Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: James Studies|
Chapter: James 5
Passage: James 5:1-6
A. Find Out:
1. Who should weep and wail and why? v.1
2. What has happened? v.2,3a
3. What have these people done? v.3c
4. What is testifying against them? v.4
5. How had they lived? v.5
6. What had they done? v.6
At the end of chapter 4 James had been speaking about the proud and boastful who made their plans how to make money, without any reference to the Lord. Now he further focuses on rich people, almost in the style of an Old Testament prophet.
He first of all warns them, as if to draw their attention, of what is coming on them. A time will come when their riches will become worthless and indeed will act as a testimony against them.
Then with sharp precision he points out why they will be brought to misery. Let us consider these things in the order they probably took place.
First they either paid inadequate wages or even failed to pay those who were working for them [v.4]. This brought anguish to those workers.
Second, possibly by not paying them sufficient to live on, they condemned some of their workers to death (by starvation?) [v.6].
Third, they themselves lived in luxury and self-indulgence [v.5]. In other words they were completely insensitive to the needs of those they employed and just carried on in self gratification.
Fourth, they stock-piled their wealth so that it even rotted and corroded, [v.2,3] sitting there unused while others died in need. No wonder James speaks against such people.
Chapter: James 5
Passage: James 5:7-9
A. Find Out:
1. Why are we to be patient? v.7a
2. Who does James use as an illustration of patience? v.7b
3. So what are we to do? v.8
4. What are we not to do? v.9a
5. What will happen if we do that? v.9b
6. Who is where? v.9c
After having given a strong warning to rich people who abuse others (who may include Christians unfortunately), he now returns to the church at large scattered across the face of the earth, and encourages us to be patient. Why should we need patience?
Two reasons are indicated. First, having just dealt with rich people abusing their position, James recognises that some of us on the receiving end of their abuses may be feeling desperate. Just hang on, implies James, it won't go on for ever. The second reason could perhaps also be seen as a response to the first one: the Lord is coming soon. Just be patient says James, in all your tribulations, the Lord will be back for you soon.
This sense of the immanent return of the Lord seems true of much New Testament writing. In Revelation 22:7 we have Jesus' words, “I am coming soon” as an encouragement for us to be living in expectancy, living ready for Him to come back at any moment, yet in verse 11 of that chapter we are exhorted to carry on life as normal.
Here is the tension that always exists over the matter of the Lord's return, we are to live as it He is coming tomorrow yet be prepared to carry on living as normal if he doesn't, so this does require patience!
Chapter: James 5
Passage: James 5:10-12
A. Find Out:
1. How are we to see the prophets? v.10
2. Who do we consider blessed? v.11a
3. Who was an example of this? v.11b
4. Of what is the Lord full? v.11c
5. What are we not to do? v.12a
6. What are to do or what will happen? v.12b
In the previous passage James was speaking about the need to be patient, patient in the face of unjust rich employers. To reinforce what he is saying he reminds us of the prophets of the Old Testament who had to wait for the fulfilment of the prophetic word, while they were so often rejected and reviled by leaders and people. Job was also a classic example of someone who persevered in the face of hardship and resisted the gloom and doom of his friends until eventually God blessed him and gave him double what he had before.
A number of times in the New Testament we are told to have patience (Rom 12:12, 2 Cor 1:6, Ephes 4:2, 1 Thess 5:14) for the Lord knows that when we find people or situations difficult we want to pass them quickly, but instead we need to grow in character and in patience. Perseverance is also spoken about many times (Rom 5:3,4, 1 Tim 4:16, Heb 10:36 & 12:1, Jas 1:3,4, 2 Pet 1:6) and the emphasis is even more on putting up with the difficulties of the situation.
It is in the face of such difficulties that we may make rash promises and so James exhorts us not to do such things, but simply to say yes or no. Jephthah (Judges 11) is the classic example of a rash and foolish promise that should not have been fulfilled.
Chapter: James 5
Passage: James 5:13-16
A. Find Out:
1. Who should pray? v.13a
2. Who should sing songs of praise? v.13b
3. What should the sick do? v.14
4. What will make him well? v.15a
5. What also will the Lord do? v.15b
6. What two things should we do and why? v.16
In the previous passage James had been speaking about right ways of responding to trying circumstances and so in today's reading he continues on with the subject of rightly responding.
Right, he says, when you are in trouble pray (and in the same way, on the other side of the coin, when you are happy rejoice with praise and thanksgiving to God), and if your trouble involves sickness, ask the elders to come and pray for you. James recognises that when we are sick we feel low and our faith isn't strong so, he says, call in your leaders whose faith will be stronger and let them do the praying for you. James also recognises that the sickness might (only might - note the word “If” in v.15) be caused by sin in the person's life. In that case the right response is to confess (acknowledge and ask forgiveness for) that sin so that the Lord can move in and heal.
James takes the opportunity here to emphasise that righteousness and faith are powerful weapons against sickness and sin, with the implication being that we would do well to ensure that they are essential ingredients in our lives. Righteousness will stand against sin, and faith will release prayer, which will have effect and open the way up for the Lord to move and change circumstances.
