“In the middle of the fifth chapter of James, we notice the author returning to the theme that started this letter. Recall that James began instructing us to, . James continued by instructing us to know that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness, so that we can be mature and complete, lacking nothing. In chapter 5 James returns to the theme of patient endurance.
James again is not calling for us to be patient when things do not go our way. James is not talking about the need to be patient when you are running late and you are caught by a red light. James is calling for patient endurance in the face of difficulties, suffering, and persecution for the name of Jesus. It is a compound word that means, ‘longsuffering.’ We see this connection in verse 6, The Christians are suffering because they are Christians. They are suffering for doing what is right. They are suffering for standing for righteousness. James is going to teach us how to deal with suffering. James is going to reveal to us how we can have this patient endurance” (Brent Kercheville).
5:7 “Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains”
“Be patient, therefore, brethren”: This letter has already mentioned the need to be patient (1:3-4, 1:12). Without such endurance we will not make it (Hebrews 6:12; 12:1). “If God, a holy God, can be patient with us in the face of the enormity of our sin, how much more can we be patient in the face of whatever opposition may come our way” (Commentary on James, Draper, p. 150). There are probably a host of reasons why God does not want Christians to organize themselves and retaliate against their oppressors, but one reason has probably already been given us in James 1:20. Retaliation on our part can easily degenerate into sin. It is so easy to cross the line from innocent victim to guilty oppressor (see 1 Corinthians 6:1-8).
“Until the coming of the Lord”: There will be a final day of reckoning when Jesus arrives and judges (2 Corinthians 5:11). There equally are times when God judges the enemies of God’s people in this life. The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is one example. See Matthew 24:27. Such comings can take the pressure off of Christians by sweeping away or breaking the power of their enemies.
“Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains”.
The early rain fell in October, November, and December, and extended in January and February. The latter rains are much lighter and they fall in March and April. This illustration would especially be relevant to this audience, for some of them were laborers in the field. They understood the patience of the farmer. The farmer does not expect to harvest on the same day he has planted. He may suffer several disappointments or set-backs before he receives a harvest. Just as the farmer can know that the Lord is going to send the rain for the crops, so we can know the Lord is going to judge. Just as the farmer trusts the final outcome to the Lord who sends the rain, we can trust God for the final outcome.
5:8 “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand”
“You too be patient”: Because God’s judgment is just as certain at the rain and patience is not impossible. “The point is not the length of time one must wait, but whether one will endure the period of waiting” (Commentary on James, Davids, p. 184). “Strengthen your hearts”: “Strengthen, make firm, confirm one’s mind” (Thayer, p. 588). To be fixed and confirmed in one’s belief (Rom. 1:11, 16:25; 1 Thess. 3:2,13, 2 Thess. 2:17, 3:3; 1 Peter 5:10, 2 Peter 1:12, Revelation 3:2). Strengthen your emotions, wishes, and desires. Cultivate endurance and a strong dependence upon God. “James says that we must establish our hearts. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this Greek phrase translated into English as “establish your hearts” was an idiom used “to gain strength as for a journey” (Brent Kercheville). “For the coming of the Lord is at hand”: According to the Scriptures the Second Coming is always “at hand”, for it could come at any time (1 Thess. 5:1-3). In their generation, what was also at hand was the judgment of God upon the Jewish nation.
Christians today need a greater awareness that Jesus could come at any time (1 John 3:1-3). “If we knew Jesus Christ was coming back today, it would make a profound difference in what we do today. There are acts of obedience and commitments that we would waste no time doing. If we thought we had only one worship service to attend before the Lord returned, it would make a difference in how we worship. If we lived in the expectancy of the return of Jesus Christ, we would be equipped for the pressures and the trials of life. We are to live in that kind of expectation” (Draper, p. 151).
