still on the throne. (Warren Wiersbe: With The Word; James 5.)
    22. James now points out 3 commands, 2 positive & 1 negative:
      1. 2 are in the category of Do this right now! & the other 2 Don’t even start doing this!
      2. Be Patient – Establish Your Hearts – Do Not Grumble.
    23. Be Patient! (7) - Patiently endure. The word describes the attitude which can endure delay & bear suffering & never give in. (LKGNT)
      1. It’s learning how to overcome natural reactions w/a supernatural response.
      2. Not short-tempered but have a long fuse!
    24. Establish Your Hearts! (8b) (Establish = prop up or support something that’s heavy)
      1. God will often strengthen your heart by changing your focus.
        1. Like Joseph in Gen.50:20.
        2. Key – Quit looking at yourself & your situation & focus on God.
      2. Thus God becomes your teacher & any obnoxious person in your life…is now simply a tool in God’s hand to make you into what he intended you to be!
    25. Do Not Grumble! (9)
      1. The idea was that God became an active partner in the transaction when His name was induced.
      2. The NT view is that “every word” is spoken in the presence of God & ought therefore to be true!
    26. There is this sense in which the Lord is ever at hand & present.
      1. But, He will come again at the end of the age!
        1. Then all wrongs shall be righted & the oppressed avenged.
      2. Do not judge the Lord by His unfinished work.
      3. Be patient till he unveils the perfected pattern in glory.
    27. (11) See the end intended by the Lord - or what the Lord finally purposed for Job. (42:12)

Verses 13-20

  1. INTRO:
    1. How is your prayer life presently? Too often our petitions fit the description of prayer given by Thomas Brooks who said, Cold prayers are as arrows without heads, as swords without edges, as birds without wings; they pierce not, they cut not, they fly not up to heaven. Cold prayers always freeze before they reach heaven.”
      1. Let’s pray…Warm our prayers, warm our hearts. May You Lord warm you hands upon our hearts.
    2. Sometimes, Christians are embarrassing! (more noticeable when you have a non-bel w/you)
      1. How should a Christian act? - James says just act perfectly natural [read 13,14]
        1. i.e. The suffering should pray, the glad sing, the sick confess his sins & call for believing prayer.
    3. Many kinds of prayer are named here: prayer for the sick, prayer for forgiveness, prayer for the nation, even prayer for the weather.
      1. There is no need that prayer cannot meet & no problem that prayer cannot solve.
      2. But not everybody that’s prayed for gets healed. So what then? (they didn’t have enough faith? Unconfessed sin in their life? Wrong healing technique? Have to travel around the world to special healers? What about medicine? What method does God honor?)
    4. Title: Ol’ Camel Knees - Just like a laborer’s hands testify to his occupation, or a runners feet to his training, James callused knees testified to a life of serious prayer. (Kent Hughes; James pg.254)
      1. So, we should listen up to what James has to say regarding Prayer!
        1. He walked his talk...on his knees!
  2. OL’ CAMEL KNEES!
    1. THE EXHORTATION TO PRAYER! (13-16a)
    2. Seasons of prayer! (13): When should we pray?
      1. In times of Trouble (13a) [& In times of Triumph]
        1. Suffering (in distress; broad term = mental illness, anxiety, or some affliction from which there is no immediate relief)
          1. They are told to pray! - doesn’t promise a healing, rather an exhortation to pray for endurance. As we learned from Epaphroditus, Trophimus, Paul & Timothy, God sometimes chooses not to remove certain afflictions. But uses them as tools to strengthen & build us up.
        2. Sick (sick = w/o strength. Physical illness)
          1. First, take initiative & let the elders know. There’s no way anyone knows you’re sick unless you tell them. So, make others aware.
          2. Second, the elders should carry out 2 functions: anoint & pray.
            1. Anoint - could be speaking to a religious ceremony where oil is applied to the head(chrio). Can also be speaking to how oil was used in that day...as one of the best medical means of the day(aleipho/used here; to rub or apply)
              1. So use the best medicine of the day & pray.
              2. “Medical means & prayer used together, neither to the exclusion of the other!”
            2. Fortunately today our medical expertise has improved from oil to antibiotics, X rays & laser surgery.
            3. Note also: James never mentions Faith Healers! - Instead, leaders in your local church.
          3. Third, Leave the results in God’s hands. As elders we are to anoint & pray “in the name of the Lord”, invoking God’s will for the situation.
      2. In times of Triumph (13b) - cheerful
        1. What an opposite extreme. Don’t feel guilty because your’e not experiencing the hardships of others! - There is a time to weep & a time to laugh; a time to mourn & a time to dance.
