James 5:1-20

James 5:1-20

James 5:1-3 – Jacob continues in his warnings to believers that there are various trials that God sends our way to prepare us for our positions in the Kingdom.  Either we will respond to the trial or it will become a temptation. A great trial that comes to us is what we do with our wealth. Those who are wealthy face a temptation that can consume us unless we live our lives close to the Lord.

We in America should consider ourselves wealthy compared to the rest of the world.  The temptation James is speaking of here is to bank and hoard money instead of using it to meet the needs of a desperate and dying world. The Bible never condemns people with money. It only condemns those who store up their wealth instead of using a fair portion of it to reach the lost, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, shelter the cold and homeless, nurse the sick and sound the Good News of forgiveness and reconciliation around the world.

The reason for this passage is to warn the rich who hold on to more than they need. Jacob gives Believers a strong word of warning:

1) Weep and howl if you are hoarding wealth (James 5:1).

2) Because wealth is not lasting (James 5:2-3).

3) Because hoarding wealth condemns you (James 5:3).

4) Weep over the way you are living (James 5:4-6).

To “Weep and wail” in the original Greek, meant to burst into weeping and to wail with grief, Why should we weep and wail? Because miseries are coming to the one who hoards that are so terrible that they should begin weeping and wailing now; Miseries of afflictions, emptiness, loneliness, purposelessness, miseries of mind and insecurity. Hoarded riches will fail us; they won’t bring real satisfaction.

In James 5:1 he tells us that wealth is not lasting.  Riches not used rightly will rot. This word was used to refer to such things as farm produce like wheat and vegetables. Money when not invested wisely rots away. He refers to garments that become moth-eaten. This might relate to those who earn their living in the textile and clothing industries, or who have put their confidence in their wardrobes.

He talks about gold and silver becoming corroded, which may be referring to those who made their wealth in precious metals or even in iron works. He knew that gold and silver didn’t rust, not in the ordinary sense of the word. He means that if that if those minerals are unused they will become coated over with filth and become tarnished, corroded, and eventually wear away.

The point is this: if farm produce sits unused, it rots. If garments sit unused, they become moth-eaten. If gold and silver sit unused, they become coated with filth and eventually corrode and waste away. If wealth, money or anything else is hoarded, it’s useless. It does nothing but sit there, and eventually it will be gone. It won’t be used for the good that it could do. The rich person who has it contributes nothing that bears fruit for the Kingdom.

(Proverbs 23:5;27:24). Someone has said a person with six children is better satisfied than a person with $6 million. Reason: The man with $6 million wants more.

Jacob’s calls us to weep and wail over the hoarding of wealth because it brings us condemnation.  Hoarding condemns us in two ways:

1) Wealth will stand as a witness against us now and in the Day of Judgment. When we hoard money and live extravagantly and lavishly.  The poor see us indulging ourselves, and God sees it. The rich would do well to feed the poor, for the poor sometimes rise up against the rich and threaten and destroy their lives. But even if that is not enough motivation, the rich must always fear God, for God is the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell.

The point is this: our wealth and hoarding stand as a witness against us even while we are on earth. But the consequence that we must fear the most is in the day of eternal judgment. Treasures of wealth that are hoarded may become treasures of wrath heaped against us.

2) Wealth has the ability to eat our flesh as a fire. If we hoard money, the passion to hoard more and more money burns within us. The more we hoard, the more we desire to hoard and this passion will consume us. We will never be satisfied and fulfilled in life.  The lust for riches has the ability to destroy us both now and forever. It can become the consuming fire and passion of our lives: it will burn and consume until it destroys us. (Matthew 6:19-20;16:27;1 Timothy 6:9-10).

James 5:4-6 In these verses James’s describes some of the characteristics of the wealthy who cheat, steal, and defraud their workers. The person who is cheated cries out to God in his suffering, and when he does, God hears him. God is described here as the Lord of Sabbaoth. This is the Hebrew word meaning “Lord of hosts” or “Lord of armies.”  It refers to God’s omnipotence, His unlimited power to help the poor, the disadvantaged, and the oppressed.

This passage tells us that God will execute judgment and wrath on the oppressors (Matthew 5:25ff). The wealthy can steal and defraud in a number of ways; by not paying just wages, by not paying for the work done, by withholding more than what they should, by falsely adding to a bill. By adding weights to the scales that measure what is being bought and the list could go on and on.  Scripture has much to say about cheating people out of their due wages.  The person who lies in order to get wealth is a person seeking death (Proverbs 21:6).

