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 wise person views wealth as God’s resources to be invested in what pleases God and furthers God’s purposes.
One’s Word is One’s Bond
And above all, my brothers, do not be swearing—neither by heaven nor by earth nor by any other oath. But let your yes be yes and your no be no, in order that you may not fall under judgment.James 5:12 (DLNT)
This is not about taking solemn oaths in court, this is about allowing the use of God’s name to become something like personal collateral, for good or ill.
This teaching goes back to the foundation of God’s Law in the Torah.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:7 (NRSV)
Misuse of God’s name comes within the context of power.
- The misuse of God’s authority in an attempt to coerce others into obedience.
- The misuse of God’s seal of approval on ungodly words, actions, relationships, and roles.
- The misuse of God’s credentials to garner position, wealth, influence, and renown.
- The misuse of scripture to endorse biases, personal agendas, and teaching that is not of God’s Spirit.
Jesus also warned against the misuse of God’s name.
“Again, you heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not break-your-oath, but you shall pay your oaths to the Lord’.
But I say to you not to swear-with-an-oath at all
—neither by heaven, because it is the throne of God
—nor by earth, because it is a footstool of [God’s] feet
—nor with reference to Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King [God];
—nor may you swear-with-an-oath by your head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black.
But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’, [or] ‘No, no’. And the thing beyond these is from the evil one.Jesus, Matthew 5:33-37 (DLNT)
- A wise person keeps their word out of reverence for God and in reflection of God’s character.
Power of Prayer
Is anyone among you suffering-hardship? Let him be praying.
Is anyone cheerful? Let him be singing-praise.James 5:13 (DLNT)
This is the right use of God’s name.
Both suffering and joy are experienced within the presence of God. Jesus set the example, noted in all the gospels as regularly taking time to be with the Father. All the apostles stood together in their teaching, urging believers to commune with God through all of life’s experiences.
Be rejoicing in the Lord always; again I will say, be rejoicing. Let your kindness be known to all people. The Lord is near. Be anxious-about nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgivings, let your requests be made-known to God. And the peace of God surpassing all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Apostle Paul, Philippians 4:4-7 (DLNT)
Be sound-minded and be sober in your prayers.
Be rejoicing to-the-degree you are sharing in the sufferings of Christ, in order that you may also rejoice while being overjoyed at the revelation of His glory!Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 4:7, 13 (DLNT)
And this is the confidence which we have before [God]: that if we request anything according to [God’s] will, [God] hears us.Apostle John, 1 John 5:14 (DLNT)
And another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer. And much incense was given to him so-that he will give it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up from the hand of the angel before God.Revelation 8:2-4 (DLNT)
You, beloved, while building-up yourselves on your most holy faith, while praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God while waiting-for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.Jude 1:20-21 (DLNT)
Prayer for Physical Healing
Is anyone among you sick?
Let him summon the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, having anointed him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will restore the one being ill, and the Lord will raise him.James 5:14-15 (DLNT)
Physical sickness is something you and I often have to deal with, and it is the right thing to get other people to pray for healing. James instructed his readers to call on the elders of their church—those recognized as spiritual and faithful.
There are various places in scripture where olive oil is described as having medicinal purposes. So, it would seem the best way to understand this text is to first ask for prayer, then to administer the best medicine available.
It is God’s purview to grant miraculous healing, and many today have those stories of God’s glorious, mighty, wonder-working power granting healing in such a spectacular way as to authenticate the messenger of the gospel as well as the gospel itself.
Nevertheless, it is also God’s way to answer prayer in the form of wisdom, discernment, efficacy, and so forth for doctors, therapies, medicines, and patients, as well as granting supernatural endurance—patient forbearance—and insight. There will always come the final, sacred act of dying as unto the Lord.
Prayer for Spiritual Healing
. . . And if he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him.
Therefore be confessing-out your sins to one another, and be praying for one another so that you may be healed.James 5:15-16 (DLNT)
Usually, we think of our time of confession as one-on-one with God. The beautiful promise given in the Apostle John’s first letter, of God’s healing, cleansing, and restoration through our confession, is an intimate, divinely powerful spiritual act. God’s deliverance and new strength is experienced in the mind and emotions of every person who comes to the Lord ready to confess and receive.
But James knew the importance of processing with another wise and compassionate person life’s tragedies, disasters, and valleys of shame, guilt, sorrow, and pain.
My brothers [and sisters], if anyone among you errs from the truth and someone turns him back, let him know that the one having turned-back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.James 5:19-20 (DLNT)
The Apostle Paul also talked about the restorative work that can happen with those who are wise and spiritual persons.
Brothers [and sisters], even if a person is overtaken in some trespass, you spiritual ones be restoring such a one in a spirit of gentleness, looking-out-for yourself that you also not be tempted.
Be carrying one another’s burdens, and in this manner you will fulfill the law of Christ.Galatians 6:1-3 (DLNT)
And Paul counseled the counselors to be wise in the way they brought this restorative work into a person’s life.
Now we exhort you, brothers [and sisters]
—be admonishing the disorderly ones,
—be encouraging the fainthearted ones,
—be holding-on-to the weak ones,
—be patient with everyone.1 Thessalonians 5:14 (DLNT)
Physical healing, as desirable as that is, will only ever be temporary. Spiritual healing has the lasting power of eternity.
[Laying on of hands for healing, in a church in Bhaktapur, Nepal. | By Iankgibson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77590423]