In 5:1-11, James begins the conclusion of the book which is a call to repentance. As he calls for repentance, he returns to his 2 main examples of the kind of change repentance should bring about in our lives. Our speech and they way we handle wealth.
The book of James emphasizes that each of us must choose whether to believe or not and each of us will face situations where we must choose to act on these beliefs. Matthew 7:21-23 teaches there are 4 kinds of people in the world
- those who are not saved and know it
- those who are saved and know it
- those who are saved and don’t know it yet
- those who are not saved and don’t know it
James is written to the fourth group: those who think they are saved but are not. My perspective is that at its core the book of James is a letter about living out your faith. He argues (as do other biblical authors) that
- Faith is a matter of the will in the sense that we believe what we want to believe.
- Scripture emphasizes responding to the gospel by believing it.
- What we believe is reflected in the way we live our lives, how we speak, how we act and what we value.
- Testing our faith reveals what sort of person I really am and whether I in fact believe what I say I believe.
- Testing our faith leads to maturity and growth.
- Each of us must choose whether to believe or not.
- Each of us will face situations where we must choose to act on those beliefs.
- James and Paul use the same language in different contexts because they are responding to two very different questions.
- Paul is dealing with legalism: Do I believe that Jesus’ death on the cross is enough to save me or must I also diligently strive to keep the law?
- James is dealing with worldliness: Do I believe the claims of this world as opposed to the claims of the gospel?
In the end of James 4, James sums up his warnings about speech. In James 5, he sums up his warnings about wealth. He gives three pieces of evidence of that they are trusting in their wealth: 1) hoarding (5:2-3); 2) not treating employees fairly (5:4) and 3) self-indulgence (5:5).
1Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. 7Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. – James 5:1-11
- The context is a call to repentance which begin in James 4:7.
- James 4:12-17: summarizes his warnings about our speech and calls us to use our speech rightly, not to judge each other or boast as if we are the master of fate.
- James summarizes his teachings on wealth, warning of the folly of trusting in riches.
- James is speaking to those who claim to have faith but their lives tell a different story.
- There’s a difference between hoarding and planning for your retirement.
- Hoarding is have so much that you can’t use it all and it’s wasted (e.g. gold & silver corrode before it can be used).
- The opposite of good stewardship is NOT ownership, the opposite of good stewardship is embezzlement.
- All wealth belongs to God and we either use it wisely or unwisely.
- A good steward asks: what does God want me to do with the resources He has given me?
- The problem with hoarding is not that you are saving; it’s a question of who do you trust.
- The way wealth is gained, the way it is used and the way its valued all reveal whether we are counting on the things of God or the things of this world.
- If we withhold wages from our laborers, it reveals something about where we are placing our trust. If you’ve truly embraced what the gospel says is true about loving your neighbor, fraud is not the kind of behavior you should be exhibiting.
- The way wealth is gained, the way it is used and the way its valued reveal whether we are counting on the things of God or the things of this world.
- James begin his letter with a call to remain steadfast through trials and he comes back to that theme: be patient through suffering (James 5:7-11).
- The farmer’s experience reminds us of life’s seasons. Job’s experience paints a picture of pain in chaos. Both are circumstances that require us to trust God.