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Mr. D’s Notes on James
One of my relatives owned his own business, working hard, keeping everything going smoothly throughout his life. He poured many long hours, or you might say his life into the business looking forward to his retirement. He and his wife had a nice home, furniture and cars.
He had two children but they weren’t offered any help from their father, because he was laying his riches away for the future. He did nothing to benefit others with his money, and didn’t benefit himself very much. They lived fairly modestly for the wealth that they had accumulated.
One day someone found one hundred dollar bills lying around the alley behind his garage. He had forgotten to close his safe and the neighbor kids had found the open safe and were playing with the money.
He had a foul mouth and condemned anyone that did good for others. His brother-in-law was a minister, but I did not know this until the man’s funeral.
When retirement age arrived, he sold his business for a great deal of money and set out to enjoy his gain. Within six months the man was laying in a hospital with terminal lung cancer that had spread to his brain. He never left the hospital, though he lived another several months.
Slaving his entire life to gain riches, he laid up stores in earthly investments, not looking at his eternal bank account.
He didn’t get to enjoy his hard earned riches
Oh, how this man fits this passage of Scripture. It was of interest that only after he had been stripped of all desire for his wealth and stripped of his health did he consider spiritual things. God in His infinite grace reached down through a born again Presbyterian pastor to touch this man’s life for himself. The pastor mentioned in the funeral sermon that the man had opened his heart to God.
And the heavy blast strikes the reader. Oh, how appropriate to our own day. The rich in James day were probably the middle class of our day. Weep and howl for your miseries - this guy isn’t nice. Your riches are polluted and your clothes are rotting off your back. Moth-eaten - doesnt James know how offensive it is to intimate that you have moths in your home. When I was a kid that was like admitting you had mice or lice in the house.
James really lays out his thinking to the rich. The rich must have been way off base spiritually. We might make note that these were people that had not had a lot of good preaching down at First Baptist on the corner; they were saved but for the most part not well grounded in the Word. Jews with an Old Testament background, but no real New Testament teaching it would seem. Their pastor wasn’t a graduate of Jerusalem Bible College and seminary, but probably just a graduate of Read and Study Institute.
How does this link to the previous context might be your question. He has just pointed out that the planning without God is improper. Several commentators assume that he was speaking to Jewish businessmen of the day that would go to a different location and make a fortune and return home.
If this is the case, then he is just continuing to point out the folly of their way of life in an attempt to get the men to change their ways and to conform to the proper Christian living principles set forth.
This rather ties in well with the whole thought of the book - not giving preference to the rich etc. It would seem the rich were a problem among the believers in these churches.
Go to now, [ye] rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon [you].
The verb tenses are of note in this verse. They are told to weep, a one time act, but they are also told to howl which is a present tense or something that was to continue. They might weep, but that turns to howling when the full realization of their miseries is clear in their mind. These problems are to come upon them - this is also a present tense, something that is probably already upon the reader. "Come upon" can relate to an attack on someone. This isn’t just a problem of life, this is real misery. "Miseries" relates to hardship and calamity. Weep and howl when your calamity is upon you, oh rich man.
It would seem that these miseries are due to the sins of omission in the last verse of chapter four. They knew to do good, but did not do it, thus sinned.
Moving on, I would like to share the account of an old man in my hometown. I do not know his name, nor do I know where he lived, but the whole town knew the man. Every now and then he would come to town to buy groceries and supplies. He came to town in a horse and wagon. It wasn’t just a buggy; it was a freight wagon like Charles Ingles drove in "LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE" the type with just a rectangular box on four wheels and a seat on top.
This old man would drive into town from the south on the main paved highway. The only modern convenience his wagon appeared to have was a triangle danger, slow-moving sign on the back - reflective of course.
His appearance rather well fit a freight wagon driver. He was dirty, long hair with a long unkempt beard. His clothes were testament to his lack of darkening the door of a clothing store for quite some years. His coat had holes in it and was quite soiled.
Not a pretty sight, but it may give us some indication of what James was getting at when he mentions the rich people’s clothes were moth eaten.
Many in that day were wealthy to the point of having hundreds of garments; in fact one is to known to have owned over five thousand garments.
I am told that Jackie Onasis, when alive, had an entire large warehouse for storing her wardrobe - the out of date stuff of course. She kept a small wardrobe in every house that they owned and in every city that they visited.
Most would suggest, what is the purpose of buying this many items in the first place, and why hang onto them in a warehouse in the final place. What a waste of money and especially time, looking for them, buying them, cleaning them and then preparing them for storage.
This idea of moth eaten is of interest in the thought of our illustration. Imagine the rich person like Jackie Onasis hearing that the warehouse had been invaded by moths. What a loss, what a problem. Moral of the story, don’t buy a lot of clothes so you don’t have to go through such heartache.
Before we begin the verse, I might mention that some of the common commodities of the day were oils and grains, which spoil and rot. This may be what James had reference to, when he mentioned, "Your riches are corrupted."
1. Wow, what an opportunity to comfort and maybe witness to the rich, when they are howling over their tragedies and losses. Take that opportunity, not to gloat, but to offer comfort and maybe even assistance in their hard time.
You like comfort when having hard times, and the rich are no different. They hurt the same way you do - just not as quickly during financial losses. Being a friend might be just what they need. They don’t need you preaching, they need you supporting. If a good opportunity to tell them of the Lord opens up, go ahead and share God’s love, but don’t start telling them you know how they feel, or that riches are wrong anyway - that is not the message they need to change, their lives - only the Gospel can assist in that task.
2. This passage is partially meant for the rich, but must have been a great encouragement for the believers that were suffering under the hands of the rich. The caution would be that the suffering believer should not get all high and mighty, knowing trouble is coming to the one that causes them trouble. Probably a better reaction would be one of sorrow for what the rich person is going to have to go through.
Man normally loves it when the bad guy gets their due, but that isn’t always the correct attitude for the believer. Putting ourselves in their place and trying to understand what they are going through will bring us to a proper attitude of wanting to support and assist.
I have mentioned before that our neighborhood is filled with the poor end of society, both economically and legally. Often when someone in a family is arrested, there is that rush of "Finally, the police are going to do something!" However, soon you often see the rest of the family trying to move out to some other place because they don’t have money to pay the rent.
The water, electric and gas disconnect folks ought to put remote, radio valves and switches on the rental houses in our area, it would save them a lot of trips out to shut off and turn on utilities.
3. Not only the rich need the following passage, but many middle income in our day, and probably the poor as well. Our society is so fixated on funds, things, and being that we all tend to seek riches in the wrong area of life - the material.
Matthew 6:19 "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Poor people seem to even have a sense of entitlement to all that everyone else has. Even young people have fallen into this trap. A young person almost expects that he is owed all that he/she wants or desires. When they are out on their own, they assume that they will automatically have everything their folks have - it is their right, my folks have it so I should also.
They assume that if they don’t have it all, that it is their employers fault; they are not paying them enough to buy it all, so start wanting raises or looking for a better job.
The sad part of it seems to be that businesses are willing to give more and more to the young people because they demand it and take and take from the older folks that have worked hard for what is being taken away from them.
All believers need to be reminded that it is God and His area of life, that we should concern ourselves with, not the world and all it has to offer.
4. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown state the following of verse six. "Ye have condemned [and] killed the just;" "Their condemnation of Christ, "the Just," is foremost in James’ mind. But all the innocent blood shed, and to be shed is included, the Holy Spirit comprehending James himself, called "the Just," who was slain in a tumult."
They do not suggest any reason for taking the passage to mean Christ; they just assume it and state it as fact. James, himself was called "the just" but there is no reason to assume he was speaking of himself either. I might add, however, that this passage probably came to some believers minds when James the Just was killed for his faith later on.
5. One must consider whether these rich were saved or unsaved. Verse seven seems to transition from the first part of the chapter with "Be patient therefore, brethren," which indicates the first portion is to unsaved people. Verse six also seems to draw a division between the just and those persecuting them. The whole tone of verses one through six seems to be to unsaved people.
The next question is whether they are part of the assembly or not. It might be possible that James is speaking to the brethren with this parenthetical outburst to indicate he knew what they were facing and to encourage them, however this is a bit of a stretch for me.
Barnes follows this line when he suggests that James did not expect the rich to actually hear the words that he spoke against them.
It is possible that the rich lost people were in the assembly as people professing to believe. This has been a problem for the church all through history.
It would seem, for whatever reason, that the rich, lost people were in the assembly. Now, I see a pure, body made up of believers only, as the Biblical standard for a church. If these rich were present in the assembly, and they seem to be, then the church was already in the habit of inviting lost into the assembly in the hope of bringing them to the Lord. If true, this fallacy continues to this day.
This idea that the people invite the lost into the church has cost the church dearly in purity as well as dollars. I was speaking to a man that attends a large church and we spoke of the costs of the church and apart from the building, much of the cost was programs to draw people into the church to evangelize them. This is not the proper mode of evangelism and is costing churches millions of dollars in buildings and programs.
Think about it, it costs big money to have the big concerts, the secular concerts the Texas holdem events and all the other nonsense that is put on in the name of Jesus to draw lost people into the church - to hopefully win a few.
One church spent a couple million plus for an auditorium so they could show secular movies to the neighborhood in the hope of evangelizing them. Knock on their door, that is free.
1 Corinthians 14:23 states: "If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in [those that are] unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?" The church is assembled and unsaved seem to "happen" in. This is not prohibited, but it doesn’t seem to be the norm. No where is the church described as a station of evangelism, but rather a training center for believers, so that they mature. There is no way to have a pure church when you invite the lost in via enticements and false motives.
6. In Verse six there is a bit of controversy. Some suggest that "just" refers to Christ. There doesn’t seem to be any basis for this interpretation in my mind. Phillips translates it as follows: "Yes, you have had a magnificent time on this earth, and have indulged yourselves to the full. You have picked out just what you wanted like soldiers looting after battle. 6. You have condemned and ruined innocent men in your career, and they have been powerless to stop you."
Those that see "just" as Christ go on to tell that Christ will certainly oppose the rich in the end. This is true, but there doesn’t seem to be good reason to view "just" as indicative of Christ.
7. How might the rich, today, cause the death of the just? Are these just situations for James day, or is there something for us today?
I have heard, over the years, of many mining accidents where miners were killed due to cave ins or explosions in the mine. Many of these, later, are found to be caused by the leadership pushing the safety limits or pushing the men and equipment to unsafe limits. This, in my mind would be a case in point from our day where we could apply James principles.
Any accident where someone was injured or killed because safety or correct procedures were forcibly avoided to the detriment of the worker would fit into our thought.
If you are an employer, you need to assure the safety of your workers and not cut corners to save a few bucks. Your workers are your responsibility so you ought to care for them as best you can.
8. We will look at the "not resisting" topic later, but just a few notes now. If we are not to resist, how do we relate to the following situations?
a. If we aren’t to resist can we Biblically participate in a strike?
b. If we aren’t to resist can we Biblically participate in wage/benefit demands?
c. If we aren’t to resist can we Biblically participate in picket lines?
Apart from being involved in saying no to an employer, you are involving yourself in everything that a union stands for which is violence, corruption and liberal ideals. Indeed, some unions advocate great violence. There was a teachers strike in Oregon that was becoming a little contentious. The union placed a quote from a man that lived in the early days of the union. The quote advocated killing anyone that would cross the picket lines. This was displayed on the union representing the teachers website.