The person who oppresses the poor is going to meet a day of severe need. (Proverbs 22:16). The person who steals to get riches will suddenly lose his wealth and will prove he is a fool (Jeremiah 17:11). The person who gets gain dishonestly will be struck by God’s own hand (Ezekiel 22:13).  God will never forget a single one of the dishonest works of the rich (Amos 8:4-7).

The person who oppresses the worker shall face the judgment of God. (Deuteronomy 24:14-15;Malachi 3:5). People who hoard their money are making themselves fat for the day of slaughter. This is descriptive language; nevertheless, it is the warning of God to all of us who bank and hoard more than we need. Our hoarding is adding more and more weight for the coming day of slaughter, for the wrath of God’s judgment (Romans 2:5ff).

Finally Jacob tells us that some of the rich condemn and kill the righteous that resists them. The rich tend to dislike people who teach self-denial giving to meet the needs of others.

Therefore, the rich reject and condemn the righteous. The rich reject the message of self-denial and sacrificial giving that the righteous practice and teach. In addition, in a society that is given over to pleasure, the rich and powerful will even persecute and kill the righteous because of his message.

James 5:7-12 These 6 verses are directly related to the preceding 6 verses.  In verses James 5:1-6, James talks to the wealthy that used their resources to treat others unfairly even twisting the judicial system, to line their pockets. He warns the wealthy not to use their money in an unrighteous manner but to invest in heavenly treasures.

After giving a warning to the wealthy he now directs his attention to those who have been condemned or unjustly treated.  The key to this is in James 5:10. Jacob now gives counsel to the oppressed, the poor, and the suffering, on how to cope when unjustly treated.  To some degree or other we are all unjustly treated. He tells us to be patient James 5:7-8.

The word patient results from the combination of two Greek words.  The first one means “far, distant, long”; the second means “passion, heat, rage, anger.”  Together they produce the thought of being “long-tempered.”  James tells his suffering readers to be slow to react when provoked by injustice, until the coming of the Messiah.

This is not only a reference to the Second Coming of Messiah, but practically speaking His appearance on the scene when we’re in trouble.  Instead of being patient however we try to hurry God’s intervention.  We want to help him out.  But God knows how to surround us with impossible situations and then say, “Sit down and wait”. Like Saul when he offered the sacrifice that Samuel was supposed to. (1 Samuel 13:8-14)

Spiritual patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) we need to be filled with God’s Spirit so that we might have supernatural strength to withstand persecution and trials.  The natural reaction is to retaliate with human methods and this is not the way of the Kingdom.

Now, this is the whole point of this passage. We must be patient with the power of God’s Spirit to endure all the temptations and trials of life, no matter how strong and terrible their onslaught may be. We must patiently combat the enslaving power of discouragement and defeat that can sweep over our souls before we know it. We need to remember that The Lord is coming and He is going to reward or judge us.

And one thing is sure: none of us want to be condemned when He returns (James 5:9). The way to conquer the temptations and trials of life is to be patient and filled with the Holy Spirit keeping your eyes focused on the Lord knowing that His return is imminent.

Most of us have experienced what happens to motorists when one of those huge graders goes to work on a highway repair job, when the machine is operating on a busy road, traffic is halted and the cars line up in opposite directions are allowed to proceed alternately. A veteran operator of one of those big machines decided one day to try to relieve the tension that inevitably results from such a traffic backup.

On both the front and rear of his grader a sign now appears, declaring, “The Road to Happiness is Almost Always under Construction.”

James 5:14 – What does the Bible teach on healing?  There are some basic foundational facts. There are 2 types of sin: Original and Personal.  The root of original is in our nature given to us by our Father Adam.  The fruit of personal sin is from daily disobedience.

Original Sin introduced sickness and death to man (Romans 5:12) in some sense; we can say that all sickness is the result of sin, which ultimately results in death.  Sometimes there is a direct link between personal sin and death (1 Corinthians 11:27-30). Sometimes there is no relationship between personal sin and sickness (John 9:1-3). It is not God’s will that everyone be healed – Paul, who had the gift of healing, was unable to heal his co-worker Epaphroditus.

Paul had to leave Trophimus behind in Miletus where he remained ill (2 Timothy 4:20).  We learn from Scripture that Paul was not healed from an affliction purposefully put on him by God (2 Corinthians 12:7).  There is a popular teaching that says that it is God’s will for everyone to be healed.  This is based on Isaiah 53:5, by his wounds we are healed.

However the context of this verse relates to spiritual illness, not physical illness, this is borne out by Peter (1 Peter 2:24).  The purpose was not that we be physically healed but spiritually.  This is done by dying to ourselves so that we might live our lives completely for God.

