Facing “Yourself”

James 5:1-11

In text, James once again addresses people with regard to material circumstances – rich and poor. Two different groups? Perhaps, not necessarily. God’s people can expect either or both in course of life, each with its own particular flavor of trial. Is it possible for James to use such harsh language speaking to brothers and sisters? First glance, might seem more fitting if addressing those outside the family. But,… true believers not immune to worldly thinking especially with regard to business and finance. If that were true in James’ day, true with certainty today.

Consider this: current full-time help wanted’s at one church

Accounts Payable Clerk, Assistant Inventory Mgmt. Specialist, Customer Service Asst. Mgr., Customer Service Rep., Kitchen Mgr, Administrative Asst., Web Producer, Wedding & Events Coordinator

Another church: 14-member pastoral team, 17-member support team including – Director of Facilities and Planning, Media Director, Facilities Mgr., Business Administrator, 6 Administrative Assistants, etc. Are we talking church or business? Which direction is influence flowing??

James’ strong warning just as timely today as 20 centuries ago, just as necessary: it’s a big deal.

A. The Rich and the Coming Judgment (1-6)

Sins of Omission

Call to Repentance (1)

serious sin in view here; previous (4:13-16, merchants) addressed neglect/disregard for God

wealthy farmers disregard both God and neighbor

warns against coming judgment, calls to repentance: weep, howl, grieve over coming misery

issue is not presence/possession of wealth; issue is how it was acquired, how it is being used

implied, of course, true repentance

will avert God’s wrath and potential eternal consequences

may avert some temporal consequences – may save their souls but lose their savings

Purpose of Wealth (2-3)

wealth of any kind given in trust: God retains ownership, expects good stewardship

possessions have no intrinsic value – can put ’em in the hearse, can’t take ’em with you

good stewardship precludes hoarding, requires giving

“tear down and build bigger barns; you fool” (Luke 12:18ff) vs.

“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Pet 4:10)

sinful attitude toward purpose of wealth is destructive

of wealth and ultimately of individual – will testify against them and their spiritual state

bottom line: wealth is given by God in whatever kind or measure for purpose of strengthening and advancing Christ’s kingdom

Acquisition of Wealth (4)

wealth must be gained in ways honoring to God

he will never bless wealth acquired in unjust ways

issue here – withholding earned wages

finding fault with labor done, not paying full wage

claiming insufficient income

applies to other sorts of transactions

too much change back, price marked wrong, something left off the bill

God will square the accounts up in his way and time

Sins of Commission

Use of Wealth (5)

like other worldly thinking, attitude about how wealth should be used is upside down



concentrating on pleasures of life and being consumed by them

especially egregious when surrounded by those in need (legitimate, of course)

Retention of Riches (6)

enslaved by possessions, need to support them

we need 2 incomes because… fill in the blank

determined to hold at all costs, even to exercising cruelty toward others

The church has unique opportunity to show unbelievers what a Christian society in the midst of a turbulent world could look like. May we not miss out on it!

B. The Poor and the Coming Lord (7-11)

Call to Endurance

The Call (7)

patience (4x), endurance (2x)

v.7 ” be patient, brethren, ….waiting patiently for it” v.8 “You also be patient.” v.10 “an example of suffering and patience

v.11 “we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the endurance of Job”

“Patience keeps the mind on an even keel, controls the passions, remains calm, does not turn vindictive, is not victimized by despair, and refuses to lose its temper face to face with people whose words and actions turn life into a burden. Endurance makes up its mind, channels the emotions, bears up in confident expectation, and refuses to lose courage face to face with conditions that might prove to be too burdensome to others.” Krabbendam

both are necessary: plant the seed, wait patiently while weeding and fertilizing and cultivating and expecting a harvest

counting all circumstances joy (James 1:2) leads to patient enduring

has no time limit, no statute of limitations – are allowed neither to give up or retaliate

“civil disobedience” not an option; only option is humble obedience to God

important note: farmer may wait in vain for precious fruit, never the believer – will experience perfect fellowship with God

First Ground: A Potent Reminder (8)

establish your heart – heart of the issue is issue of the heart

hearts are like water: hard to keep within bounds

control center of thinking, willing, feeling – must be properly founded, aimed so as to reach goal of holiness

“The heart of man is his worst part before it be regenerate, and the best afterwards: it is the seat of principles, and the fountain of actions. The eye of God is, and the eye of the Christian ought to be, principally fixed upon it. The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion is to keep the heart with God.” John Flavel

make the most of today

limited time to accomplish Kingdom-work before King returns

must be focused on right priorities, actions, attitudes

endure patiently

there will be justice, will come without warning, without needless delay

be encouraged, Christ will return

smarten up

if you’re one of them, living for self without reference to God

your time running out

Second Ground: A Strong Warning (9)

forbids complaining against one another on pain of condemnation

rather than turn on one another, must forgive one another

necessary to receive God’s forgiveness

repentance and request for forgiveness not requirement for us to grant forgiveness (Matt. 6:14-15)

does not eliminate need / propriety of confrontation; in fact, encourages it

“I forgive you because I’ve been forgiven much. You can’t fully enjoy my forgiveness or receive God’s forgiveness until you repent. Your right standing with God is my primary concern, hence my confronting you about your sin which first and foremost is a sin against God.”

Two Models and their Encouragement

The Prophets (10-11a)

Heb. 11:35-38 Prophets remembered and acclaimed for enduring through suffering

suffering is a blessing Christian should expect to experience

some of those most blessed by God, most useful to him, suffered most

their example an encouragement to us

absence of suffering may be evidence of God’s blessing; may also be evidence we’re not “doing it right” – good to check and see which it is

must not forget the Prophet (Deut. 18:15), example of suffering for us (1 Pet. 2:21)

“Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps.”

Job (11b)

Job’s sufferings described in detail; outside immediate record (Job) other things emphasized

Eze. 14:14, 20 righteousness

v.11 perseverance / endurance

example given to teach focus on τέλος, the end / outcome / purpose God has in view

remember riches / poverty are God’s appointed means to his appointed ends for us, our holiness

We call saints highlighted in Scripture blessed / happy / would congratulate if we met them – if we really believe that, must follow in their footsteps. Christianity isn’t spectator sport satisfied by applauding those who achieve the crown. Required of all who would receive the crown to run the race with endurance. May God give us grace to do just that.


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