Would you, as a believer, want your name associated with such things?
The shocking thing is that many Christians see nothing wrong with a union, nor their activities. They take the good with the bad and wink at the bad, dismissing it because they disagree with it.
Humm, wonder what that lost neighbor will think when he sees you in the picket line seemingly advocating what your union does. Wonder how inconsistent you will seem to those you work with when you bow to the union and they know that you believe the Bible that tells you to be in submission to your employer.
Some ramifications believers ought to consider before backing a union in any way.
We might add to the list any sort of march or protest rally.
Some passages to consider: 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Romans 13:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-14.
9. Not only do these rich people have the woe of being on the wrong side of Christ and being miserable in not being happy as a rich person, but they do not know the joy of doing good.
Not all rich are miserable, but many are. Imagine having a billion or two lying around and wanting to spend it and enjoy it - what could you do, you can’t spend that much money, though we’d all probably enjoy trying. Some rich people do find happiness and it is usually around doing good with their money and having a proper attitude toward money - a case of them ruling their money rather than it ruling them.
I’m not sure where rich begins and not rich ends, but I do know that when your heart is here and now, there can be little true happiness, and when your heart is where the Lord is, there is true happiness.
When a person is centered here and now, there is never enough to satisfy the desires, be it money, power or position. When you are centered in the heavenlies you have all that you need, are powerless to do anything but serve Christ and in the best possible position - right where God wants you.
10. The idea of having a ton of money, and not being able to spend it or enjoy it must be a little bit of terrible in itself. To know you have a couple thousand extra to spend and being unable to go out shopping - what a frustration that must be.
I will say that the rich person that goes to his death bed may not be too interested in trying to spend it. When you are in the hospital and the physical is off center, you seldom look very far beyond the physical pain and feeling of total loss of control. You are reduced to the physical being and getting it back on track, but if death is coming that is impossible and a large frustration, I would assume.
If, in your life’s walk you encounter a rich person that is failing, have a little compassion on them, they are going through a double set of circumstance - loosing control of their riches as well as their physical being.
Christians can enjoy the peace during these times that comes with having no concern for the things of riches, and only needing to focus on the Lord for their physical and spiritual condition.
11. I would not want anyone to think that the rich are the only ones that assemble to themselves excess riches. Even middle income and even poor people can amass more material items than they can use.
I subscribe to a Yahoo group of "recyclers" that post by email anything that they want to get rid of that still works and is useable. It is amazing what is offered. Microwaves, televisions, stereos, baby equipment, and all sorts of other items of good value that are no longer needed. At least they are getting rid of the stuff before it is cankered and rotted.
If you just think about your own closet. How much of the clothing that you own do you actually wear? How much "stuff" is stored in the garage that you no longer use, that you probably will never use, that your children will have to garage sale off, when you die? My kids are going to kill us when they start going through stuff.
My wife has a tin collection, those pretty popcorn, candy and everything else tins. They are great to look at, and we look at them because they are stacked all over the house. But more importantly we store all our unused treasures in them. If my wife wants some yarn she doesn’t go to the store to purchase it, she goes looking through tins to make her selection.
I think we all have things we don’t need, so we shouldn’t be too hard on the rich that do the same thing we do, even though they do it in a much larger fashion than we.
I might add, to this thought that our riches are corrupting and rotting, just like the rich man’s. I love electronic things since I was in electronics for years. I have stored a large bunch of items that we purchased and used, but when we stopped using them, I just put them away for future use.
I have been shocked recently, in that the last two items that I took out of storage to use, did not function. They had failed while sitting idle in the garage. Soooo, the moral of the story, the rich man is wrong for his actions, and is paying for it, but we also, tend to do the same thing in a smaller manner.
12. The text dealt with the rich making money by cheating the worker. We see this today on the corporate level. The several big "book cooking" operations cheated employees out of millions. The car manufacturers went to the unions and cooked up deals to cut benefits for people that had already retired.
The airlines have dumped their retirement programs and the Federal government is required to cover the losses because they were dumb enough to guarantee them in the past. This is the corporations stealing from all taxpayers, not just their own employees.
In the Old Testament there are many countries that are listed as having a future judgment. Now, we don’t know how a country can be judged, but if a country can be, I suspicion that corporations will also be judged.
It may be that the leaders of the countries/corporations will be held accountable in the end, or whether this is a "here and now" decline into insignificance we don’t know. God will have His way with those that counter his commands in the Word.
13. "Ye have condemned [and] killed the just; [and] he doth not resist you." is a phrase that just screams for some consideration. James speaks to the fact that some in the church had killed, or caused the death of just men, but the men had not resisted the rich.
Two things. Christian’s involved in unjust killing and secondly the just being killed were not resisting the killers. Let’s think about those two items for a moment.
Christian’s involved in unjust killing: We might think of Saul and his persecution of the church, but we realize that he did this while he was a non-believer. He thought he was doing "right" for Judaism, but he was certainly condemning just men to death.
How could a believer be involved in this sort of action? How could a believer involved in such actions be a part of the church? Why wouldn’t he be subject to church discipline? A number of questions that we need to understand.
Being unjustly condemned to death and not resisting: Now, if someone hauled me off to jail and was trying to put me to death, I think I would be fighting with every tool I have to clear myself.
I have been corresponding with a prisoner in the south that contacted me through our website. I have been taken with his complete peace about his situation. He is not condemning people for incarcerating him unjustly, he is simply doing the best he can in the situation he is in.
He has determined that he is going to play by the rules, and take full advantage of all that is offered him. He has a fairly interesting job, he lives in minimum security so has his own room with a little more than bare minimum. He is taking extension Bible training and has planned that by the time he comes up for parole that he will have his Doctorate in counseling. He evidently knows his situation is just and deserved, but he is going to make the most of the opportunity that God has afforded Him in this not so nice situation.
Evidently he was an unjust man justly condemned. He has not resisted those that wished him harm, probably due to his realization as a believer that it was just.
Imagine now, if you will, being UNJUSTLY condemned. We have Joseph in the Old Testament that is a good example of being unjustly condemned, and we know his attitude was that God meant all of his younger life for GOOD.
We have other examples in the book of Daniel. Daniel himself was condemned for something that was right - prayer - some of his enemies just hornswaggled the king into making prayer illegal. The trio in the fires of the furnace as well. They didn’t cry out concerning their unjust treatment, they just endured what God had brought into their lives.
Now, let’s apply this to our own day.
a. Our son is told he can’t read his Bible at recess on the playground. How do we react? Do we go to court if need be? How far do we go to gain our rights?
b. Someone t-bones you in an intersection. It was fact that you looked both ways and saw no oncoming traffic. The driver is known for driving under the influence and multiple accidents due to the drugs.
Do you fight her lawsuit? Do you try to demean her in court over her past driving history?
First off, her past driving history cannot be brought up in trial - a little more unjustness to the mix. She sues you, so you have no choice but to go to court and make a defense. The insurance company makes most of the decisions for you so you are limited in what evolves in this situation.
c. The church wants to build a new building, but there are city codes that seem to block your efforts. Do you go to court to force the city to allow your building? Do you "prove" the bureaucrats wrong?
A church in our city was faced with such a situation. They went to the neighbors on foot and talked to everyone they could contact and there was no opposition. When they went into the permitting process with the city, all sorts of opposition came to the front. The city had two options available and rather than stand up to the sudden opposition which had no real foundation, they opted to reject the permit for the church.
The church then jumped through a large number of city hoops to try to gain a permit in another manner, and that attempt was squashed as well. The church had adequate property to build their desired building on, the new building covered up a rather simple looking educational wing and there was no reason for them not to be allowed to build, other than the city council rejecting their permit process.
This church opted to sue the city. They were faced with a difficult decision. On the one hand they were treated unjustly because they were a church. This was evident in the public discussions as well as in the council meetings on the subject. They had every right to have the permit, and there were no valid oppositions that were not met with complete answers by the church. The church agreed to build a smaller building, the church jumped though every hoop the city set before them, yet they were still rejected.
They could have walked away from it and found other solutions, but they took a stand based on the principle that they were being discriminated against because they were a church. Whether they were right or wrong in the situation to sue needs to go back to Scripture and its dealing with lawsuits - that is another study.
The actions of a believer, when unjustly treated, is a hard one to determine, but we do have this passage as well as others. Maybe a "NO RESISTANCE" policy would be the best.
We, in America, have been blessed beyond belief with our freedom to do as we please as believers. This however is changing drastically lately. More and more our rights are being challenged and eroded. We need to make a good study of how we should respond to these challenges. Ought we to stand up and fight as many are doing, or as others are doing, allow unjust treatment to go unchallenged.
One thing we should realize from this passage is that the people had no real options to resist in a legal manner. They had little in the way of rights if they had no money.
Let us see if we can set some principles to consider as we go forward in America’s anti Christian atmosphere.
a. Use those avenues to which we are given in our legal system. The real question here is do we have Biblical authority to enter into lawsuits. The New Testament says we aren’t to sue a brother, due to the fact that we have church discipline to settle difficulties between believers. Some take the phrase at the end of the Matthew church discipline passage to mean you can take non-believers to court. "17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell [it] unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."
Personally, I am not sure that is a correct interpretation of the phrase. This seems to mean that you treat them as a heathen and a publican due to his non Christian stance. To take it as if they are to be considered non believers, you would need to witness to them, kick them out of the church. This doesn’t seem to fit the nature of the Word of God.
1 Corinthians 6:1 "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? 2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? 4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. 5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. 7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather [suffer yourselves to] be defrauded? 8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that [your] brethren."
b. Consider whether you will be able to witness to that lost person that you sue. What will your relationship be to them after the law suit? Not a friendly one I would assume.
c. Is there some other way to settle the issue? Any method but cutting off ties to the person should be preferable.
d. Is a law suit ever the answer for a believer? I am not sure it is. If you, as a believer, are sued, then you need to give a good defense, but if it is up to you to sue someone else, I am not sure you should in light of what we’ve seen thus far. It probably would be within your rights if the person is not a believer, but is it expedient? Is there anything in this life worth going to law over if you can’t share the gospel with the person at a later date?
One further passage. There is a passage from the hand of Peter which speaks well to this subject. 1 Peter 4:18-19 "18 Servants, [be] subject to [your] masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19 For this [is] thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory [is it], if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer [for it], ye take it patiently, this [is] acceptable with God. 21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:"
When we do right and suffer for it patiently, we will be following the Lord’s example. It would seem that this is the life that we are called to rather than the life of one standing up for our rights.
As you sit patiently, remember to consider the other person’s problems before God. Consider the person’s need of salvation. Consider how you might be used in both areas.
Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are Moth-eaten.
In this verse the riches and Moth-eaten garments are in the perfect tense, something that is corrupted and will be corrupted to the end of the process, and the garments are Moth-eaten now and they will continue in this Moth-eaten condition to completion - most likely the destruction of the garment.
These are processes that are happening, are ongoing and that will come to a final conclusion. Not much hope for the rich man’s riches and clothes.
We need to understand that riches may not mean money, but can relate to power, position and holdings. The end is the same for all kinds of riches - corruption.
These are most likely the miseries of verse one. The rich weep and howl at the declining condition of their riches. One of the joys of giving your riches away must be knowing that the money is going to a good cause not just sitting in an investment somewhere drawing corruption.