These are the Biblical Guidelines Regarding Healing:

When we are sick we are to pray the Greek root for this word is “distress”.  It may refer to anxiety, mental or emotional illness, or some other difficulty for which there seems to be no answer or immediate relief. James doesn’t promise that prayer will result in healing, but the tone of his words seem to suggest praying for endurance, patience, strength, and for those ministering to our physical needs.

When we are sick we are to call for the elders (James 5:14-15).  The word sick specifically refers to those who are “without” strength or ill to the point of being incapacitated.”  In other words, Jacob is talking about seriously ill people. The sick person or his or her family is to call the spiritual leaders; this is how the elders are to know. The elders are then to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.

The Greek term used in James 5:14 for anointing does not covey the thought we usually ascribe to it, a religious ceremony in which oil is applied to the head.  Here it means “to apply or rub something into the skin”.  This term was used in extra biblical literature in regard to plastering walls, the idea of smearing something onto something else.

In Biblical times oil was used on one who was sick for its medicinal affects.  We find this occurring in Luke 10:34 when the Samaritan poured oil and wine onto the wounds of the man victimized by robbers and left for dead.  James may not be referring to ceremonial anointing, but rather calling for the best medical procedure of the day, and then praying.

Translated into today’s terms, oil represents antibiotics, various other medications and surgery or therapies.  In other words James is urging the treating of sickness by medical means, along with prayer.  The two were to be used together, neither excluding the other.

So instead of just teaching faith healing apart from medicine, James may have been teaching just the opposite.

Note the sick person is to call for the elders. The sick person is to be so trusting of God that he knows that God can heal him. He also believes in prayer.  Those who pray and anoint do both things in the name of the Lord. That is, they know that the Lord alone is the Healer of our sicknesses.

It also should be noted that oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, of His presence.  Jacob may also have in mind that the oil and its presence and placement upon the body help the sick to focus and concentrate on the Holy Spirit, His presence and power. Furthermore oil is a symbol of God’s care, comfort, and joy, of His mercy to us. It is the oil of gladness.

Therefore, oil actually focuses the attention and stirs the sick to believe in God’s will to be merciful and His desire to fill the believer’s heart with gladness (Psalm 45:7). Scripture is clear that we are not healed by our prayers, nor by oil, or medical treatment, but rather we are healed by the Lord.  “The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up….” The Lord will heal the sick person and forgive his sins because of the prayer of faith.

James 5:16-18 Jacob then calls the sick person to confession. Does this mean that believers are to go around confessing all their sins in all their intimacies and ugliness? No! This is not what this passage is talking about. It is referring to certain types of sins or to certain times when we are to confess our sins.

We should confess our sin when the sin has been a wrong or injustice done against someone else; When we have misled or lied to someone; when we have offended someone or caused someone to stumble and sin; when restitution should be made; when we have publicly committed some crime and public forgiveness is required; when a trusted spiritual leader or believing counselor may be able to help us in seeking repentance and restoration before God and man.

We should confess our faults to one another: so that we can pray for one another. Prayer is of critical importance because prayer, a real prayer of faith, heals a sick believer (James 5:15). And now in this verse, prayer that is really earnest is a prayer that works and heals a sin-sick soul (James 5:16). Looking back we should remember that Confession of sin is a way that leads to health and healing.

Praying for one another is essential.  Use of medical assistance is an essential element of the way God can bring us healing. And when the healing comes acknowledge that God is behind it all.  Above all, there is the idea that no limits can be set to power of prayer.  The Jewish sages taught that he who prays surrounds his house with a wall stronger than iron.

They said, “Penitence can do something; but prayer can do everything.” To them prayer was nothing less than contacting the power of God; it was the channel through which the strength and grace of God were brought to bear on the troubles and problems of life.  How much more must this be so for a Believer. In Jewish tradition to cure the ills of life we need to be right with God and right with men, and we need to bring to bear through prayer the mercy and the might of God.

James then cites Elijah as an example of the power of prayer.  The full story is in 1 Kings 17 and 18.  The three years and six months is quoted in Luke 4:25 and is a deduction from 1 Kings 18:1.  Further, the Old Testament narrative does not say that either the coming or the cessation of the drought was due to the prayers of Elijah; he was merely the prophet who announced its coming and its going.  But the Rabbis always studied Scripture under the microscope.

In 1 Kings 17:1 we read:  “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”  Now the Jewish attitude of prayer was standing before God; and so in this phrase the Rabbis found what was to them an indication that the drought was the result of the prayers of Elijah.  In 1 Kings 18:42 we read that Elijah went up to Carmel, bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees.

Once again the Rabbis saw the attitude of agonizing prayer; and so found what was to them an indication that it was the prayer of Elijah which brought the drought to an end.

James 5:19-20 -As we conclude our study in the Book of Jacob, what we have seen in this last chapter is how to combat the temptations of life.  We have learned that these trials and temptations are sent our way purposefully by God to strengthen our faith and to help prepare us for our eternal roles.

Jacob taught that combating the temptations of life include being patient and enduring in the midst of our trials primarily by keeping our eyes fixed on Lord and the hope of return. Then in second half of chapter 5 we have been instructed to take each circumstance and respond to it appropriately:

1: when heavily tried, do not curse or swear (James 5:12).

2: when your experience ranges from affliction to joy, pray and praise (James 5:13).

3: when sick, call for prayer from the elders (James 5:14-15).

4: when you have sinned, confess your faults to one another and pray for one another (James 5:16-18).

5: when one is backslidden, seek him.  Backslidding comes from the Hebrew word  b’Av which denotes one who has turned from the correct path and is called to return. (Jeremiah 3:14).

Backsliding is the easiest thing to do – you do nothing. Samson was asleep when he lost his strength. When businesses do nothing to move forward in their sales and marketing they begun to lose business and eventually shut down.  We need to continually move forward, deeper, or we are falling away. Jacob concludes his letter for a call for real believers to seek out the brother or sister who has turned away from God. How do we go about approaching a backslidden believer without appearing legalistic or too severe?

The passage before us compliments the writing of Paul in (Galatians 6:1-2). There are some people who feel called to a ministry of criticism.  Their primary concern is to collar those who have strayed from the truth.  They are quick to point a finger and slow to show a kind heart.  Jacob is not advocating that kind of approach. To whom is the counsel addressed?  It is directed toward “brethren” and those “among you”.  It is addressed to Believers and has to do with our walk.

What occurred that would cause Jacob to write these words?  Evidently someone has strayed from the truth.  The term strayed in the Hebrew is Mishuvim, and the term in the Greek has the same root as the word for planet.  The idea is movement like a planet that seems to wander across the sky.

It has the idea of someone leaving something like the orbit or circle that keeps it on its correct course.  We are talking about a believer here because an unbeliever can’t stray from a truth that he has never known. What has the straying person left? – Jacob says that he has left the truth; this covers a lot of territory, but certainly embodies the whole of Scriptural truth, God’s truth.

The action of straying is presented in an active, rather than a passive sense.   In other words this person has made a conscious decision to walk away. What should be done?  The straying person should be turned back; that is someone needs to step in, make contact with him in the path that he has gone, and then redirect him to the path that leads to life.

What a different place the church and world would be if we loved one another so much that we actually did this! We need this kind of ministry of reclamation and restoration today! It is at this point that the issue becomes sensitive.  Where does one begin in order to turn another back?

This is where Galatians 6:1-3 gives us guidance and wisdom.  It begins with the right attitude.  One who helps another must cultivate the attitude that will make his efforts fruitful.  In this passage we can see three attitudes necessary to help a person do Shuvah, returning to the truth that he once knew.

First there is the need for dependence upon the Holy Spirit – Paul says the person who seeks to bring the straying brother back must be spiritual, that is, controlled by the Spirit.  This cannot be done in one’s own strength or “flesh” it must be Spirit led.  How do you know if you are Spirit Filled? Read Galatians 5:13-26.

One who helps another needs to have his heart so warm and molded with God’s heart that his voice actually represents the concern of God.  Gentleness – This really comes with one who is filled and walking in the Spirit, but Paul says in this special work one must especially be gentle.  When working with someone who is either wounded or broken, this is so important.

This is not the time or place for fools to rush in or to have an angry or impatient spirit. Genuine Humility – This too is part of the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit but here Paul underscores the importance of this.  He warns “ . . . Looking to yourselves, lest you too be tempted.’ People who are successful in this kind of work realize their own limitations and frailties.  In fact when helping others, they are very careful not to say too much or do too much.

The result of such a work according to Jacob in James 5:20 is that two things are accomplished. First the one who has strayed will be saved from death.  This likely means that if this person would have continued on his present course, he would have died under God’s discipline.

This is the point Paul was getting at in (1 Corinthians 11:28-30). However since a restorer came along, that death didn’t happen.  Perhaps another way that this could be understood is that when the one who was straying turned around, he ended his death like existence and was restored to the abundant life of one who walks with the Lord.

A second result according to Jacob is that a multitude of sins was covered.  Because of confession, the returning person’s sins were forgiven. Jacob then instructs us as Believers, for that is who this book is primarily addressed to, that there are definite times when we are called to be involved in the life of a straying brother or sister.

The entire process must be under the control and direction of the Holy Spirit. The attitude is as important as the action.  When the Lord prompts us, we should not feel uncomfortable following through but bathe the matter in prayer and then go. This then is true wisdom which this letter is all about.

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