        2. If you’re joyful, James says, Let it out! - Sing praises & thank God for the blessings He’s given you.
    3. C. Reasons for prayer! (14-16a) - 3 results of praying in faith:
      1. It will save/restore the sick.
      2. It will raise up the sick from the bed of sickness.
      3. They will be forgiven.
        1. This Gk construction indicates the possibility of sin being related to the sickness. (Linguistic Key to the Greek NT: James 5:15 “The perf. part. is used in a periphrastic perf. act. subj. in a condition of 3rd class which indicates the possibility of sin being related to the sickness.”)
          1. Explain not all sin is...but some sins bring about sickness & disease.
            1. i.e. Excessive drinking/liver problems; sexual immorality/STD’s; etc.
    4. Confess to one another - probably to those who you have wronged; maybe also for accountability(get in the light). Must be no blushing of sins if prayer to prevail.
    5. Let’s remember 5 Foundational Facts:
      1. There are 2 classifications of sin, original & personal.
        1. Original - refers to our sin nature we inherited from Adam.
        2. Personal - daily disobedience that is spawned by our Adamic nature.
          1. Original sin is the root; personal sin the fruit.
      2. Original sin introduced sickness & death to the human race.
        1. Adam & Eve disobeyed God, thus sickness & death spread to every living thing.
        2. Thus all sickness & death are the result of original sin.
      3. Sometimes there is a direct relationship between personal sin & sickness.
        1. Story of David & Bathsheba(adultery, murder, refusal to repent) - Ps.32 is David’s journals of this period.
          1. Ps.32:3,4 When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.
      4. Sometimes there is no direct relationship between personal sin & sickness.
        1. Jn.9:2b,3 Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.
      5. It is not God’s will that everyone be healed.
        1. Ex: Paul had the gift of healing but left Trophimus sick in Miletus; Epaphroditus almost died while ministering to Paul; Timothy had a stomach problem & frequent ailments; Paul asked God 3 x’s to remove his thorn in the flesh, that God said no to, but that His grace was sufficient for him.
    6. THE EXAMPLE OF PRAYER! (16b-18)
    7. The power! (16b) A righteous person’s prayer is both powerful and effective.
      1. Not human telepathy, but divine healing, which is God’s gift to faith.
    8. The person! (17-18) James selects Elijah as his role model here.
      1. A nature like ours - the power of his prayers was in a powerful God, not in his own supernatural greatness, rather in his humanity.
    9. To become more effective in our praying, we should heed these words of Bishop Hall: “It is not the arithmetic of our prayers, how many they are; nor the rhetoric of our prayers, how eloquent they be; nor the geometry of our prayers, how long they be; nor the music of our prayers, how sweet our voice may be; nor the method of our prayers, how orderly they may be; nor even the theology of our prayers, how good the doctrine may be - which God cares for. Fervency of spirit is that which availeth much.”
      1. James reminds us that Elijah prayed earnestly. And what answers he received - the very forces of nature were changed!
        1. By contrast, indefinite praying by indifferent people brings little results.
        2. Fervent prayer, if it be for God’s glory and presented in the name of His Son, will accomplish great things for time and eternity.
    10. SOUL WINNING! (19-20)
    11. Have you ever rescued someone from drowning? Often victims will fight their rescuers in the hysteria of that terrifying moment.
      1. This often happens to those floundering spiritually also!
      2. FBR river training (if they try to fight you, duck under, get out of the way, wait, try again)
    12. The faithfulness of a soul winner! (5:19)
    13. Wander/stray - Those who wander off the prescribed course they once knew.
    14. Can you detect when a fellow believer starts to stray? Are you truly concerned? What do you normally do? How do you handle it? Are you too harsh? Do you not say anything so as not to “offend”?
    15. Is there anyone you know of right now that you should talk to? Will you try to help? Will you wait too long?
    16. Who do you need to swim out & rescue? Don’t let them go. If they fight you, back off & wait for that right moment & get in there again. Get a life jacket around them. Get them to shore.
    17. The fruits of a soul winner! (5:20)
    18. 2-fold reason why we should seek to convert men/women:
      1. Save their soul from death (phys death) - or, restoring their fellowship w/God.
      2. Cover a multitude of sin - stop the influence of their sin (upon them & others).
    19. None of us consistently produces actions that verify our faith in Christ. (Charles Swindoll; James; pg.66)
      1. We drift in & out of godly living.
      2. Yet our hope is not in how well we live but in how well Christ lived & died, on our behalf.
      3. Our salvation is secure in Him & in Him alone.
      4. He is always ready to welcome straying sheep back into His fold through repentance & restoration.
    20. Told in the story of 1st Samuel...Hannah wanted only a son, but God wanted more. God wanted a prophet, & a savior, & a ruler for His people.
      1. Someone said that “God had to get a woman before He could get a man.” (Samuel)
        1. This woman He got in Hannah, precisely by delaying the answer to her prayer.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on James 5". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/james-5.html. 2017.