Recently I saw Bill Gates talking about his foundation and the tremendous good it was doing around the world. I could be mistaken but I really felt that he was very happy at the moment as he spoke of the changed lives. He seemed much happier than when I’ve seen him talking about computers and software. There was a real peace and joy in his face and his speech.
Riches bring short lived joy and happiness, but they cannot bring that joy that the soul desires from God.
Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
Again, the construction of "cankered" is the perfect - it is and it will be till the end. Rust has the thought of poison, the poison of snakes. It is that process of poisoning your gold and silver. The verse speaks of heaping treasures together for the last days. To the Jew of this time, this was most likely the piling up of riches to take with them in death. They most likely had little thought to the prophecy aspect of the last days. One of our relatives always told everyone he was taking his money with him, that he had ordered an asbestos coffin. Might have saved his money but from where we are in medical research the cancer would get him from the asbestos poisoning.
I would like to consider the gold and silver for a moment. I think this is speaking in general of money, riches etc. Anyone that has collected coins knows that coinage of Christ’s time is still around. It isn’t in the best of condition, but the coins are still being found today. They didn’t have banks to take their money to, so many buried their money in the back yard. They are still digging up money in the old Roman Empire. Even many of the non-precious metal coinage is in fair shape, so this isn’t speaking specifically to the gold and silver coins. I have a coin that is very pitted, but the image is quite visible, and this coin dates to the time of Christ. The phrase could also refer to the jewelry that was worn at the time.
Let’s take a quick read of Mark 10:17-25, a very familiar account. "17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God. 19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
Several things to observe. First, Christ loved the man in the condition he was in, whether lost or saved. We don’t know if he was a believer in the Old Testament sense or not, but it would appear that he was. Often this account is told in light of the man being lost and not willing to give up his riches. We aren’t told either of these items from the text.
If he believed, he may well have gone and sold all that he had, we aren’t told. Christ, however used the man to show that a rich man will have a hard time entering into the kingdom. Not that he cannot, but that he will have a hard time doing it. The costs will be great. The cost is shifting from trusting their riches to trusting God.
That is where the middle class of America is today. Trusting themselves, rather than God. To trust God instead will be very difficult for them. Remember the man in my opening illustration? The man was on his death bed, not caring one whit about his riches before he bowed before God - it was a very long hard struggle through the man’s entire life before the struggle for the kingdom was over - a hard time indeed.
Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
Some of these believers actually were ripping off their help. They were using them to reap their crops, but then cheating them in their pay.
One must wonder of these believers that would defraud to make gain. These were either new believers that did not know any better, or believers that knew better, but didn’t care. Both are possibilities since James is an early letter, and we have decided the recipients were probably converts from the day of Pentecost. However, if you consider the language of James, one must wonder if it isn’t the later possibility. He speaks quite tersely, if encouraging believers in edification. He speaks as though he is totally disgusted with these people and really wants to blast them to gain their attention.
We see the rich doing this today. We have corporate leaders that are ripping off the public in pricing as well as their own shareholders in tacky bookkeeping. We see unions swinging power that they ought not to have. I heard on the news this week that a union had agreed to limitations on health care for retired workers. The union ought not to have any say over what a man has worked for and gained. His health care provision is set between him and the company, and the union ought not to have sway over that agreement.
"Lord of Sabaoth" means Jehovah of hosts. Holt in his commentary mentions that the Jews will not even utter this phrase or name of God. (See also Deuteronomy 24:14-15)
Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. 6 Ye have condemned [and] killed the just; [and] he doth not resist you.
These verses would add to the thought that these rich people were believers that knew better, and were living in outward rebellion against what they knew to be right. Isn’t that the context - knowing what is good, and not doing it?
One must wonder how quiet the church assembly was when this portion was being read. The poor and subjugated are quietly saying to themselves, "YES!" "It is about time someone blasts these characters." And the rich are sitting there wondering if the poor are getting the full implication of this and wondering if they should head for the closest exit before someone takes him down and pounds some sense into him. It had to have been a scene of quiet and tension.
One wonders also if these rich people made good use of James words and changed their ways. Can you imagine being confronted with such bluntness and not making some changes in your life? Don’t count on it. I have seen sinning Christian’s confronted and they have walked away as if they have heard nothing. On the other hand, thank God for His Spirit’s working in lives, I have seen it work the other way as well. This is God’s desire, He does not like to blast a believer, but if they are living in open sin, often He will do that which is needed to change the person’s course.
May each of us, no matter what our sin, be serious about living a righteous life. When the Spirit tweaks our conscience, let us respond immediately to change our ways to His.
"Lived in pleasure" and "been wonton" are very similar in meaning. The first descriptive of the lifestyle and the second the result of that same lifestyle. They have lived to their fullest in pleasure. We have all seen the modern day examples of this pleasure and luxury of the rich.
I was going to use Bill Gates as an example here, but I am not sure I should. He probably lives quite high on the hog and his new home in the Seattle area isn’t a medium income two bedroom home, but he doesn’t really seem to live the "pleasure" and "wonton" lifestyle. He goes to work; he does live nicely etc. but doesn’t seem to be the pleasure seeker than many of the rich seem to be.
We know that the rich and famous usually live like they are rich, and find grand pleasure in it. The last phrase seems to go to the extent of their pleasure and wantonness. They live as if every day is the day the animals are slaughtered and they have all that they could possibly want or use.
I would guess the difference is that the wonton people are those that revel in pleasure, those that seek pleasure, and those that fail to do other things due to their involvement in seeking pleasure. Others simply enjoy what they have, yet have a healthy desire to live in a decent manner.
My in-laws knew the man that discovered artificial insemination for Chickens and had made his fortune. They were members of the same church and when visiting the in-laws one time we were invited into this couples home. It was a larger home, it was furnished nicely, but the home was not that uncommon for that period of time and very modest for the money that the couple obviously had. The only real extravagance in the home that I saw was a microwave oven. That was back when they cost over a thousand dollars and were first on the market.
The man had one wonton part to his being however; he had discovered an ice-cream shop that had every flavor of ice cream you could find on earth. His passion was trying the different types of ice cream. He would go out and come home with gallons of ice cream, pickle ice cream, bubble gum ice cream, every ice cream one could envision.
These two people were rich, but not locked into pleasure and wantonness, but were well grounded and just common folks. Being rich isn’t wrong, but wrong life going along with being rich can be very wrong.
We aren’t told what James meant by verse six, but we can be assured that the readers in his day knew clearly what he was talking about. They were condemning and killing. The word for killing seems to relate to any killing, but seems to lean toward murder more than just random killing. It may be that they were unjustly having people killed. Indeed, the last part of the verse would indicate this ("killed the just; [and] he doth not resist you.").
Constable suggests that James may have been speaking hyperbolically when he mentioned killing. He suggests that these are day laborers and that if a person was not paid at the end of the day they could die. He continues that if they were not paid, they could not eat, and after a few days of not eating their strength would diminish and death would occur. True, but I see little to indicate hyperbole in the text.
Mr. D’s Notes on James
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
"Be patient" and do it right now! Patient is not in the vocabulary of most people these days. They not only want it ALL they want it ALL RIGHT NOW.
Remember, this is in the context of the rich being terrible to the worker, and James tells them to be patient. Be patient when in trouble and when you are being treated terribly.
Just how patient should we be? Should we stand by when others are being treated miserably? Should we hold our peace when we are facing terrible times?
There are Christians around the world today that are going to court to gain their rights. Not, like us in America over prayer and Bible reading in the schools, but for their lives, for their future and for their right to worship.
1 Peter 2:21-23 mentions: "21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed [himself] to him that judgeth righteously:"
He suffered, and He is our example. If we want to answer our questions let us look at how our EXAMPLE for this life suffered.
Matthew 27:27-31 "21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed [himself] to him that judgeth righteously:"
Mark 15:19-20 "19 And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing [their] knees worshipped him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him."
Of course there is the reality that He was here to die, and that to fulfill prophecy He was to give Himself up to the cross, but how does this relate to us? How far should we go in our humbleness and patience when trouble comes upon us?
We also have the example of Paul that called upon his Roman citizenship as a means of gaining a hearing, but we also see in him a willingness to give a defense, a witness and leave it to the authorities. Thus we might want to take careful use of our rights and do what we can within the system we live in; however we ought also to attempt to retain the possibility of witnessing through and after our hard times, to those that seek to give us trouble.
The reality of this life is that God will take care of all injustice to His people either now or later. You know that old story from our days as children - "My dad is bigger en yer dad!" Well, I have to tell you, my Father is bigger en all other dads combined, and He is going to care for any wrong that needs caring for when it comes to His son.
"Be patient" has the idea we have of patience, but also has the idea of length of patience. That is why we use the term long suffering. It isn’t just patient today, but also to continue to be patient as long as it takes. In fact the word is translated "hath long patience" later in the verse.
Some might ask, well just how long suffering do we have to be? Well, James says, till the coming of the Lord. That would relate to, be patient until the end if it takes that long. This is the rapture that James is speaking of, that physical appearing of the Lord - that may well be a long time, indeed, it may be all your life and then a bunch of years, we don’t know.
It is of note that the disciples asked the Lord how many times they should forgive someone. His answer was "Until seventy times seven." Matthew 18:22 b. Relate this to the numbers Daniel uses in his prophecy of the end time and you must wonder if we aren’t to forgive till the end as well.
"The coming" is the Greek word "parousia" and relates to the visible return of Christ for His brethren.
The thought is to be patient until the end if need be. Till all is done and God settles all accounts, would work for the text.
1. Verse seven mentions the early and later rain. The context would indicate it is simply waiting for the full season of the farmer or vine keeper. They look for the first to get their crops going and the later to finish up the crops, or in some cases to get the crops in before the rains ruin the harvest.
Many have seen great things in this phrase and drawn quite the profound applications. In the seventies Dr. Okenga suggested that the later rain was the out pouring of the Spirit in the later times. He suggested that this might be the Jesus people and the other charismatic movement groups.
Time has been clear that it was not the Jesus people and one would have to question whether it was the charismatic movements. Indeed, we know him to be a mistaken due to the fact that the Lord has not returned and the harvest is not over thirty-five years later.
This is a good illustration of how not to interpret. You place yourself open for later public correction if you suggest a future interpretation and it doesn’t come to pass. Indeed, this was proof that you were a false prophet in the Old Testament time.
Indeed, this is a figure of speech for the husbandman. He also wants the rains between the early ones and the last one or there will be no harvest. It is simply a phrase that would illustrate the brethren waiting for the time to expire. Christ is coming and the end is near, but we must be patient for the end to come.
Some of the hipe and misinformation of the charismatic movement tells us that we can speed the return of Christ by restoring the earth to its pre-fall state. Not going to happen sooner, twill happen when all is ready and fulfilled. Others tell us that we must evangelize the world so Christ can return. Evangelize, yes, but do it because it is commanded and our duty, but not to bring Christ back. He is able and capable of returning when it is time, not when we work and sweat enough to bring Him back in our time.
Oh the fallacy of thinking we can return the earth to the pre-fall times, or that we can hurry the return of the Lord - what utter and extreme arrogance!
There is another aspect to the waiting husbandman. Not only do they wait until the time is just right for the harvest, but they also prepare for that time when the harvest will arrive. They prepare for the harvest, they service the equipment, they ready the containment for the harvest, they hire workers if needed to get the harvest in quickly before it is spoiled.