5:9 “Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door”
“Do not complain”: “Present active imperative, “stop groaning against one another” (Robertson p. 62). “Troubles tend to make the impatient complain against even those closest to them” (Commentary on James, Roberts, p. 194). “Against one another”: “Sometimes, when we are bombarded by problems of those outside of our family, our church, our tempers often get short with each other. Sometimes we take our frustrations out on those closest to us. ’Do not let the pressure that is brought to bear on you from outside cause you to be unchristian with each other’. James says, ‘Don’t look at someone else and complain because they are not suffering as you are. Don’t try to involve others in your misery’” (Draper, p. 152).
“We can grumble because we do not understand why we are suffering when we see others not suffering. We might look at the lives of other Christians and think that if anyone should be suffering, it should be them, not us. We grumble because others are not having it as bad as we are. So we try to ‘one-up’ each other, declaring that our suffering is worse than your suffering, as if this were some sort of competition. We can grumble against each other because people are not paying attention to us the way we think they ought. We want more phone calls or more people asking what we are doing or more people serving us because we are suffering. We are grumbling against our brothers and sisters in Christ because they are not behaving toward me as I want them to” (Brent Kercheville).
“That you yourselves may not be judged”: Those who complain and murmur and take their anger and frustration out on others are in danger of facing Divine condemnation. We may be suffering, but once we start complaining and murmuring against others, we are no longer playing the role of the innocent victim. “Behold, the Judge is standing right at the door”: “Literally, ‘is standing before the doors’ (perfect active indicative), and thus ready to execute sentence” (Commentary on James, Woods, p. 280). The above expression does not mean that James believed that Jesus was going to come that day, rather Jesus stands ready to judge and could come at any moment. Compare with Revelation 3:20; 1 Peter 4:5 “who is ready to judge the living and the dead”.
5:10 “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord”.
“As an example”: A model, pattern, “in a good sense as something that does or should spur one on to imitate it” (Arndt, p. 34). “Take the prophets”: See 2 Chron. 36:16; 1 Kings 19:10; Matthew 23:29-31; Acts 7:52. “Most of them were persecuted severely in their lifetime, despite the fact that they were God’s messengers (Matthew 5:11-12)” (Commentary on James, Kent, p. 179). Draper notes, “In essence, James says, “Surely, if anyone ought to have a good time in life and ought to avoid suffering, the prophets would be the ones. Yet they suffered too’” (p. 153). “The prophets not only remained strong in the Lord, but they continued to preach the word of God to people who did not want to hear them. When we read about the responses that Jeremiah received while preaching the word of the Lord, we will quickly appreciate his steadfastness. The prophets are an amazing testimony to what faith under fire truly looks like. We can learn from their endurance” (Brent Kercheville).
5:11 “Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful”
“We counted those blessed who endured”: The word “endured” means to “remain instead of fleeing, stand one’s ground, hold out, and endure in trouble, affliction, or persecution” (Arndt, p. 845). We count them blessed now, when the long-range goal is kept in mind, we can see that endurance is more than worth it (Romans 8:18). “You have heard of the endurance of Job”: Job was a real historical person, and the account of his trials in the book of Job is exactly what happened in this man’s life. We need to remember that Job did not always handle his sufferings in a perfect manner (Job 3:3,11), yet he never gave into his wife’s suggestion to curse God and die (2:9). In spite of all the agonizing questions that tore at his heart, Job maintained his faith in God (13:15; 19:25), and maybe more importantly than anything else, when God confronted Job about some of the wrong things that Job had said (Job 38-41), Job immediately acknowledged his ignorance and sin (42:1-6). “And have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings”: “That by which a thing is finished, its close, issue, the closing experience that befell Job” (Thayer, p. 620). Remember, there is always an “outcome” to any suffering. There is “an end”, even if that end is death (Revelation 2:10).
“That the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful”: “Even though circumstances seemed exactly opposite to this, Job’s endurance enabled him to see that God’s blessings were abundant if one was willing to let God choose the time and bestow them. Eventually God doubled Job’s possessions (Job 42:10-17)” (Kent, p. 180).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017