Chapter: James 5
Passage: James 5:17-20
A. Find Out:
1. What point does James make about Elijah? v.17a
2. What had he done and with what effect? v.17b
3. What had he then done with what effect? v.18
4. What might happen to one of us? v.19
5. What two things will occur when that happens? v.20
First of all see how these verses flow from what has gone before (and we have tried to make this point throughout these studies, that one idea flows on from the previous one). James has just mentioned prayer as a right response to adversity, saying that the prayer of a righteous man can have great effect, so now he illustrates that by reminding us of the life of Elijah (1 Kings 17,18).
At God's instigation Elijah had proclaimed a drought and prayed the prophetic word into being. Three years later God declared the end of the drought and again Elijah prayed the prophetic word into being. Elijah is thus a powerful example of a man who knew the heart of God and prayed it into being. So we are to be.
Finally, in what at first seems a rather abrupt ending to this letter, James speaks about turning a sinner back to the Lord. In some ways he has been speaking about sinners, both Christian and non-Christian in much of what he has been saying in this letter and so at the end here he simply points out that it is a really great thing if we can bring back to the Lord those who have been failing Him. Note that he speaks to Christians (my brothers, v.19) and speaks about if one of them should fall away and then calls them a sinner.
RECAP: "Clear the Decks!" - James 5
In this last group of 5 studies we have seen James dealing with:
Within this letter it seem that there are almost broadsides being fired again and again by James to make us go through our lives and ensure that all wrong attitudes, wrong thoughts, wrong words, and wrong activities are put under the spotlight and dealt with.
At the beginning of this last chapter there is a further broadside against those who are rich and have gained their riches by oppressing their workers. That is then followed by a slightly less powerful broadside against those of us who wrongly respond to others in the church or wrongly respond to difficult circumstances. This is followed immediately by a blast requiring all of us to respond correctly to troubling circumstances.
If we have managed to read these chapters and still maintain a comfortable equilibrium we have missed the point of what James has been saying. Read it again if necessary. Lower your defences and let it get to you. It is powerful stuff!
1. We are not to ignore the needs of the less well off
2. God's grace is there for us in difficult circumstances
3. When the going gets tough - pray in faith!
4. Look to restore one another, that is good.
Ask the Lord to search you once more over these issues. Confess your failures, receive forgiveness and start again.
In these chapters we have seen:
1:1-18 The Difficulties of Living in the World
- seeing trials as an opportunity to learn and grow
- God's wisdom available
- hold a right attitude & persevere
- resist temptation and realise only good comes from God
1:19-27 The Need to Respond and Respond Correctly
- refuse a wrong response, ensure a right response
2:1-13 Avoid Discrimination
- don't discriminate on basis of appearances
- favouritism is sin and God wants mercy
2:14-26 A Faith that Works
- faith must have deeds with it
3:1-12 Watch the Tongue
- teachers have a special responsibility for what they say
- the tongue is very powerful
- opposing things should not come out of our mouths
3:13-18 Wisdom expressed in the Good Life
- let wisdom be seen by your good life
- heavenly wisdom is a blessing
4:1-12 Straighten Up Your Lives
- why we quarrel
- divided loyalties
- we need to get right with God if we are like this
- don't judge others; only God can do that
4:13-17 No Boasting
- avoid self-centred planning
5:1-6 Warning for Rich Employers
- wealth doesn't last
- oppressors will be held accountable
5:7-12 Patience in Suffering
- realise the Lord is coming so don't grumble
5:13-20 The Prayer of Faith
- the way to handle problems is to pray
- prayer needs to be an act of faith
As we have gone through these studies various things may have stood out to us but the following may be some overall things we could take hold of as we finish James:
1. The Difficulty of Living in the World
James recognises that it is sometimes tough living in the world and he speaks of trials (1:2,12), temptation (1:13), suffering (5:10), and trouble (5:13) but reminds us that such things develop us (1:3), can be helped by God's wisdom (1:5) and prayer (5:13) and will earn a crown (1:12) from the Lord.
2. Unrighteous Behaviour
In the course of this letter we are warned against giving way to temptation (1:14,15), enduring anger (1:20), uncleanness (1:21), favouritism (2:1), actionless faith (2:14), wrong words (3:10), envy and ambition (3:14), squabbling from wrong desires (4:1), divided loyalties (4:4), double mindedness (1:8 & 4:8), slander (4:11), boasting (4:13), oppressing workers (5:4), self-indulgence (5:5), grumbling against others (5:9), wrong oaths (5:12), all of which are unrighteous behaviour which is to be avoided by us as unacceptable to God!
3. Righteous Behaviour
By contrast, James is also quite positive about right ways to live. For instance, we are to look to God for help (1:5), rejoice in the position God has given us (1:9), persevere under trial (1:12), be doers as well as hearers ((1:22,23), care for the needy (1:27), living a good life (3:13), show patience in adversity (5:7), pray when in trouble (5:13), pray for one another (5:16), restore one another (5:19,20). Yes the Christian life is a lot of “do”s as well as a lot of “don't”s.
4. And So?
Within this letter are various subtle indications about our relationship to the Lord (e.g. 1:1,5,12,17,18,27, 2:1, 4:4,7, 5:13). Yes it is very practical, more a sermon than a letter but in every chapter there are many things that speak loudly to the church in the early years of the 21 st century. It is as relevant to us today as it was to the Christians then. Let's heed what it has said to us.