So, we ought to be ready for the harvest, and waiting for that day when Christ will return. Not on the house tops or the mountain tops but in the fields and barns getting ready for that great day.
One last comment of the idea of later rain, there is a group within the charismatic movement called the Later Rain. This group is not a group that most would want to be associated with, yet it amazes me that many sound churches sing contemporary music published by an organization of the same name.
There are accusations of what they believe, but they often deny the accusations and from what I see on the internet, deny they are associated with latter rain, so I will leave it to the reader to determine where they stand with this group. Some suggest that all Word of Faith people are latter rain and I am told that the Assembly of God as a denomination rejected Latter Rain teachings years ago.
Most Baptist and independent Bible churches would not want to have anything to do with them yet invite their theology into their church via music all the time. Seems counter productive at best, terribly unwise at worst.
In general they are supposed to believe in healing, yet some of the websites deny this. They are often in the radical end of setting up God’s kingdom here on earth, though they deny this on some websites as well.
I include a quote from Barnes relating to the reality of these rains in history: "In the climate of Palestine there are two rainy seasons, on which the harvest essentially depends--the autumnal and the spring rains--called here and elsewhere in the Scriptures the early and the latter rains. See De 11:14; Job 29:23; Jeremiah 5:24.
"The autumnal or early rains of Scripture, usually commence in the latter half of October or the beginning of November; not suddenly, but by degrees, which gives opportunity for the husbandman to sow his fields of wheat and barley. The rains come mostly from the west or south-west, continuing for two or three days at a time, and failing especially during the nights. The wind then chops round to the north or east, and several days of fine weather succeed. During the months of November and December the rains continue to fall heavily; afterwards they return only at longer intervals, and are less heavy; but at no period during the winter do they entirely cease to occur. Snow often falls in Jerusalem, in January and February, to the depth of a foot or more, but it does not last long. Rain continues to fall more or less through the month of March, but it is rare after that period. At the present time there are not any particular periods of rain, or successions of showers, which might be regarded as distinct rainy seasons. The whole period from October to March now constitutes only one continued rainy season, without any regularly intervening time of prolonged fair weather. Unless, therefore, there has been some change in the climate since the times of the New Testament, the early and the latter rains for which the husbandman waited with longing, seem rather to have implied the first showers of autumn, which revived the parched and thirsty earth, and prepared it for the seed; and the latter showers of spring, which continued to refresh and forward the ripening crops and the vernal products of the fields. In ordinary seasons, from the cessation of the showers in spring until their commencement in October or November, rain never falls, and the sky is usually serene.--Robinson’s Biblical Researches, vol. ii., pp. 96-100."
2. Patience, that which we should portray. How does that relate to the church that is growing and needs more room, but doesn’t have the money to build? Do they practice patience and put off the building program until the Lord blesses in the financial area? Would seem wise to this writer.
How does patience relate to the person that desires something, that special toy, but doesn’t have the money? Again, patience and not making a purchase would be the wisest position to take.
This country has an average of $10, 000 in personal credit card debt. That is a lot of impatience to say the least. This writer has had the same problem over the years. It is so easy to spend when the card is present, but when you have to dig into the cash; you really have to think again before making that purchase.
We want it NOW, that is why they call it the NOW generation. Not that we are so up to date as some suggest, but that we want it and we want it NOW! Now it is the scourge of the church as well. Many are so in debt that they can’t give to the Lord and pay their bills on time. This is not the way to run a family, nor a church for that matter. Some churches shift funds from one account to the other to make things come out right on a regular basis.
All of us, church and individual, ought to be patient and buy only that which we can pay for at the time, and that paying for, should be out of extra money, not the grocery money.
Another area of patience is the pastorate. The average pastor stays in a church less than two years. That isn’t enough time to get your garden planted and established, much less your spiritual tendings. How can anyone think that eighteen months is long enough to invest in a church and then move on to another eighteen-month ministry somewhere else?
This is wrong and ought to stop. It isn’t required that a man stay twenty years, but to give up in eighteen months is quitting normally in our day and this ought to change. Yes, there may be some situations where eighteen months is too long, but the majority of these moves are due to lack of excitement, lack of super growth, or lack of commitment to the ministry which God has provided.
I read on an internet board on this subject. The majority of the respondents were suggesting that these dumb ignorant Christian congregations weren’t worthy of their talents. Now, they didn’t use those terms, but if you boiled down the comments, that is about what they were saying.
These men had spent four to seven years in college/seminary and they weren’t going to waste all that knowledge and talent on no-account small churches, they were going to move right on up the numbers game and be top dog in the growth craze.
When they were reminded that it was the Lord that is to build his church there was not a comment, they just ignored that post and continued on in their quest for fame and fortune - yes, literally looking to be a popular pastor making lots of money.
The sad part is, many churches have bought into the same false idea of "church" and have started paying men outlandish wages plus benefits and are building bigger and bigger churches, while the missionaries struggle to even get to the field. Millions are being spent on pay packages, gyms, and electronics while missionaries can’t stay on the field due to declining support levels.
Many churches spend small fortunes in electronics so that the people don’t have to hold a hymnal while singing. I was in a church years ago that met in another denominations building. They were planning a million dollar building program. The only reason I heard while there, and I asked several people, was that it was a pain in the neck to have to carry all those hymnals in and out of the building every service. Had a notion to tell them I’d make it a life time job to carry them in and out if they’d just give me the million.
3. "The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." The Net Bible lists some Old Testament references in relation to this phrase, while translating it as "the Lord is full of compassion and mercy." (There are some added verses to the ones that they listed.)
Exodus 34:6 This is in the context of Moses on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments. "And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,"
Nehemiah 9:15-17 Here we see a recount of the Israelites in the wilderness and their stiff necked actions. In the midst of this God is still God, no matter what the people do. "15 And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them. 16 But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, 17 And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou [art] a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not."
Psalms 86:13-15 "For great [is] thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. 14 O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent [men] have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them. 15 But thou, O Lord, [art] a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth."
Psalms 102:13 "Thou shalt arise, [and] have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come."
Joel 2:13 "And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he [is] gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil."
Jonah 4:2 "And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, [was] not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou [art] a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil."
What a study in the character of God. He is all that we could ever desire, but we seldom seek Him out for close fellowship - and the question that begs to be asked is, "Why don’t we spend more time with a God that has all the qualities that He has?
4. Verse seven has an interesting thought. "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain." In the context it is clear that all the traits of the believer, good and bad, are viewed in relation to the coming of the Lord.
In a very real sense "the husbandman" might well refer not only to the general illustration of the husbandman, but to the Lord Himself as He comes to gather the fruits of man at the end. He is waiting for the latter rain so that the harvest might be completed. He indeed has been long in patience in waiting for this harvest and He is waiting for "precious fruit" which we are to have yielded unto Him.
Like the earthly husbandman looks for a crop, Christ is looking for a crop of righteous fruit. However, like the earthly farmer, He is not assured of a good crop, he is dependant on everything but His good planting and nurturing. He cannot guarantee Himself a good crop, He can only plant, tend, nurture and look for the increase.
Increase is something that is totally up to the believers of each generation. When you look at the previous generations and the wave of missionary activity all over the world, or look back to the apostles time, when the known world was touched with the Gospel, and then compare it to what is going on today. The mission field is a place of relaxation and enjoyment. Yes, some great missionary work is being done today, but many times there is less work and more play.
I watched a slide report from a veteran missionary from Europe some time ago and it looked more like a ten year series from Rick Steves and his Public Broadcasting System travel shows. The man and his wife had been all over Europe and not only in the countries, but to the tourist attractions. It was obvious that they had been doing a lot of traveling, while reporting very little of any work being done in their little town.
One missionary told me that you can tell where the Southern Baptist Missionary lives, it is the big house with the RV and big boat parked in the driveway. Again, I don’t want to paint with a broad brush, since I know some Southern Baptist missionaries that are doing a great work. I am also aware of how much support some people are raising these days for work with independent mission organizations.
The mega churches are spending millions of dollars on new and bigger and better buildings, while little is being done to reach the lost of our generation. I really wonder how the Husbandman will fair in the coming harvest.
5. It seems to me that James was looking for the coming of the Lord soon. He seemed to call the readers attention to this as the answer to their trials. He had this anticipation of the coming, yet it is of note that he is believed to have gone deep into the Middle East in his missionary work. He reportedly went into and past India in his labors. Likewise, we look for His return, but we should also make plans and execute them for the reaching of the lost of the world.
Never should we sit and wait for His coming, we should, as James, work as if He isn’t coming, work as if our life depended on our expansion of His Kingdom. It is our job, it should be our goal, and it should be our quest.
If this is not true, then we need to spend time evaluating what we are doing in our lives. If we as a church or as a Christian organization do not have the fervor of James to reach the world, then we have not the correct focus in our lives, and in our organizations.
Our purpose should be the winning of souls, our goal should be the expansion of God’s Kingdom, and our lives should be committed to these high principles. If your church or organization has anything else, then it is misfocused. I am not saying you can’t be a food bank, or a crisis center, but I am saying the focus should be reaching the lost through food, or through counseling etc. Never set anything between yourself and reaching the lost or you will produce a poor harvest for your Husbandman.
We might also assume some things from the fact that the coming did not occur in the time of James. These people had been encouraged to look forward to that time at which their suffering would conclude, but when they probably did, the weeks went by with no coming. The years went by with no coming.
We might assume that they continued on in their watching and anticipation of the end of their persecution, but did not realize their focus. I am sure there were days when they got out of bed and felt like they could not go into the fields another time to tend for the master. They probably wanted to sleep in late, just once, instead of seven days a week going out to the fields and the weeds and the problems. "Just one morning I’d like to sleep in as late as I want."
We have our down days, just as they, the great part of it is we know they survived the down days and continued on - were patient - in their waiting on the Lord.
I have mentioned the young pastors that move on in eighteen months or so, to a new church. Might it be that they aren’t being focused on the end, but rather the wanting to sleep in one morning now and then? I think patience is a great need in our leadership today.
We often read the acts of Paul and forget that these are the high points of his life, not the day to day dealings with life.
He had his down days, he had his up days, and he had his flat boring days with his body wrapped in a stinking tent that he had to get done for that rich bozo at city hall. He walked with God no matter what the day was. It is clear in his writing that the down days really had him down, but he always walked with God in a clear and concise manner. (See 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 "[We are] troubled on every side, yet not distressed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.")
6. Barnes makes an excellent point in relation to the terminology of verse nine in relation to "grudge not."
"There are some persons who are always grumbling. They have a sour, dissatisfied, discontented temper; they see no excellence in other persons; they are displeased that others are more prospered, honoured, and beloved than they are themselves; they are always complaining of what others do, not because they are injured, but because others seem to them to be weak and foolish; they seem to feel that it becomes them to complain if everything is not done precisely as in their estimation it should be. It is needless to say that this spirit--the offspring of pride--will make any man lead a wretched life; and equally needless to say that it is wholly contrary to the spirit of the gospel."
We all know this person, it is I, we might say. Most of us at one time or another has slipped into this mode of operation. Usually when we have been wronged and we feel very put upon in life. We tend to build ourselves up by bringing others down to our level. The commonality of this trait does not make it acceptable, nor correct action, thus we must guard against it as best we can.
I raise the issue to discuss a secondary issue. Just how do you draw the line between this and finding fault with false doctrine and practices? It is easy to condemn something, but it is more difficult to identify it as truly, Biblically wrong. Often we condemn first and leave the truly and Biblically out.
