Well, we did it! We read each chapter of the epistle of James to the dispersed Jewish Christians seven (7) times. Now we have spent this past week reading chapter five (5.) I trust you have a better handle on the theme of James and that you picked something up during this month that the Holy Spirit can use to draw you closer to Christ.
James chapter five (5) can be broken down into four (4) sections. The first section runs from verse one (1) through verse six (6.) These opening verses serve as a warning to those who are rich.
The second section begins in verse seven (7) and continues through verse twelve (12.) This section seals with the patience or the longsuffering that we are to exhibit during trials or tribulations. James talks of this as suffering.
The third section begins in verse thirteen (13) and runs through verse eighteen (18.) This section deals with prayer, more specifically prayer for those who are sick.
The fourth (4) section begins in verse nineteen (19) and runs through verse twenty (20.) This section serves as a last admonition calling the Christian Community to action in helping those who have fallen into sin.
Verses 1-6: This section serves as a graphic warning to those believers who are wealthy. James turns his focus from the business people of chapter four (4) to those who are landowners. James admonishes them for their materialistic accumulation of wealth and property. He also seems to indicate that one of the ways they were able to accumulate their property and wealth was by cheating those who worked for them. An even greater charge by James seems to be that the way they worked or treated their workers actually resulted in the death of some. Obviously if God blesses us with material things (which I think is more our doing than His) we are to use those things for the glory of God and benefit of others. We are not here to accumulate wealth or possessions. This life is neither our home nor our final end. This section needs to be read often, carefully, with much prayer, meditation, and soul searching.
Verses 7-12: James turns his focus from those who are wealthy to those believers who are poor. We are never instructed, called, or directed to fight back against the wealthy, our employers, those who oppress us. Jesus, James, and the New Testament call believers to suffer, to suffer patiently. We are waiting for the “harvest.” We are waiting for the glorious hope of the return of our Lord. We are not called to vindicate ourselves when slandered, cheated, or mistreated. God is keeping the books. Our duty is to wait patiently for Him and He will settle the books. Don’t grumble, don’t complain. Don’t react or attempt to fight. Wait patiently God will be compassionate and merciful to His children especially when they have been cheated or mistreated. (Pride fights against this attitude, doesn’t it? I can hear all the, “but’s” out there!)
Verses 13-18: This section if read carefully and followed properly could certainly end a lot of church/pastoral difficulties. First, it is not the pastor’s responsibility to know that you are sick or that you are in the hospital. Stop being miffed because he didn’t have ESP and his visit was delayed because he didn’t know. Look at verse fourteen (14.) If you are sick, you are responsible to call the Elders and inform them. You are to ask them to come and pray for you. I am not suggestion that pastors never have to take the initiative to visit you – but I have seen families angrily storm out of churches causing great hurt simply because the pastor never knew an individual was sick.
Got that off my chest (it isn’t easy being a pastor, let me tell you.) In this section James restates one of his key themes: trials. He also doubles back and brings the “tongue” to our attention once again. Prayer is crucial to a believer. If you are suffering, then go before the Lord. Forget the why me, and can you make it stop prayers. Glorify God and praise Him that He considered you worthy, ask Him for strength to endure and be faithful. If you are sick pray. Ask the Elders to pray for you asking God to heal you.
If you illness is a result of sin, then confess your sin in prayer to God. This is power in prayer. Remember prayer is not to give a wish list to a Genie or vending machine in the sky; it is to submit our hearts and will to God asking for God’s will to be revealed and one in our lives. Prayer is designed to bring our will in line with God’s will.
Prayer will help “tame” the tongue. Pray for one another.
Verses 19-20: This letter ends abruptly. There does not seem to be a conclusion. Rather James, being a man of prayer and a man of action (read the epistle) calls the believers to action, to a response. He wants the stronger believers to help those believers who have fallen into the sins he wrote about. James summarizes these sins in a short but powerful sentence, e.g. “…if anyone wanders from the truth…whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering…” James wants to see confrontation, confession, and comfort.