James was intent on teaching wisdom, and had been creating a list of actions a wise person takes. They are
- A wise person lives in humility, submitting their life to God, allowing the Holy Spirit to control their thoughts, their feelings and thereby their words and actions.
- A wise person knows a reboot is just a confession away and is therefore always living a life of repentance.
- A wise person is strong in the Lord by humbly submitting to God, to be patient, to persevere, and to stand firm against evil, against Satan himself.
- A wise person speaks words that naturally glorify God and build up the people who listen.
- A wise person, in submission to God, understands their complete and utter dependence on the Lord for the course of their life, the course of their day-to-day living, and sees the hand of God in all the events and people in their life.
A Rant on Riches
Come now, rich ones, weep while wailing over your miseries coming-upon you.
—Your riches have rotted and
—your garments have become moth-eaten.
—Your gold and silver have become corroded. And their corrosion will be for a testimony against you, and will eat your flesh like fire.
—You stored-up treasure in the last days!
Behold—the wages of the workers having mowed your fields, the wages having been fraudulently-withheld by you, cry-out. And the outcries of the ones having reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
—You lived-in-luxury upon the earth, and you lived-indulgently.
—You fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
—You condemned, you murdered the righteous. [The righteous one] does not oppose you!James 5:1-6 (DLNT)
Written with an apocalyptic flare, James’ fiery polemic fits snugly with other prophets’ work—Habakkuk and Amos come to mind, but there were others as well.
James was probably thinking of those rich who had not yet come to believe, since he tells them to repent and weep at God’s coming judgement. He may also have been addressing Jewish believers who had drifted away from good teaching and were now deeply embedded in the world and the pursuit of worldly goals. James’ words certainly gave comfort to the poor Jewish believers that God knew and was concerned about their condition.
And his denunciation is well-placed, after a discussion of right goals and desires. Jesus also spoke on the lure of wealth.
Do not be treasuring-up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and eating destroy, and where thieves break-in and steal. But be treasuring up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor eating destroys, and where thieves do not break in nor steal.For where your treasure is, there your heart also will be.
Jesus, Matthew 6:19-21 (DLNT)
Apostle Paul also took time to teach on affluence,
But the ones wanting to be-rich fall into temptation and a snare, and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love-of-money is a root of all evils—aspiring-to which, some were led-astray from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.1 Timothy 6:9-10 (DLNT)
. . . as did the writer of Hebrews.
Let character be without-love-of-money, being content with the present things.Hebrews 13:5 (DLNT)
- A wise person views wealth as God’s resources to be invested in what pleases God and furthers God’s purposes.
A Word on Patience
Therefore be patient, brothers [and sisters], until the coming of the Lord.
Behold—the farmer waits-for the precious fruit of the land, being-patient with it until it receives the early and late rain.
You also be-patient. Establish your hearts, because the coming of the Lord has drawn-near.James 5:7-8 (DLNT)
One of the hardest things the Lord calls us to do in our relationship with God and with others is to be patient. God’s work of change, in us and in others, is a process. You and I often want change to be an event so we may try to work the situation to force change to happen.
But by its very nature, patience is being willing to wait even when that means enduring difficulty and pain. Patience means not only waiting, but waiting calmly. Jesus is coming, and He is going to set everything right.
Behold—we consider-blessed the ones having endured! You heard of the endurance of Job, and you saw the outcome from the Lord: that the Lord is large-hearted and compassionate.James 5:11 (DLNT)
Job Had Forbearance
The story of Job and his wife is one of patience under pressure. The hardest time to exercise patience is when you and I are being provoked. Forbearance means holding back, not trying to get back at someone, not grumbling and complaining. Job’s forbearance came from trusting God, saying,
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.Job 1:21 (NRSV)
Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?Job 2:10 (NRSV)
For the next forty chapters, Job patiently processed the horrors that had befallen him, weighing the counsel of his friends, seeking spiritual answers, and finally crying out to God for an accounting. Even in God’s interaction with Job, he was humble, teachable, forbearing with a contrite heart all that God said. Job’s patience allowed for the deepening of his spirit and the maturing of his faith and character.
Job answered God:
“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.Job to God, Job 42:1-6 (The Message)
Nothing and no one can upset your plans.
You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,
ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me,
made small talk about wonders way over my head.
You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking.
Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’
I admit I once lived by rumors of you;
now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!
I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!
I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”
Job’s story seemed utterly hopeless, yet
God restored his fortune—and then doubled it! All his brothers and sisters and friends came to his house and celebrated. They told him how sorry they were, and consoled him for all the trouble God had brought him. Each of them brought generous housewarming gifts.
God blessed Job’s later life even more than his earlier life.
. . . He died—an old man, a full life.Job 42:10-12, 17 (The Message)
The Point of Patient Perseverance
I doubt James intended to imply that patient forbearance will restore fortunes.
Instead, the end of his letter points back to the beginning. Patient forbearance is the rich soil in which the implanted seed can bear fruit, producing an abundant harvest of godliness.
[Scene from the Book of Job When the Morning Stars Sang Together, from the Butts set. Pen and black ink, gray wash, and watercolour, over traces of graphite | By William Blake – The Morgan Library, extracted from Zoomify by User:GGreer, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8034184]