Say you are in a church and the pastor is tending toward sheer boredom in his messages, he seems to dwell on his accomplishments in life, he has little if any meat in his messages. Is this reason to move on to another church? Say he invites a leader of a Charismatic mission to speak in the church (assuming this is a non-charismatic church). Do you start looking for another church? Say none of the other people in the church are seemingly unconcerned about all the items listed. Do you allow your mind to start sorting through the known churches for one to try?
What distinguishes between the evaluations you do in the above questions, from the "grudge not" issue? What makes the two different? How do you do one without involving yourself in the other?
a. Pray about your decisions and seek God’s leading and guidance in what to do.
b. Do not make your decision making process public and carping. Keep your evaluation and thinking to yourself, or at least your spouse. Do not go to everyone in the church to try to stir up trouble.
c. Go to the Word and be sure the principles you are applying to the situation are Biblical and well applied.
d. Find understanding. The pastor may not know that the mission is led by charismatics; he may be having a difficult time in his life and not have time to prepare properly for his messages.
e. Talk to the pastor and find out if he is aware of the problems that you have noticed. Many go through months on semi automatic and fail to stop to analyze their direction and actions. Your bringing it up might remind him of his need to take stock of his past months of activities.
Remember, however, talking to a pastor these days may not be a pleasant experience. Many feel they are king and you are subject and YOU need to be obedient, WITHOUT QUESTIONS. If you misstep you will automatically be looking for another church.
7. Relating to the reference to the prophets, let us look at Hebrews 11:33-38 for a moment. "32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and [of] Barak, and [of] Samson, and [of] Jephthae; [of] David also, and Samuel, and [of] the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of [cruel] mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and [in] mountains, and [in] dens and caves of the earth."
Okay, take some time and verbalize just how persecuted you are in America. What of the above do you know of personally? No, we in America are not yet persecuted, though it may come. Many in the world today are facing these sorts of problems however and we as believers need to be praying for others as they go through these many problems of life.
8. I have wondered aloud in my writing at the Christian "persecution" that we are beginning to see in America. James tells the reader to suffer patiently, yet we see today, Christians standing up for their rights, even to going to court to gain their rights.
The readers of James probably had no rights for the most part, many being slaves, and the rest most likely in poverty, however today, in America we do have rights guaranteed to us by our constitution.
How do we live in America under our constitution, and still live by the words of James? Do we stand for our rights? Do we sue over our rights? Do we make a big fuss when someone steps on our rights?
First of all, let me acknowledge the difficulty in not automatically standing up for our rights. Rights are the watch word of our society, what with everyone wanting more rights than they are guaranteed, and more rights than anyone else.
The welfare recipients/advocates feel that it is a right to receive a free check from the government. This is not a right guaranteed in the constitution, it is a perceived right in the mind of the one wanting and wanting and wanting from the government.
The homosexual community wants to have special rights. They aren’t satisfied with the rights afforded them, they want more.
How do we, as Christians, walk this line of suffering patiently and standing for our rights within the responsibilities of a citizen of this country?
a. When a decision is made, for or against, "patiently" accept it and live with it. If it is in your favor, don’t gloat about it and raise a fuss by thumbing your nose at the other side. Should we go to court for our rights? That would be a matter of prayer and the Lord’s leading in your life.
b. When a true Christian or Biblical principle is at stake, then maybe we should be more vocal in our response. Court would again be something to pray about.
c. Court is a legal right of our system of justice and we might avail ourselves of it if we feel that God will be honored and His kingdom furthered, but if it is for vindictiveness and GETTING MY RIGHTS, then further thought/prayer might be the best course of action. While on the topic, Paul claimed and used his Roman citizenship when working with the officials of his day.
9. We have mentioned that the wrong doing of man will one day meet face to face with the right doing of God. One day each person will meet God and face the implications of what they have done in this life.
I remember often, an incident in my child hood that I would love to just forget. My father took some canvas awnings off of our duplex and rather than throw the two largest ones away he made us a tent to play in. My brother found that if you took a match and held it to the canvas on the inside it would catch the fuzz on fire with a little flash, but would go out immediately.
Having shown me the neat trick, he left for whatever adventure he was on. I, in turn got the matches and set about to try this new trick of nature. I found another trick of nature however, and found that if you hold the match there too long, the canvas ignites with a bit of a flash as well. The soft ball size hole in the roof of our tent was obvious proof of wrong doing.
When God speaks to man, the proof will be just as obvious, just as glaring. The hole in our tent had to be on the side where my father drove in after work, not on the other side where he might not notice it for awhile.
I knew what was coming and I knew it was deserved, but that didn’t make me want to see it occur. All afternoon, I kept thinking of the displeasure that my father was going to display toward me. The odd part of life is that most of mankind, including many Christians totally ignore this display of displeasure that is going to come when we stand before Him - our Heavenly Father.
Man acts as if this face to face meeting is going to be with a God that overlooks all shortcomings, and acts accordingly, but I rather doubt that this is the judgment that is coming. After all, isn’t it called the judgment rather than the love in? God is going to be in the judging mode and we had better realize this before we go booping into His presence to get all those good vibes we think He is going to be spreading at the love in.
For the lost, there will be an even bigger horror than just being confronted with their works; they will face the reality of all that they have been hearing in their life - that sin is wrong, that good works are right. They will know they are facing a righteous God that has been totally rejected in their life. They will know their coming dwelling place. They will know that they will have to bow to the Lord of Lord’s and King of King’s even though they denied His existence and authority.
When waiting for my father, I was near sick to my stomach at the thought of his displeasure and having to talk to him about what I had done. Maybe this is why I have such a high regard for the final judgment coming on all of mankind. My life has been lived in my attempt to find pleasure in the eyes of the coming Judge.
There is the threat of judgment, but there is also the sense of great shortcoming before God. We cannot please Him when we wrong Him. That wrong, one day will sink into our minds as sorrow for what we have done to Him that has so loves us.
I have mentioned in my studies before, that I highly recommend the viewing of the Sistine Chapel’s paintings on the ceilings. The last judgment is portrayed and one part of that judgment is a portrayal of the boatman beating men with an oar to get them to step of onto the shore of hell. The horror and anguish should move lost man to consider his ways and standing before God the judge.
For the believer there will be no facing of hell, but there will be a facing of the Lord that saved their worthless hide from hell. Years ago, I made an overhead projector overlay depicting the rapture and the things we might be doing as we are caught up into the air to meet the Lord.
I pictured people as being taken where they were, one in a recliner, one with a cocktail glass lifted high, one clinging to a television set, etc. I realize that the recliner won’t be going with me, but the thought ought to make us wonder at how we use our time in this life. Are we doing all that we can for Christ? Are we really serving Him or serving ourselves in this life?
The context of this overlay was for a sermon in a little pioneer work in the Midwest. We had accepted this little church knowing that I would have to work full time to support the family. I was working forty-five hours a week at a secular job, and was teaching five lessons per week in the church. We had three small children at the time, a rented house/yard to care for and the usual junk car to keep running. My wife’s parents lived about forty-five minutes away so we took trips there near weekly and there was always fishing to work into the plan.
Against this back drop I created this overlay one morning at about two and was feeling guilty that I didn’t feel like I was doing enough for the Lord, and was wondering if I was being honest in this overlay - how committed to Him was I. I have to admit that we didn’t have a recliner, but someone had given us a huge rocking chair that was just as good, and I seemed to spend a lot of time in it.
Just how will we fair when the judgment seat of Christ is called and we have to face the one that suffered the horrors of the cross for us? Yes, we are under grace, but the Word also tells us a lot about good works. I doubt very much that grace will cover the lack of good works!
10. We have observed that swearing in verse twelve relates not to the formal oath given in court, but rather the outburst of swearing that is usually related to anger and/or frustration.
On this subject this author can speak clearly. As a young man I entered the Navy right after high school and learned all the tricks of that trade quite well, including the foul mouth. I really have no idea why people put up with my cursing and impure mind. This was when I was having a good day, not when angry or frustrated.
When the frustration came to a head, there was really no being around me. I recall many times when working on my car that something would go wrong and in frustration, I would grab the biggest wrench I could find and swing at the motor a time or two.
In later life I realize that there was a lot of anger at other things that was sitting under the surface that I wasn’t aware of, but I was certainly aware of the results of frustration. When God started working with me and seemed to be leading me into the ministry, the first thing that came to mind was that He would send me to Africa, and the second thing was that I would have to deal with my swearing and then the smoking.
The sad thing is that many believers swear, either audibly or under their breath and never know the peace of dealing with that sin of swearing out of anger or frustration. They go through life constantly embarrassing themselves if they are audible, and constantly feeling guilty if inaudible.
Often the problem of swearing is not dealt within sermons and lessons in the church, because everyone in the church knows who swears and the pastor wouldn’t want to embarrass them public ally, though preaching through James would give them good opportunity to speak to the subject clearly. In saying the pastor doesn’t want to embarrass, I am not being negative. In this case a clear case on swearing would probably embarrass a swearing person needlessly. A private talk might well be the better option, unless it can be addressed from a passage in a series of messages.
Swearing, though wrong, is nothing more than a habit that is released by an emotional trigger, just as shopping is a release from an emotional trigger, or eating etc. It is a learned behavior, and it can be unlearned - not necessarily easily, but it can be corrected as any bad habit can.
The key is for the person to acknowledge that it is inappropriate behavior for the believer and that steps should be taken to correct the behavior. Steps such as commitment. Easing of things that frustrate may help, but this normally just lengthens the process of dealing with the habit.
When the smoker quits smoking, often they deal with the habit by substituting another more acceptable habit, but this is avoiding the problem. There is a habit that needs to be stopped. Finding a more acceptable habit isn’t quite the answer to habitual activity. Many smokers shift to chewing toothpicks, sunflower seeds, candy, coffee, soft drinks - most anything that allows the smoker to stick something in their mouth instead of not stuffing something in their mouth. This is not deep research, but the experiences of the author and several other ex-smokers that he has talked to over the years.
Swearing is just as much a habit as smoking and needs to be dealt within the believers life, just as much as any other habitual activity.
Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
While you are being patient, "stablish your hearts" for the time of the coming is nigh. The question is, how do we accomplish the phrase "stablish your hearts?" The term "stablish" relates to the establishment of something on solid footing. Making it set and secure. Our hearts or more to the point, our minds, souls, and focus should be securely grounded. On what, might be your question. Surely, on the coming, when all will be made equal and just, but more to the point, establish yourself solidly in preparation for all that might come, so that you can face it with patience.
"Draweth nigh" is in the perfect tense indicating something that is on the way at the present time and will be on its way until it gets here at some future, but final moment. It is a sure thing is the thought of the tense. You can go to the bank on it - it will certainly happen, there is no doubt, and there is no question, it will occur.
Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
"Grudge" is not quite what it appears on the surface. The term has the thought of "sigh" or "groan." It is like when someone tells you to do something quite distasteful and you sigh in resignation to having to do it.
The word is used in relation to sighing against another or a brother in Christ. James says that we can be condemned at the judgment if we do. Apply that one to your activities in church folks. Wow, should be your comment, and shock should be your reaction. All those nasty things that you have said about brother so and so!
Don’t do it, or you will be judged. What a stern warning. I think, some time to look at this word, would be prudent, so that we assure that we don’t "sigh" against a brother.
