Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reading James Chapter Five

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.

8 comments:

Becky said...

Thank you, for encouraging me to do this. I followed, as I said once here, in the quiet this time. My journal pages have my thoughts written down.

It was a great blessing to my soul.

Under His shadow,

THE OLD GEEZER said...

Gregg, Thanks for a great study in James. I agree with you 100% That it is not the pastor’s responsibility to know that you are sick or that you are in the hospital.

I remember a woman in a 5000+ member church that I served in who became very bitter because the senior didn't call or visit her husband when he was in the hospital. I asked her if she had asked the pastor to visit him and she said, "no he's supposed to know about stuff like that. ???

Question! You said, " 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".

Why do you think it's more our doing than His?

Thanks again ~Ron

Brian Ray Todd said...

Acts 8:30-31 (New King James Version)
30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.

Thank you Pastor Gregg for guiding us.

LibbyLibbyLibbyLibbyLibby said...

I have a friend who is memorizing the entire book of James. Its a very powerful and rich book and you did a great job breaking it down, thank you for your patience to do this.

Gregg said...

Becky - You are more than welcome! I am glad you followed along and were greatly encouraged.

OG - Thanks Ron. Thanks for your illustration. Sometimes people are so unreasonable.
My thought on that Ron is I think the Lord certainly at times gives good things to His children. However, I think a careful study of the New Testament reveals that most of those "good" things He gives to us is Spiritual things. I think He God allows us to chase after and accumulate many "baubles" and toys that He probably would have us do without in order to serve Him fully. I think many believers are to encumbered by toys and possessions to move out on a moment's notice into a service, ministry, opportunity.

I think the Scriptures teaches us to live minimally as pilgrims, whose affections (Col 3) are set on things above. Many of us live as full citizens with roots so far down it will take an extra pull and tug at the rapture to release them. I am not saying that we have to be poor or take a vow of poverty to be spiritually right with God, I just think we, by His permission and grace obviously, find ways to probably obtain more than we need.

I look at the second homes, vacation homes, Diesel pushers, boats, 3,000 sq ft homes, multiple cars, trucks, RVs, ATV's, HD 64" plasma TVs and etc and wonder how those funds could have been invested in both the Kingdom of God and the individual treasuries in heaven. Don't get me wrong, at one time I had an 18' foot boat, 19' Travel Trailer, Chevy Silverado 4x4, Chevy Malibu, and brand new two story two car garage house. We have actually sold or in the case of the leased Malibu returned it at the end of the lease. Are these things wrong? Not neccessarily. However, these things had a hold one me, at times they really "owned" me with insurance, maintenance, etc. Tied to a house I am not easily available to move to a place of service like I want to. I now would rather lay up treasures in heaven than in GM, GMAC, Bank America Mortgage, etc. Does that make since?

Brian Ray Todd - thanks brother! I am glad you followed along and were blessed.

Gregg said...

LLLLL- You are very welcome! Thank you for your kind comments.

Seams Inspired said...

Thanks, Gregg! I have nothing to add other than my gratitude for hosting this study. What's next? :o)

Kansas Bob said...

Good thoughts Gregg! Agree that it is a member's responsibility to make the pastoral staff aware of things like hospitalizations. On the flip-side it is the responsibility of the pastor to respond in a pastoral manner.

One of my responsibilities on our pastoral staff was to make hospital visits. In the 3+ years that I ministered I never once could convince another staff member to come with me. And when my wife was hospitalized for weeks on end she got one pastoral visit - unless you count my daily visits. :)

I think that it is a matter of priority. IMO, caring for the sick should always trump caring for the well. Unfortunately, teaching and preaching are the golden idols of the evangelical church. Invisible ministry is just not all that important to some pastors.

Here endeth the rant!