1. Recognize the Context: Previous context-James 5:1-6 In chapter 5, James turns to a condemnation of the wealthy. He addresses them as “you rich people." Therefore, it seems unlikely he is speaking to the Christian community since they are not identified as brothers and sisters, and there is no call for repentance. One might ask, “why address these unbelievers in this letter?” Here in James, we find elements of Old Testament judgment oracles found in the prophets. It was not uncommon to find declarations of judgment against foreign nations dispersed within the addresses to God’s people (Isa. 13-21, Ezek. 25-32). This confirms the justice of God can not be ignored or escaped.
These rich people are encouraged to weep (Jer. 9:1, 13:17) and wail (Isa. 13:6, 14:31) because of their misery (Isa. 59:7, Jer. 6:7, 26). In this passage, James brings four charges against the rich to justify the coming punishment.
1. They have hoarded various forms of wealth, such as clothing and precious metals (verses 2-3).
2. They have failed to pay workers their wages, and God is well aware of the situation (verse 4).
3. They have lived self-indulgently and luxuriously (verse 5).
4. They have condemned and murdered the innocent (verse 6).
For these reasons, God’s judgment is coming on them.
2. Read the Scripture: James 5:1-6
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! 10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
3. Reflect on the Scripture: James turns his address back to the believing community as he calls for patience.
They must be patient in their suffering and oppression (verses 1-6) until the Lord’s return. This imperative is followed by an agricultural example of a farmer patiently wait for the harvest while going through the seasons. Verse 8 makes the application from this analogy with the emphatic “you too.” They must be patient and stand firm (Psalm 57:7). They must wait and be internally strong until the Lord’s imminent return.
In verse 9, James admonishes his readers not to groan and complain about other believers. They are to be patient with those outside the Christian community and those aggravating them from within the community. Then he warns them of potential judgment from the Judge (4:12) if they continue in this behavior.
James then provides a second example of patience in suffering, the Old Testament's prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord. (Matt. 23:29-31, Heb 11). Those who persevere were considered blessed (Matt. 5:11-12, James 1:12). James’ third example of perseverance in suffering is Job (Job 1:21-22, 2:10, 13:15, 19:25-27). His perseverance resulted in the blessing of God beyond what he experienced before (42:10-17).
This leads James to declare “the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (Ex. 34:6-7, Psalm 103:8, 111:4)
4. Relate to life:
Now it's time to get specific and respond today. Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message. To pray:
Today, prayerfully consider how you can specifically reflect a life of patience with those inside and outside the Christian community.
Today, prayerfully reflect on the "nearness" of the Lord’s return. Are you ready?
Today, prayerfully reflect on the compassion and mercy of God.
To do: (work produced by faith with the Holy Spirit’s help) Given the prayer suggestions above, how do you need to respond today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, and co-workers.
Think of a specific relationship and situations. How can you reflect patience today? Write it down.
Make a list of how you have experienced God’s mercy and compassion lately.
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passage.)
Read and study the verses above.
Read and study Hebrews 11. This is often called the “faith chapter.” It provides a list of those in the Old Testament who persevered and endured hardship by trusting in God.