The term is the Greek word "stenazo" and is translated groan, sigh, with grief, and grudge.
The key, may be the tense of the word which is present, you are not to do it on a continuing basis. Now, it is not saying you can do it now and then; you are not to do it on a continuing basis. You can’t do it to this brother, and then to that brother, then to another, you are not to continue to do this. STOP IT might cover the idea.
That really puts a blanket on all church gossip, complaining, and talking down about others. Don’t do it, if you are doing it, then stop it.
To murmur against another is to first judge them incorrect in some manner and then to complain against them, thus you are open to being judged by the coming judge.
When we realize who we are before God and Who He is in relation to us, how can we dare put ourselves above other brothers and sisters in the Lord?
Recently I was watching the national news and they had a story of Christian Wrestling leagues that draw people in with wrestling matches then they preach the gospel. I could never do that, I could never go to one of those, but I should probably not condemn what they do. I might well question how the Lord feels about such activities, and I might wonder about the validity of the practice, but I most likely should not condemn it as wrong activity. God will speak to the people involved one day and I probably won’t be included in the discussion, so why should I insert myself now?
Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
If you think you are having a ruff time in life, look to the prophets for your example of affliction and patience. There are two items there, we understand affliction or suffering, but the patience might relate to a number of items.
Yes, suffering requires patience to endure, but patience and the "prophets" might indicate something else in my mind by way of application. The prophets had a large audience, but seldom any listeners - that is listeners that ever paid attention to them. Yes, I’d guess there were some that heeded the warnings, but as a whole the audience was with earplugs.
So, today, many that we speak to are with muffled ears. They may hear, but they seldom heed, they may notice your words, but seldom change. Again, there are a few, but the majority go on as if they have not heard.
Patience is the word in this case as well. You aren’t called to change people, you are called to speak the Word, and allow the Spirit to change whom He will. This is the reason for many frustrated pastors and teachers. They assume too much, they assume they are to convince people to change their ways, but it must be the Spirit that does this work.
In my mind, we could shorten all invitations in the church to a moment or two. If the Spirit hasn’t moved by that time, all the groaning, coaxing, and praying of the pastor won’t help at all.
The suffering will come, and in it we must be steadfast as a silent witness to those that bring the persecution. Silence isn’t a strong point of this preacher nor many that I know, but when religious persecution comes we should stand as the prophets stood. Speaking truth and suffering that which the truth haters bring on.
Patience is normally translated longsuffering. Even if the trouble lasts a good long time, we are still responsible to suffer with patience as did the prophets.
Now, as to the prophets, James could have been thinking of the New Testament prophets, however we have no Biblical record of them suffering. Thus, if the reader is to know how they suffered - to tell the believer about the example, they probably are the Old Testament prophets that they had known about for most of their lives.
The book of Hebrews speaks to the suffering of Old Testament saints, and they might have heard of the book, but we don’t know if they did, nor if indeed, it had been written at this time.
Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
Now, there goes James, meddling again. It’s bad enough we are to suffer with patience, but now he wants us to be happy about it! You could read it that James and others could be happy of their suffering, but I think the thought of the text is that the sufferer was to be happy.
Happy in knowing they are living their best for God and doing all they can to stand for Him, might be the line of thought.
With the introduction of Job to the context we know how much suffering we might look for and still be patient and happy. Job lost family members and all the riches and possessions he had, and yet he was faithful. Maybe not right on in his life, but he followed God the best He could and waited for the Lord’s will for his life.
The end of Job pictures God as one that has pity for what His children suffer, and that He extends mercy to Job in the end.
Job 42:10 "And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold. 12 So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. 13 He had also seven sons and three daughters. 14 And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Kerenhappuch. 15 And in all the land were no women found [so] fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren. 16 After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, [even] four generations."
This may be why James encourages them to suffer with patience and happiness. They can know that God will bring it to an end and that happiness will be the result. This is not a guarantee that the end might not be through death, but the end surely will be an end to suffering and continuation of happiness.
But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and [your] nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.
This might seem to be a separate thought, but it seems that it is related to the previous verses about suffering, and how to suffer. Here they are encouraged not to do any swearing in their suffering, but to do it with patience and steadfastness.
"Condemnation" can also be translated "hypocrisy" which would give a little different light on the passage. One might wonder if some of the readers were saying yea, when they should have been saying nay etc. The lie might have been a problem to the readership.
The thought here seems to be that we aren’t to swear or have an outburst when persecuted. The troubles should never find us swearing and having a hissy fit about what is going on. This might have application to those days when the car is not working, you have bought parts, the parts won’t fit, and you have to go get different parts, and the new parts are defective and you have to go get others - now if you are going to swear, that is the time, just after you beat the car with your twelve-inch crescent - nope - not even then should we swear - remember - "patience."
Some have taken this verse to mean that, we in America, should not swear on the Bible in court. I don’t think that is a valid application of the verse, but then I don’t know that we should swear on the Bible either. It kind of depends on what the swearing means. To ask one to swear on the Bible is to suggest less than honesty, which is an affront in my mind to the honest person.
Mr. D’s Notes on James
Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
Two sets of people and two sets of actions. Afflicted, then pray - merry, then sing. An appropriate action for each group. The action is probably mostly natural. When trouble comes people always turn to God no matter if they know Him or not - at the point of trouble they assume He is there for them, not that He is necessarily. Likewise, when we are happy, we often break into joyful singing.
Many believers have not found the "afflicted" side of life. They are so self sufficient that they have not seen want, they are so self centered, they have not known rejection and they are so self absorbed that they have not seen reason to help the afflicted and find that they have empathy. They often skip along merrily singing their cheerful song not knowing what the other side of the coin might be.
On the other hand, some have been so afflicted; they don’t remember the merry side of things. Some have lost friends, homes, families and have nothing but trouble. These need to pray, but those around them need to act. Prayer is the only course for those that are down and out. It is their only hope of things turning around, of things getting better, of things starting to go their way.
In the church situation, both are going on at the same time usually. The merry should be sensitive to the afflicted, but the afflicted should also be sensitive to the merry. The merry are to enjoy their good tidings, as the afflicted are to endure their affliction. This is not to say that the two should ignore each other, just don’t rain on the merry because you are in a storm. Allow them to cheer you in your troubles, and the merry should allow the afflicted to speak of their hard times.
Just voicing the frustration of hard times is good for the afflicted, just as singing is good for the merry. Giving voice to our situation and feelings will assist us in getting though them.
It may be that listening to the afflicted will help the merry to better realize how blessed they are and help them to appreciate their blessings more.
The word "merry" does not carry the idea we give it today, but as Barnes observes, "the word properly denotes cheerful, pleasant, agreeable, and is applied to a state of mind free from trouble--the opposite of affliction-happy"
This is a contrasting of situations and words both. On the one hand we have the afflicted and on the other hand we have the non-afflicted. Both ends of the spectrum trials wise.
1. Is this speaking of the flu or some other physical problem such as a bad kidney etc., or is it speaking of sin related spiritual problems?
The easy answer is that since they are to anoint, which would be physical, it must be physical sickness. However, by the same token the word sick can be translated weak, which could mean spiritual problems. By the same logic as the easy answer, we could say they are to pray so it is a spiritual problem.
The common sense answer might be both - a sin/spiritual problem that has sick/physical consequences. This could relate to the person that is in rebellion against God and God has taken steps to get the person’s attention.
This is not uncommon. I talked with a man that told me that God had been leading him to sell his television repair business, which he had built from the ground up. It was a large and thriving business, and he had no leading as to where or what to do after selling the business so he put off what God was telling him. Over a number of months he kept saying no to God and ultimately his health went sour. Finally he was lying on his death bed with his family around him. He knew why he was there and finally committed to sell the business.
As his health returned he found that he was quite relieved not to have the business to run. As time went on the family moved to another city where he found employment in a large repair business. He became very involved in a small Bible church where he knew he had been called to serve - they would have never moved had he not sold the business. He knew all the rest of his life that he was right where God wanted him to be and he was always at peace with his station in life.
Sin may lead to physical sickness, and it may just render one weak both spiritually and physically. The weight of sin wears a person down and sooner or later will affect how they function in the physical realm.
Is there anything else we can point to as we try to determine the intent of James in this text? Yes, Hebrews mentions, "6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected [us], and we gave [them] reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened [us] after their own pleasure; but he for [our] profit, that [we] might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. 14 Follow peace with all [men], and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble [you], and thereby many be defiled;" Hebrews 12:6 ff
God keeps the option of bringing chastisement into the life, if the life is not responsive to the Spirit’s work. This may be soon after the person rejects God’s work, or at times He is quite patient and long suffering, but chastisement usually comes along. It may be in the form of trials, or of physical sickness.
The point of James text seems to relate to those that have sin in their lives and that have refused to move toward God on the issue. While the elders are to anoint and pray for the physical, there seems to be the need to go a step further and see if there are spiritual things to be cared for and prayed for.
2. Verse sixteen calls for church leaders and members to confess their faults to one another and to pray for one another. Dwell on that idea and see if you can relate it to your present church. Is this going on? If not, why not? If so, why, and how can you encourage the continuance of the behavior?
This is the standard James set, and it is the standard that the church should be meeting. If the church is not doing this, then the church is inadequate to the needs of believers. If your church is inadequate, steps should be taken to assure that the inadequacy is remedied.
Some steps to closer relationships in the church membership.
a. Commitment of individuals to Christ like living.
b. Commitment of a righteous leadership to lead their flock in the ways of the Lord.
c. Commitment to teach the Word, even when it hurts. Most will suggest, and it is true in many cases, that gossip is the blanket that stops sharing and confessing amongst believers. If you confess or share in the Wednesday prayer meeting it will be the topic of discussion on the phone Thursday morning. Gossip is the death of any meaningful relationships in the church today.
d. Admission that the individual can do wrong. Many Christian’s would choke before admitting that they have sin in their lives. Individual responsibility is required of all believers.
e. Size of the church may well relate. James probably was writing to home churches, not five thousand member megachurches. There is no way that closeness and relationships can be built in these huge congregations without some serious organizational structure and some serious church leadership.
3. There are some points that need to be made. Elders is a plural, not singular as in the Roman Catholic system of calling the priest when someone is on their death bed. Confessing faults, one to another is the Biblical standard, not as the Romans teach, confessing to a priest.
There is also the point that the forgiveness is not coming from the priest in this passage, nor from the prayer, nor from the oil, nor from the elders, it is coming from God.
4. Some make a change of subject between the calling the elders section, and the praying for one another. This change would occur between verses fifteen and sixteen. Whether this change exists or not, there is little difference in how we use the text. The principles of sixteen and following would relate as well to the elder section.
If sin comes to sickness, call the elders for prayer and anointing, if you have sin and realize it, talk to someone about it in the church - NOT THE PASTOR in particular. The passage says to confess your faults one to another.
Let’s consider this a little further.
