James - Chapter 5

by Charles E. Bryce

James — Chapter 5

Hello everyone. Today we’re going to finish up our Bible Study through the book of James. Please get your Bible and follow along. It’ll have a lot more meaning for you if you do that. Let’s turn to the last chapter in this book, James chapter 5, and we’ll begin reading in verse 1. God inspired the apostle James to write this.

1 Go to now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth–eaten.

3 Your gold and silver is cankered; —

Or corroded,

3 — and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. You have heaped treasure together for the last days.

Now, James is not saying that being rich is wrong. It’s what you do with it. A lot of good can be done with wealth. You read in the Bible about several of the servants of God who were well–off, Abraham being one of them. He had vast wealth, but he used it properly. And you probably know some people today who are well–off and who use their money in a very generous way. But rich people and wealthy people who do not become entangled with the problems that come along with money are few and far between.

In most cases, when an individual gains a lot of possessions and a lot of money and becomes very wealthy, it ends up being a pitfall. At ends up complicating their lives. And it ends up taking over their interests. And that’s what James is warning against here.

I just want to turn to another verse to cross reference this subject. Let’s turn over here to 1 Timothy 6:10. Notice what God inspired Paul to write Timothy here in 1 Timothy 6:10. Notice the wording here.

10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Now, there’s a clearer way of translating this verse. And other translations do make it clearer. The best translation of this verse is this: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some in their greediness have strayed from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

And you notice here that it’s not talking about just anybody who’s rich. It’s actually talking about people who are in God’s church and who are servants of Jesus Christ who allow themselves to become led astray by what? For the love of money, and that’s the key point in understanding 1 Timothy 6:10. It’s about the love of money that becomes the problem.

Wealth used properly can help a lot of people and do much good. It can prime the pump to get people started and then they can be on their way. But the danger of wealth and being rich is it can also become a curse. It can lead to gambling, greed, graft, all kinds of crime. It even leads to murder in some cases. All manner and all forms of ungodliness can flow from being wealthy, if an individual is not careful, if an individual does not keep it all in perspective, and then rise above the curses and rise above the pitfalls and dangers of riches and of wealth. And so that’s what James is talking about when he starts the fifth chapter off that way.

And let’s go back there, James chapter 5. So what he’s saying here is: You can’t put your faith in your money. You can’t depend on your money to save you, to make you happy, to keep you from dying, to protect you. It won’t do any of those things. It’s just a commodity that can be used in a way that is a blessing for you and for others, or that is a curse for you and for others. And he’s warning about using it in the wrong way.

So, now, back to James chapter 5 and let’s pick it up in verse 4.

4 Behold, the hire —

Or wages

4 — of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, —

Or mowed down your fields,

4 — which is of you kept back by fraud, —

You’ve not paid your people; you’ve not paid your laborers. You’ve got all kinds of money but you’re greedy and you are a cheapskate and you won’t even pay those that you hire. Or if you do pay them, you won’t pay them well.

4 — which is of you kept back by fraud, —

They —

4 — cry: —

They cry out.

4 — and the cries of them which have reaped —

Or who have labored for you

4 — are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

Now, some people read that word “sabaoth” and think it’s talking about the Sabbath, and it’s really not talking about the Sabbath. The Greek word for “sabaoth” just means host. The Lord of host or the Lord of armies. His armies of angels and His host. So He’s heard the workers cry out after laboring as hard as they’ve labored and they haven’t gotten paid. Not all wealthy people are like this. Some wealthy people are just wonderful to work for. But the danger is, to get so greedy and to get so tied up in and focus on money that other people get mistreated, even people who work for wealthy people. They either won’t pay them on time or they don’t pay them enough.

And I’ve noticed in some cases where people, they come into money through an inheritance or the lottery or through working hard and earning wealth. I’ve noticed in some cases, they get to the point to where there’s never enough. They may be very, very wealthy, multimillionaires, but they want more, and they’re very stingy even though they have so much. They’re very greedy and very stingy, and even in some cases with those who work for them. Not all wealthy people are like this, but all too many can become that way. Or even those who are not wealthy can become that way, and if they get a little bit, they become even more so that way.

So this is a warning here and this is the admonition given to us from God through the apostle James as we’re reading through chapter 5.

Notice verse 5.

5 You have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; —

Or indulgent,

5 — you have nourished your hearts, —

Or fattened your hearts

5 — as in a day of slaughter.

6 You have condemned and killed the just; and he does not resist you.

You got power, you got leverage, you got connections, and you can basically do what you want to and get away with it in so many cases. This shows up in courts where if you’ve got the money to hire the best lawyer, you have a greater chance of the judge ruling in your favor. Once again, that’s not true in every case, but it’s true in all too many cases.

We know that over the years if you’ve followed closely events that take place in our society, people who have money tend to get more things, better treatment, and have things go their way more often than people who don’t. And that’s not right. It’s not just and it’s not proper. And God is not pleased with that. And James is telling us that right here.

And, by the way, I repeat. When he’s talking about rich people, he’s not just talking about people who are in the world who are rich, he’s talking about Christians who can become rich who also had better be careful and watch their conduct, their attitude, and what it’ll do to them, this matter of money.

Now, picking it up here in verse 7.

7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman —

Or the farmer

7 — waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

And farming is a wonderful way of life. I grew up on a farm and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. You learn so many things. You have so many wonderful happy days. You also have some tough days and some setbacks. But if you’re going to be a really effective farmer, you have to have patience. And you have to wait because there are so many things out of your control, and weather is one of the main things. And so you just have to do what you can do and then hope that the weather is good and hope that you will have a good crop. But that takes patience. Well, James is telling us we have to learn from a good farmer and the patience they must have in our Christian lives.

Notice what he says here in James 5:8.

8 Be you also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws near.

Some of the factors leading up to the second coming of Jesus Christ were rapidly falling in place in James’ days. So he was simply putting that together and warning everyone, “You better get ready.” But God was not ready to send Jesus Christ back to the earth during those days. But they still had to be ready, just like we have to be ready. We can’t set a date. We don’t know when Jesus Christ is going to return to this earth. Although we can see very, very clearly that we’re living in the end time. And we ought to be ready everyday of our lives because we don’t know what day will be the last day of our lives.

So this admonition of being patient and establishing our spiritual condition and foundation, and preparing for the coming of the Lord that draws near is one that all of us should heed. Not trying to set dates and not trying to pick the exact point in time when Jesus Christ is going to return back to this earth because that cannot be done. But being alert, being prepared, walking with God, and overcoming and growing and conducting ourselves in a way that if He did come back soon, we’re ready. And if it’s yet a while down the road, we’ll endure and be patient and be ready then.

9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest you be condemned: behold, the judge stands before the door.

In other words, Jesus Christ sees what we’re doing, what we’re saying, what we’re thinking, and He’s judging us according to our actions. Are we producing the right kind of fruit? He’s happy with that. Are we producing the wrong kind of fruit? He’s not happy with that. Are we mixing wrong fruit with right fruit? Well, we better get to where we have more right fruit than wrong fruit, and finally eliminate all the wrong fruit. That’s called overcoming. That’s called growing and becoming a Christian that is progressing toward the Kingdom of God.

And so we have to examine ourselves and be careful and when we see what needs to be changed, ask God to help us to change it and then we change it. If we see that our actions toward God are not proper, or if we see that our actions toward others are unacceptable, that all needs to be changed. And with Gods’ help we can do that. And that’s part of being a true Christian. Instead of one that just talks about it, we become a Christian that really lives it. And that’s where the judge, Jesus Christ and God our Father, that’s where they then are pleased and will bless us.

Notice verse 10.

10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, —

James writes here.

10 — who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.

And I’ll tell you, there are several common traits you’ll find when you study about the heroes in the Bible, be they men or women. And you will see some of those common traits involve suffering affliction. In order to do the right thing, they suffered tremendous persecution and they suffered a lot of affliction. It wasn’t easy. It was painful. And that’s true today in our society. If you try to do the right thing, you’re probably going to be made fun of. You’re probably going to suffer for it, especially more and more as things get worse and worse. And a lot of people just can’t take that. They cave in and they’ll go along to get along.

But a true Christian will put their lives on the line and will not compromise with God’s Word, and will uphold the ethics and the values and the standards and the requirements found in God’s Word come what may. Just like the servants of God from old times and from the past. And another common trait you’ll find in those heroes of the Bible is patience. And that’s what James is saying here.

10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.

11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. —

They’re blessed for enduring in the truth, for not caving in under pressure and stress, for putting it all on the line and upholding God’s way and God’s truth and God Himself. He continues.

11 — You 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.

Very compassionate. Now, when it says here you’ve seen the end of the Lord, that doesn’t mean that there’s an end to Jesus Christ. He’s eternal. He’s the same, yesterday, today, and forever. He has always existed. He exists now and He always will exist. What James is talking about here is you see what the Lord means, you see what He’s pointing to. You see the end of the Lord, or in other words, what He’s all about. It’s like traveling down a road and what’s the end of the road? The town you’d get to. You go down the street and what’s the end of the street for you? The house that you’re going to.

And so when you walk God’s way, you’re walking with Jesus Christ, and the whole point, the whole aim, the whole objective, the whole end of the Lord and the way He is and what He stands for and what He wants us to be like is, that He is very compassionate and He is full of tender mercy. And He will always be there to help us and to lead us and guide us and direct us if we serve Him and obey Him and live His way.

12 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 you fall into condemnation.

Or judgment. In other words, mean what you say and say what you mean. And makes sure it’s the right thing. Make your word good. Build a reputation of someone that can be counted on. And don’t get into swearing, uttering oaths and cuss words and spewing out all kinds of blasphemies. This is wrong and God condemns it.

We now have a way of life in our society that involves all kinds of dirty words, cuss words, and swear words. God does not want Christians to be involved in that. We don’t need to be involved in that. It becomes a habit. We can express how we feel and communicate what we want to communicate without ever uttering a single, solitary swear word. There’s no place for cursing in the life of a Christian.

And nowadays you hear children cursing. Where did they get that? Well, they probably got it from home, from their parents. And so when somebody gets mad, all of a sudden they start cursing, or they get drunk, which they must not do, but when they do, they begin swearing. Or in some cases it’s just such a habit that it’s like they can’t even talk without swearing. They fill their sentences with all kinds of ugly, dirty, filthy, vile words. And this must be repented of and this must be changed if we’re going to be pleasing in God’s sight and if we’re going to be true Christians and if we’re going to actually be godly people.

I want to turn over here in the Bible to just one of several places we could go to regarding this matter of swearing. Let’s turn to Exodus 20:7. Here we see the Ten Commandments, and let’s just notice the third one.

Exodus 20:7

7 You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.

That’s what God’s Word says. And yet do you notice on television all kinds of cuss words and swear words and dirty words? And somebody will make a touchdown in football and there are all kinds of whooping and hollering, and then what happens? A bunch of cussing starts being spewed out from the team that allowed the guy to make the touchdown and from the team that made the touchdown.

You’ll see people golfing and the ball doesn’t roll into the hole, and here comes the cussing and the swearing and the ugly, dirty words. This is not a light matter. This is not a light thing. It’s breaking the third commandment, and it’s going against what God says throughout His Word. We read it right here in James 5:12.

So let’s make sure we’re not guilty of that kind of conduct. Let’s read it again, James 5:12.

12 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 you fall into condemnation.

Or judgment. It can become a habit, but that habit must be broken. If you hit your thumb with a hammer, count to ten or take a walk or take some deep breaths. But don’t just start cussing and yelling and letting a torrent of ugly swear words flow out of your mouth. And if you do, repent of that and then don’t do it anymore. We can all overcome this if we’re guilty of it, and we must.

Now continuing, James 5:13.

13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

We all have tough times and we all have hard matters that we have to deal with. And it can be very painful and it can hurt deeply. But what we need to do is pray about it, instead of feeling hopeless and depress and mad and cussing about it and blaming others. Let’s go in and get on our knees and start talking to God about it. He’ll hear us and he’ll help us through it.

13 — Is any merry? —

That’s not the time to act stupid and foolish and go wild.

13 — let him sing psalms.

Let him sing some good music. Let him enjoy some good conversation. Let the celebration be clean and right and good and fun. The kind of fun that’ll be fun tomorrow and from then on when you look back on it. God’s kind of fun is fun the next day, the next week, the next year. It’s not the kind of fun where when you sober up or when you look back on it, you’d say, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t acted like that. I wish I hadn’t said that. I wish I hadn’t done that.” That’s not God’s kind of fun. But God’s kind of cheerfulness and merriness and happiness is upbeat, it’s positive, it’s good, and it involves the right kind of music and the right kind of celebration.

13 — let him sing psalms.

14 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:

Now, some people read that and say, “Oh, well, that’s weird, that’s strange.” No, it’s biblical and it’s Christian. And so when you’re sick, you do your part and get whatever you decide in the way of treatment. But one of the things you also need to do is to pray about it. And you can be anointed for that sickness as God says right here. It’s not some kind of big production. It’s not a public display like some circus act. It’s a very private moment between you and God and the minister that anoints you for the sickness. Just a little bit of oil, the laying on of hands and asking God to heal you. And it’s a very private, quiet, meaningful moment. And God hears those prayers and God heals people if it’s done in faith, if it’s done properly, and if it’s done in the right attitude. And that’s what He’s saying here.

15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, —

Better translation: Heal the sick.

15 — and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, —

And that’s not always the case, but sometimes the sickness is brought on by breaking the physical laws of health and other sins.

15 — and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Him, her, whoever. Of course, we must repent of those sins and then they’ll be forgiven.

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

There’s a lot in the Bible about praying, and there’s a lot in the Bible about praying in faith and praying fervently. We cannot be coming before God asking Him for help in an insincere way. We cannot get on our knees and start praying to God and it’s just kind of a routine, repetitive, meaningless exercise in futility.

When we come before God in prayer, we’re coming before the Creator of the whole universe with Jesus Christ at His right hand. We’re talking to our Father in heaven. We ought to concentrate on what we’re praying about. We ought to focus on God in faith. And we ought to be fervent in our prayer to Him. We mean this, we feel it deeply. And then He starts feeling it deeply and He will answer those prayers. These are not just sleepy time prayers. These are not just kind of quick, thank you for everything, give me more, amen kind of prayers. These are the kind of prayers you’d find the servants of God in the Bible praying, where they completely and totally concentrated on talking to their great Creator, God in heaven. And they prayed fervently and sincerely in faith, looking to Him and trusting Him and believing in Him and knowing that He heard them and that He hears them and that He answers them and would answer them. That’s the kind of prayer being talked about here.

Now, when it says:

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.

It’s not just talking about we all go around confessing our sins to one another. We should not do that. We confess our sins to almighty God and repent of them and then He forgives them.

But if we have had a problem with someone and if there’s something that’s not good between us and someone else, we should go and try to make it right, and we should admit where we’re wrong. And we should apologize for the wrong doing that we have done on our part and hope that they will accept the apology and hope that they’ll admit where they’re wrong. And that just clears the air. And then pray for that individual and have that individual pray for you. And that clears the way for more answers to prayer including that of healing.

And then how do we pray? As we’ve mentioned, we’ve got to mean it. God has to see that we really mean it, that we’re serious about this, that we’re totally sincere in coming before Him, that we’re passionate about what we’re asking for.

16 — The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

God responds to that. He sees the attitude. He sees the sincerity. He sees the passion. He sees the concentration, and that the individual praying that kind of prayer really means it with every fiber of his being. And it’s done in private and it’s not done for show or in front of people. But it’s before the great God in heaven, and He hears those prayers and He answers them.

Now, here’s an example of that. Notice here in James 5:17.

17 Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, —

He was human just like we are.

17 — and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: —

He was fervent. He meant it.

17 — and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.

God heard that prayer. He answered that prayer. And He saw to it that it didn’t rain, just like Elijah asked. But then notice what happened. Notice here James 5:18.

18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

And so then God heard his prayer once again, and this time he prayed for rain. And this time God answered and rain came. Now, God doesn’t love Elijah more than He loves anyone of us. When we come before God, we’re His child just like Elijah was. So just as Elijah prayed fervently and in faith, when we pray fervently and in faith, God hears and answers. James tells us that and God inspired him to put it right here in this book. Continuing now, James 5:19.

19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, —

Or wander away from the truth.

19 — and one convert him;

Or one helps to bring him back.

20 Let him know, that he which converted —

Or brought back or helped or inspired

20 — the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, —

An individual from going into the Lake of Fire.

20 — and shall hide a multitude of sins.

Because instead of rebelling and disobeying and producing all kinds of terrible fruit including all kinds of sins, the individual who’s gotten off the path is brought back to the path and now obeys God. And now those sins will not take place, and therefore the person who helps bring the individual back is being told, “Just realize that you have helped to cover a multitude of sins that will not be committed and you helped to bring back somebody who was headed over the edge, spiritually speaking.

Now, this does not mean that we browbeat people, that we corner people, yell at people, and shove our beliefs down their throat. But it means that we care for people, we reach out, we set the right example, we’re compassionate, we’re patient, we encourage them. We engage in a good conversation where we can and where they’re willing, and raise questions, and ask God to give us wisdom to point things out in a way that they will hear and they will respond to. And instead of going on down into the pit, so to speak, they stop, they think, they reverse course, and they come back where they belong.

What a wonderful privilege when God can use us in that way, and what a tremendous blessing for the individual who will hear and heed and change and come back where he belongs. And that’s what James is talking about right here in this passage.

Well, that concludes our Bible Study through the book of James. It is a tremendous book. I hope you’ll go back now and start with chapter 1 and verse 1 and read it through again and learn from it even more deeply, and be able to put to practice what God inspired James to write for us there in this wonderful book. It has a tremendous amount of Christian living principles in it. It contains outstanding examples of solid doctrine about the law, about faith, about works, about serving God, about coming out of this world, about focusing on the things that really count, and about following through on our calling toward Christian living in the Kingdom of God.

So please make it one of the books that you study often and learn from. And put into practice what God tells us there. If you will do that and study this book, you’ll never be sorry that you took the time to learn from this inspired book of the Bible called the book of James, written by the apostle James, the brother of Jesus Christ and a powerful servant of God.

Until next time, this is Charles Bryce with the Enduring Church of God.

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