How do you go about confessing a fault to another in the church today? Hopefully there has been proper teaching and preaching on the subject so that there are people that you may approach.
a. With great care. There must be a number of things that are involved in doing this.
b. Choose someone you know is totally trustworthy. Someone that will not pass your conversation on to the whole church. Someone that will not blab it to the social club, or anywhere, or anyone else.
c. Choose someone that is spiritual, someone that can guide you to correctness, someone that can give you some Biblical perspective and guidance.
d. Be sure there is a need to confess your fault. It might be a fault that really is not a fault; it may be a fault that is correctable by your own action and knowledge.
e. Be plain, clear and concise about what you are talking about, lest there be misunderstanding.
f. Choose someone that will listen to what you have to say, to its completion. Someone that will be listening and understanding of what you say, so that they will not jump to conclusions and/or give you incorrect counsel.
g. Choose someone that you feel comfortable with, someone that you don’t mind knowing your faults, someone that you can confide in, not only now, but maybe later on as well.
Some thoughts about the type of person that is approachable. If you would be a counselor, attempt to build some of the following traits into your life.
a. Add all of the above items here.
b. Really listen and try to understand what you are being told. Allow the person to talk through the problem before attempting to provide solutions. Ask questions if you dont understand fully what is being said. If you have no solutions, tell the person so they can seek further assistance.
c. Be open to the needs of the person, not open to condemnation, or criticism. Neither will help, they already know they have a problem, you needant tell them about it.
d. Someone that is not in a constant rush when at church, someone that looks like they have time to assist others.
e. Be spiritual yourself, keeping yourself from sin. This often will be evident to those around you. You cannot hope to deal with other people’s sin if you haven’t already dealt with your own.
5. In verse seventeen it mentions prayed earnestly. The Net Bible note suggests, prayed with prayer, and said it was a way of showing an intense prayer, or fervent prayer.
We often avoid prayer than is other than the "Heal aunt Bessies wort" and get uncomfortable with prayers that become intense, not in noise, or actions, but in quantity and quality. We can reel off those common, everyday prayers, but to get down to business with God is not so easy for many of us today.
Prayer meetings seldom draw more than a small percentage of a church’s membership. Often only a handful meets for prayer during the week. This is the group that you need to get next to. Spend some time with them in prayer - even if you keep your mouth shut for fear of not knowing how to pray, spend time with these saints and learn from them.
Don’t be satisfied with how they pray, learn to spend more time with the Lord in private so that you will know how to be with him in public. Prayer is a learning item, just as is learning to talk to another person. We need to understand who we are talking too. God can only be known via the Word and time with Him so the options are set - take note of every opportunity.
6. The passage speaks of confessing faults one to another. Recently we have come to know of a church where the pastor was hooked on pain killers. He is obnoxious with new people due to his asking them if they have pain killers they aren’t using, the membership became sick of it. They confronted him and half the membership didn’t see anything wrong with his addiction and backed him while the other half left the church.
On an inter-net board recently someone mentioned his pastor was involved in sin. The result was a pinning of the man to the wall, not the pastor, not the board, but the man that did not feel it right for the pastor to be living in open sin, especially when he won’t acknowledge it.
Where did the church change from believing that the church is to be pure, when did the church change from believing that the church is to have church discipline - is to have a pastor that lives to a higher standard than the rest? Certainly pastors sin because they are only human, but they are to confess their sin and make a change in their behavior - not continue on in sin as though nothing were wrong.
The latest polls suggest that Christianity in America is doing as it did in Britain - decreasing. We are dying off and no new Christians are being won to replace them. The only growth in the church seems to be from children born into the church. The third world countries are blossoming and the Asian countries are becoming the center of Christianity. Recently it was announced that Australia will become a majority Muslim due to the high rate of the morning after abortion pill by Christians. In fifty years there will be more Muslims than Christians.
Sin in the American church must be the central reason for church problems. Due to sin we have no standards, due to no standards, we look like the world, and thus the world has no desire to listen to someone preaching to them when they are the same as the world.
We have adopted the worlds music, we have adopted the worlds literature, we have ingrained ourselves in the world and now there is little difference between the church and the world - we just call our little corner of the world Christian and feel good about it.
7. Verse thirteen opens up the area of trials. Not only of the persecution that the people were going through, but just plain life. "Life is Hard" is a flip statement but it is quite true. Most of us go through all sorts of problems and troubles in this life. You might try to relate to the people in your church and know that many of them would like to talk about their problems. Talk doesn’t take long, just some concentration on keeping yourself out of the conversation.
People loose jobs, loose money, loose children, loose spouses, loose parents, loose health and many other problems of life. They are in prayer but there are still things that you can do. God assists people in problems with His other people. Let’s think about how you might be able to assist a person with a problem.
a. Listen when they talk.
b. Take note in how you might be able to assist them in their problems. If their car burned yesterday and you have two, lend one of them till they get things straightened out. If they have lost a spouse, shut up and listen because if you haven’t gone through it, you DON’T know how they feel.
If they are afflicted physically, is there some way that you could assist them around the house to help in their problems etc.
c. Take the person’s need to the church board for assistance that you cannot give. Assist the board in any way that you can to bring about an answer.
d. If death is related, don’t just listen once and drop it, you can minister over time as well. Many that loose a spouse find they have all sorts of friends, until the funeral is over, then they disappear and they know how many real friends they have. Grieving is a long term process and people can use a friend for a long time.
e. Maybe you have gone through the same problem area and found a great answer for the problem. Share it in a way that they can take it or leave it. Don’t force it down their throat or they will spew it out. Suggesting possible answers will probably bring about a lot of negative, and I’ve already done that’s, but don’t worry about it, just do what you can. The suggestion has been made, and may make good sense to the person later on.
f. Love them no matter how they react to you. Their reactions may be very negative, but remember that the reaction is probably to the troubles, rather than you personally.
It might be of note that the phrase "sing psalms" is an imperative, or command. Not open for discussion, do it. This may speak to those somber people that are having a good week and tend to act as if they aren’t. Sing it out when you have a good day, and pray when you have a bad one.
8. Barnes suggests that the elders are called because they can focus on the praying, whereas the one that is sick may not be able to focus on prayer as they ought. Not that they are normally unable to, but due to the sickness they are focused on their physical plight.
It has been shown that this sickness is probably due to sin, but even then Barnes may have a point. When one has a malady, they are often focused on the pain or nausea that accompanies the problem. There may be little desire at that point to try to pray.
Many years ago I had a kidney stone, one that caused me tremendous pain. They finally operated to get it out because they could not control the pain. Our pastor came to visit somewhere in the process, I think before the operation, but I don’t recall because I was so focused on the pain that I was not thinking adequately. I remember having the thought that he had driven sixty plus miles to visit - that impressed me, but I really didn’t care if he was there or not because he had no way of dampening the pain that was my total focus.
This would be a good opportunity to mention the elders/pastors visitation. Yes, it is good, yes it is often appreciated, but if you don’t feel appreciated, don’t let it bother you, because the focus of the visited probably isn’t on you or your feelings. Not that you shouldn’t visit, but beware that a visit may or may not be the best thing at the moment. Allow the patient to give you indication of what is needed.
Quite often a hospital reduces the person to the physical and nothing more for awhile. The questions are physical, the discomforts are physical and every thing you are involved in is physical, so the friendship side may be more important than the spiritual side, though for the lost if death is on the way, we need to be willing to share spiritual things if needed. Often a lost person facing death will be quite focused on spiritual things. This time was the one time I was able to talk openly and freely with my father about spiritual things.
9. Relating to the anointing with oil, Barnes mentions the following which might be of interest: "The custom of anointing the sick with oil still prevails in the East, for it is believed to have medicinal or healing properties. Niebuhr (Beschrieb. von Arabien, s. 131) says, "The southern Arabians believe that to anoint with oil strengthens the body, and secures it against the oppressive heat of the sun, as they go nearly naked. They believe that the oil closes the pores of the skin, and thus prevents the effect of the excessive heat by which the body is so much weakened; perhaps also they regard it as contributing to beauty, by giving the skin a glossy appearance. I myself frequently have observed that the sailors in the ships from Dsjidda and Loheia, as well as the common Arabs in Tehama, anointed their bodies with oil, in order to guard themselves against the heat."
10. Barnes points out that this promise of being raised up is always in light of God’s will in the matter. He makes the point that if this is an absolute promise of the sick always being raised up, then there would never be death. This, we know is not true from other passages in the Word that declare that all must die, unless the rapture occurs.
11. Some suggest that this passage relates to the apostles and their ability to heal miraculously, but there is no indication that this speaks to healing every time, nor are the apostles mentioned, but only the elders of the church.
The Roman church relates this to the rite of "Extreme unction" which is administered to the person that is about to die. First of all the passage speaks of raising up, not putting six feet under. There is no indication that extreme unction is in view. This supposedly proves that the early church used the process of extreme unction. James speaks of one that is sick, not one that is about to die.
12. Verse sixteen calls us to confess our faults to one another and this is the context of elders praying for the sick. The confession might well be a part of the anointing and praying situation. It seems to me in Scripture that the person that prays seeking something from God must first of all confess the sin that is in their life and seek forgiveness. Why would God answer prayers of someone that has unconfessed sin in their life?
If elders are going to pray and pray successfully for a sick person, they should first find holy ground before God for themselves and THEN pray for the sick.
This is true in the prayer meeting, this is true in seeking assistance for the sick and it is true in your personal prayer times. Seek forgiveness before you seek anything else so that God might see you as an obedient child seeking, rather than a rebellious brat that wants and wants.
Indeed, does not the passage show this application to be true? "prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
13. The "sing psalms" is one word in the Greek and it is used four times in the New Testament.
It is translated simply, "sing" in Romans 15:9 "And that the Gentiles might glorify God for [his] mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name."
It is translated "I will sing" twice in 1 Corinthians 15:15 "What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also."
It is translated "making melody" in Ephesians 5:19 "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;"
Thus, it should not be made to mean that the merry are to actually sing a psalm from the Old Testament, but that they are to make music. The lexicon suggests that this can mean to pluck the strings of a harp, so singing may not even be required, just music.
Indeed, there might be the case that this isn’t even outward music. Ephesians says in your heart, and I Corinthians mentions sing with the Spirit. Both of these could well be inaudible music.
One would not want to make a whole lot out of these passages, but the idea that the joy or merriment brings a song to your heart or lip. Probably in the context of the use of the word, aimed toward God and not your fellow believer.
14. The question of whether a church is to have one or plural elders is often raised today. Some try to screw the single elder/pastor into Scripture, but they don’t always do a good job of it. First of all the use of the plural is much more common than the use of the singular.
Acts 14:23 mentions the ordination of elders, plural, in EVERY church.
Acts 20:17 mentions calling the elders, plural, of the church, singular.
Titus 1:5 mentions elders, plural, in every city
1 Timothy 3:1-12 is often used showing a singular to a plural deacons, but this is not proof of a single pastor, it is proof, only that Paul was saying IF ANY MAN, whether there might be one or ten dozen is not shown in the text.
If a church is small and only has one elder, that may have to be it until others are qualified. If a church decides only one man is qualified, then that is fine, until others are discipled to assist him as qualified elders.
To say Scripture teaches the one pastor, over all and all under him is unscriptural and should be named as such. A plurality will give the wisdom to run a church, a single person running the church is called a dictator and is dangerous at best for the church.
So, what can we learn from the book of James? We can learn some practical Christianity and most likely that it is based on a close walk with God and a good strong prayer life. There is also the principle that we are to be leaning on one another, not finding division within our church body.
This draws one to wonder at the local church today in America. Most are either run by a dictator that does not allow descent, or they are splintered into factions. The key is to have one head and that being Christ Himself, not Christ telling the dictator what to do, but leading the entire congregation.
Some time ago there was a church that we were attending. There had been no discussion as to the mission and purpose of the local congregation, yet up pops, one Sunday, a Mission Statement that appeared in the bulletin from that point forth.
There is no way the church body is united in effort toward the mission statement that is thought up by the pastor. The entire body should be in on the planning of the church because the individuals are guided by The Head, Christ.
With this hap-hazard sort of goings on, it is no wonder the giving is mediocre, it is no wonder few show up for prayer meeting, it is no wonder few are at visitation. People will gather around a common goal, but seldom gather for someone else’s goal.
There must be equity in the body as well; we cannot have the poor being side tracked to give preference to the rich. Both are equal in the sight of God and we need to make it so within the walls of the church as well.
James is a practical book and we have not touched the vast information and application there. Let this be your introduction to the book, and then dig deeper on your own. Allow God the Spirit to lead you to truths that are tucked away for you personally, then share those truths with others that all may benefit. Ask God to direct your thinking and be sure to take time to consider things slowly and carefully and allow Him to bring forth the truths that you need for your walk with Him.
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
The term "sick" can also be translated weak, or weakness. The importance of this will be seen later as we discuss the overall meaning of this text. Is it speaking of being sick as in the flu, physical sickness, or is it in the context of spiritual sickness? We will see later on in our study.
The formula is, if you are sick, call the elders of the church and "let" them pray over him, with anointing with oil - in the name of the Lord. Some very specific items are called for. Elders, not deacons, the term elders is plural, not singular, prayer, anointing in the Lord’s name. Many suggest that the office of elder is for THE pastor, but here we see that there are multiple elders in the church. (Every translation I checked lists this as a plural.)
This will require some scheduling, to get more than one together for the visit. Indeed, it seems to me that it would be ALL of the elders unless it was impossible. Most today suggest anointing be the touching of the forehead with a drop or two of olive oil. There is nothing in the text to show this to be incorrect, though there is nothing in the text to show this to be correct either.
Since James did not specify the how, we might suggest that the why was well known to the readers, thus possibly something from Jewish culture, or it might indicate that the how is not all that important, that the prayer is the important part. It would be suggested that the anointing must be of some importance since it is to be done in the Lord’s name.
There are some that view the oil as representative of the Spirit, which it may be. To anoint would seem to be a small amount to me, but it might be that a covering of the forehead of the person, might be soothing and cooling if there was a fever involved.
There might also be another truth tucked away in the verse. Call the elders, is the statement, not go to the healing meeting, go to the revival, or go to the television. The elders of your local church are the ones that are to be involved and no one else. The healing of our "church society" is not Biblical, nor is it effective. The going forward and being knocked to the floor, the wailing, and the showmanship, all are totally foreign to this passage of Scripture.
Now, which would you want to do if you were sick and looking for relief from God? Especially if you had it in mind that this sickness was caused by sin. The sinner should look to their spiritual leaders for relief. It would be better if they would just deal with God, but there seems to be the failure to do so.
Constable points out that the word translated "anointing" is not the normal Greek word for anoint, but rather the word which describes to rub with oil. It is a common word for any sort of rubbing. He also mentions that there is another word used of religious anointing. However, if you look up the other references to the word used by James you will find that it is in the context of times spent with God, or indeed the anointing of Christ Himself multiple times. I am not sure the observation that it is "mundane and profane" the every day rubbing that Constable implies. Correct that it may not be a religious sacrament or ritual, but more than just everyday rubbing.
And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
First on the agenda is to figure out what the "prayer of faith" is and how it is offered. Is it praying by some special formula? Is it praying a special set of words? Is it praying that contains lots of utterance and emphasis?
It is of interest that this word "prayer" is different than the one used previously. This word means a vow or prayer to God. This might give us understanding to the phrase. It might even indicate that the sick person has made peace with God by making a vow which will remedy the problem.
Some might wonder who is to do the praying. It seems that the elders are to pray for the sick person, while the sick person is to correct the deficiencies of the situation with a vow to God.
"Save the sick" may well indicate that there are further ramifications to the sickness. If there is no change, then possibly further problems will occur. This could be either further sickness, or as John fifteen suggests, death. John 15:1 ff speaks of the Lord taking away unfruitful branches. Corinthians mentions that disorder at the Lord’s Table has caused the death of some. God is loving, and He is long suffering, but He is also serious about dealing with His people in relation to their sin.
This all is in the context of cure of the sickness and forgiveness of sin. Now, it should be noted that there is a possibility that there is no sin involved when James states, "and if he have committed sins" however the context seems to indicate sin is the culprit. This will become clearer as we move through the passage.
Note, also, that it is the Lord that will raise him up, not the healer, not the formula of some quack, but Almighty God in response to faith.
The "prayer of faith" doesn’t seem to be anything super special, but more the thought of praying and believing that God will answer. Now, I don’t know specifically what this prayer of faith is, but have always thought that it related to those times when you really know that God is going to do what is asked. There are times when I pray, asking that the Lord will do something, but always submitting to His will in the issue. A few times in life, I knew what to pray, and I knew that the answer was on its way and I knew that God was going to answer. As noted, this has been a "few" times in my life. I suspect, but cannot prove that this is the prayer of faith.
"Shall save the sick" is in the indicative mood or something that will occur. It is not something that we should hope for, nor something that we look forward to maybe happening, it is a sure thing, it will occur. This is also another indication that this sickness is related to sin. If someone has terminal cancer, there is no reason to think that this passage is for them. The prayer and the anointing would not be wrong, nor ineffective, but the "raise him up" would not necessarily occur.
Likewise, the forgiveness is a sure thing. It isn’t something hoped for, nor something you have to jump through hoops for, it will be given.
If a person is sick and they know it is due to their sin, they should take tremendous comfort in this passage - it is something they can count on, it is something that can give them immediate relief of mind - all they have to do is act - get right with God.
Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
This verse calls not only the sick person to confess faults, but also the others present. Someone might suggest that the elders are in on this somehow. Not necessarily, but certainly a possibility. All that are involved are to confess faults to others and then pray for one another that "ye" may be healed. "Ye" seems to allow for a plural number being sick, again indicating elders are involved.
Now, just because someone calls the elders to their home for prayer and anointing, elders don’t get your feathers ruffled, and church members don’t assume there is more than the need for prayer.
The reason for everyone being involved in the confessing is so that all might be on praying ground. An elder with sin in their life will not be an effectual prayer partner and most certainly is not a righteous man, so why would you want him involved if he doesn’t take care of ANY problem that exists within his spiritual life.
"The effectual fervent prayer" of a RIGHTEOUS man availeth much. Two items in the way he prays and one item in the way he lives. Effectual prayer, fervent prayer and righteous living. Sounds like a spiritual man to me. Actually effectual and fervent are one word in the original language. It is a term that we get "energy" from. It is energized prayer, or prayer that requires work to accomplish. Not that quickie in the morning worship service or in Sunday school, but a prayer from a righteous person that is connected with God.
Now, since a sick person is to call the elders, and since righteousness is a part of the text, then is it not an imperative that the elders of your church should be righteous men? I think the case has been made clearly by the apostle.
Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
I’ve always wondered if I would have had the faith of this man to pray for the stopping of rain - we live in Oregon, the rain capital of America. This man was a true man of faith, and his faith should be studied if you desire to deepen your own faith.
Elias means "my God is Jehovah" and is Elijah of the Old Testament. For the account which James refers to, take a look at I Kings seventeen and eighteen.
It is of note that James includes the readers with himself in saying that "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are. This would indicate that James thought the readers were of a similar nature to Elijah and similar to himself.
The question seems to come up as to what the like passions is getting at. Are we all like passioned about our prayer, or like passioned in our spiritual physical makeup? It seems best to suggest that we are all like passioned in who and what we are as human beings. We all have our lackings, we all have our varied amount of faith, but this man - this man that is just like us - prayed that it would not rain.
Now, I don’t know about you, but to be likened to Elijah is quite an honor to me. I’d like to think I am like he was, though I’m not sure that I come up to the mark. How about you. Something to consider in coming days isn’t it?
There is a point here that might give us some challenge today in our Christian society.
This man prayed and nature stopped doing its thing. How great a prayer warrior is that? I really don’t think the average of about five minutes a day for the average pastor is adequate. This was the latest stat for pastors that I’ve seen. I know that there are some that spend a lot of time in prayer, but to have a five minute average, there must be a lot that pray even less. This is not to point fingers at pastors; it is just that their survey is all that I have at hand. I cannot imagine the average believer even coming up to that average.
How is your prayer life? Do you spend adequate time with the Lord? James, it is said, spent great amounts of time in prayer. That should be a hallmark of believers across the world, but it is doubtful. Trials and troubles will make one a longer prayer - that was the situation James readers were in. Many Christians in the world are under great persecution and these folks spend a lot of time in prayer. They have no other hope, than to look to the Lord.
Elias prayed and it didn’t rain for three and a half years. Consider this for a moment. Only God has that sort of power, yet he allowed Elijah to have a part in the grand happening. Elijah was a part of it because he prayed. What great things have we missed out on by not praying? He prayed again and there was rain. Seems pretty definite that his prayer controlled the natural order of things.
We today, do not really know what we could do for God because we never talk to Him about it. We have the responsibility to speak with Him. It isn’t His responsibility to smack us long side the head and tell us to pray. He is our Father, and it should be natural for us to spend time with Him.
Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; 20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
No, this is not speaking of eternal security as many try to make out. It is speaking of what we have already spoken of, chastisement unto death due to rebellion against God. If you through action or prayer keep someone from continuing on in their refusal to follow God, then you will save them from death - physical. "To hinder the knowledge of a thing" is one way of putting the meaning of the term "hide" which James mentions.
If you assist someone, you hide a multitude of sins, or prevent them from coming to knowledge. I assume that by going to someone that is sick, praying, anointing, and counseling, there is a change in the person’s heart, then they will be raised up, won’t die, and their sin will not come to light of day - WILL THEY? That is a distinct command to the elders to keep their mouths shut about the whole situation, especially the sins of the person.
There is no reason for anyone to reveal anyone else’s sin. The sin is between the person and God in this situation and should stay that way. If the person’s sin has come to public knowledge then other steps should be taken, but if the sin is private, then it should stay private.
James seems to want this to be public knowledge, it is assumed, because we should be touching each others lives by challenging one another to purity of life. Again, when is the last time anyone in your church challenged you to purity? Maybe a preacher has made your toes feel uncomfortable, but has anyone really challenged the way you live your life in a way that you were convicted, and you changed your way of life.
It must be admitted that to challenge anyones purity today in the church is to ask to have your head handed to you in your hand. There must be proper teaching and preaching for a time before we can really expect to be able to do this today.
Teaching that purity is the expected standard, teaching that we are to challenge and disciple one another in the area of purity, and quite possibly some teaching about the consequences of not leading a pure life.
Purity is not a popular topic to discuss. One of the forums where I read and post occasionally is not very conservative. There are a lot of opportunities to challenge to purity, to challenge from the Word, but when someone does so, they are either totally ignored, or they are ridiculed for being unbiblical. People are not interested in purity, they are interested in their own little world that they have created, and that they feel is adequate for their life. No matter there might be something unbiblical, no matter there might be something they do that is against God’s wishes. They are okay in their own eyes and there is no need for further discussion.
Copyright 2008. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God's work and I don't want anyone to profit from it in a material way.
Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on James 5". "Derickson's Notes on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany