Meditations on James 5:13-18

“Anyone” is not actually literally anyone. This letter is originally written to anyone IN the church, specifically Christians with a Jewish background, anywhere within the civilized world of the 1st century. So we shouldn’t point this message to the world, but rather we should ensure we apply it’s point to ourselves. Whether or not we as a Christian have a Jewish background or not, the Holy Spirit has preserved it’s message to every and any Christian in any generation until Christ returns. It is the Father’s will that Christians who are suffering in ANY way should pray to our Father and any of us who are cheerful, we should praise our Father. This is not congregational prayer and praise, but personal prayers and praise. We are at liberty to pray and praise Him in ANY way ANY Christian can. We should never discourage any Christian from praying or praising our Father in ANY way they can! Whatever suffering means to you, may not be suffering to someone else, and whatever makes you cheerful, may not make the next person cheerful, but we should still be encouraging prayer & praise, see Psalm 71:14 & Hebrews 13:15. Do you pray to our Father when you are hurting? Do you praise Him when you are happy? If not, why not?

v14-15, this is all about a personal request for spiritual help while undergoing a physical problem. Notice how James describes the effect of Elder’s anointing and praying with the individual Christian, using words like, “save”,  “raise up”, and “forgive”. The word “save” can be translated “restore” and it is the Lord who does this. If it is His will, He will restore them partially, or completely, or physically, or spiritually, but they will in some way be restored! This verse does not talk about eternity or physical utopic conditions, God is talking about what He chooses to do via an Elder’s anointing and prayer.  It’s not always, nor necessarily what we want, but what He wants! The mere idea of a Christian receiving forgiveness via an Elder’s anointing and prayer makes it obvious that it is possible for Christians to be unforgiven. Being unforgiven is worse than being sick or disabled. Being physically sick or disabled or in any kind of physical or mental pain, isn’t as bad as being eternally lost and suffering in hell. This fact should encourage us all to request that Elders pray and anoint us, but rarely do we see this happen by my experience in the church for the past 30 years. Why? It better not be because we have more faith in doctors and less faith in God! By all means, do what your doctor says, but at the same time, keep God’s word and will at the center of your heart and the highest priority in your mind, as you deal with the complicated problems of pain & chaos in this world. 

v16-18, the great power Christians experience in prayer is equated to what Elijah experienced when praying for both a drought and rainfall. In order to fully appreciate the power of God through our prayers from men or women in Christ is to carefully read the story of Elijah during this ordeal, see 1st Kings 17:1-7 & 18:1-2 & 41-46. When we believe what God’s word says and follow through trusting and obeying Him, then His will is performed, no matter what!

Meditations on James 5:7-12

Jesus expects his disciples to “Bear fruit with patience”, Luke 8:15, which may seem odd, since patience is actually part of the fruit of the Spirit. But if you look closely at what Jesus is saying, we find out that patience comes from holding the promises of His Word in a good and honest heart, then patience grows! So if we think that getting better at being patient is only gained by life experiences, Jesus gives better direction. If our heart desires His word, and our heart has insight into His word which leads us to experience His commands then this experience really develops patience. The more a human heart holds His word with integrity, the more we see our patience turn into perseverance! The time it takes to do this with God in everyday life, is why patience is called His fruit, fruit takes time to grow.

v8 repeats the “coming of the Lord” in the context of Harvest. Fruit of the earth yielding its valuable crop is an image of harvest, referencing judgment; which is good for the church, but bad for those who reject Christ (Matt. 13:29-30).

v9, The Judge and “last days,” is a reference to Christ’s second coming and the judgment (Rom. 13:12; Heb. 10:25; 1 Pet. 4:7; Rev. 22:20). This can also convey the idea that our life is short and our time to judgment is near, so we need to “wise up” in Him.

v10, what amazes me about the ancient Jewish prophets and Job himself is their obvious perseverance in painful persecution, yet they often had no example to follow, Christ wasn’t leading them. God’s word through the law and God’s word in their visions is all they had. Job didn’t even see a single miracle, and his life remains righteous, unlike the horrific sins of David. Our advantage is that we have access to the mind of Christ and the presence of his Spirit to teach us God’s message. That is a “blessed” life and why Jesus proclaimed the beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-11. 

v11, “the purpose of the Lord”, They had seen, “truth & grace came by Jesus Christ”, John 1:14-17. That’s what patience as a Christian will get for you!

v12, Swear…oaths. In the Greek, swear means to grasp something hard for support. Here, it refers to a verbal agreement witnessed by an object that represents God. An example would be swearing by the Temple that manipulates God as a witness to our promises, and dealings (Gen. 24: 1-9; Ezra 10:5; Neh. 5:12; Acts 23:12; Heb. 6:13-17). They would go through these long, elaborate oaths, then not live up to them. The OT Law forbids irreverent oaths, especially the misuse of God’s name. It breaks the third commandment (Ex. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:2; Duet. 5:11; 6:3; 22:21-33) Without integrity in our words of promise, we are left condemned by our own conscience if we used an oath in a way that left us a loophole.

Meditations on James 5:1-6

v1, This impending wrathful judgment coming upon greedy rich “christians” is certain because they are guilty of cheating their laborers and at the very least, they are guilty of harboring hate in their hearts towards righteous people, v5. This was real in the first century and very real in our nation’s history. Many scholars believe that our Civil War 1861-1865 was a direct result of so-called christians abusing the “righteous” in slavery.  God’s judgment is not limited to only the judgment day, as in the “coming of the Lord”.  Remember the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple took place decades after the birth of the Church, (AD33-70) and it has never recovered to this day. The Temple will never be reconstructed and the city will always be under threat of wars and rumors of war, Jerusalem is still a divided city and since 1949 Israel’s Knesset struggles to remain united, today it’s currently dissolved. This fact might cause us to question why systemic racism and hate crimes still plague our own nation, even after we have had a civil war, several amendments to the constitution and differing social movements of protest necessitating change. Why are we still plagued with violence & all kinds of crime from the mere issue of race? Because many of our citizens make up a greedy nation of cheaters that claim to be christian and yet have hate in our hearts towards the righteous! The timing of God’s judgment is perfect and far beyond our complete understanding, but it is real. See Romans 11:33 & Daniel 4:35. Praying for the peace of Jerusalem is like asking God to help me win the lottery that I don’t play. 

v2-3,  From God’s perspective, His judgment against them is already a foregone conclusion and He sees the riches they trust in, as rotten & rusted. They are as good as already burning in hell and James wants them to know that The Lord’s anger is kindled against them in the same way that Jesus pronounced wrathful judgement in the parable of the lazy servant, Matthew 18:34. 

v4, Remember Christian, when the Spirit teaches us to do nothing “complaining”, we have a LORD of Hosts (Ex. 6:26 & 1Sam. 17:45 & Isa. 54:5) that is attentive and reacts to the injustices in your life. Peaceful protest has a good place in our society, but Christians should pray to our Lord who will see to our needs, and in perfect timing, his justice will be meted out to any cheater or blasphemer that becomes our enemy. This is the very reason Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies. It is not because we need to inform God of who our enemy is, but it is to ensure we are aware of God’s concern for our needs. How God treats our enemy will be perfect justice or sweet mercy, depending on how our enemy reacts to God’s message & Son.

v5-6,  One of the reasons Christians who enjoy the righteousness of the Righteous One, are able to rejoice under persecution is because we know our victory is certain. Whereas the demise of the greedy self-indulgent haters seem to be ignorant of our established victory in Christ by his resurrection, ascension and shared glory, 2nd Corinthians 4:6-18.

Meditations on James 4:11-17

v11, “speak no evil” is also translated, “no back-biting” in Rom. 1:30 & 2Cor. 12:20. Why? Because we are family! (brothers). Life is short, Death is sure, Sin is the cause, Christ is the cure! Therefore we should echo our Master’s words. “Judge not, that ye be not judged” Mat. 7:1. If we speak evil of a brother, we judge them and if we accuse a brother behind his back we are back-biting. This quickly detracts from his good name as a Christian and we take upon our own heart the weight of judgment. Even the old law, which Jewish Christians were supposed to love, condemned speaking evil about a brother, Leviticus 19:16-18. By passing sentences upon a brother, we can take upon our self (in God’s eyes) the jurisdiction of the law, which is to accuse, charge, convince, pronounce guilty, and condemn: And then what have we done? We have mishandled the law itself! So in v12, James points out that the only person able to handle the law perfectly is the one and only Lawgiver, being Christ, not Moses. See what the Law of Christ is in Galatians 6:1-3, it’s the opposite of speaking evil.

James questions in v13, a worldly attitude amongst God’s children. It is the planning of making money by trusting in one’s own abilities and plans instead of seeking God’s power & desire to be helping them use their resources. They were being presumptuous, thinking that “my life” belonged to just to themselves, and feeling secure in their money, while feeling they did not need God (see Jer. 12:1-5) They need to stay in touch with reality from God’s perspective and that is only His perspective is long range, we are only short-sighted, if we don’t accept God’s foresight. It’s like being honest about today while you have no certainty in tomorrow, yet you live like eternity is a real victory because you are always looking for ways God can use what you have and who you are.

v14 contains the phrase “Know what will happen”This means ignoring the providential, sovereign reign of God in our lives (Job 9:5-6; 28:25; Psalm 104:10-25; 145:15; 147:9; Matt. 4:4; 6:26-28; Luke 12:6-7; Acts 17:25-28; Rom. 8:28). It is to live our lives our own way with arrogant presumption and self-satisfied forgetfulness of God. This mindset shows disregard for God’s personal attention to the details of our daily life. James’ readers would wholeheartedly agree with this; however, they did not practice it! When we make plans without God, we are like a blind person stepping into the dark without guidance or sight.

v15 actually uses a common Greek expression “If the Lord wills” seen in (Acts 18:21; 1 Cor. 16:7), and used as a Latin motto, “Deo Volente” for centuries by committed Christians. This refers to the fact that God’s will is supreme. We have no preview of future events, despite what some people say about “Revelation”. The future is conditional to God’s will, not ours. God is universal. He is sovereign, preserving, and leading all of us intimately and personally with care, while remaining in control of the entire universe! The way to avoid a worldly confidence in tomorrow is to ask God what are my opportunities and gifts and how can I use them to Your glory? This is an operating system for your decisions that control both your programming input and output. The system is prayer and precepts, seeking Him, and learning His Word, so you can make good, healthy decisions (Luke 12:19-20; Prov. 16:9; Isa. 56:12).v16-17 shows clearly that James believes if we reject this Godly vision, we are sinning, because deep down even atheists know they are not in control of tomorrow. So we must, “seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” Luke 12:31

Meditations on James 4:1-10

v1-3, The first point here is the exact opposite of peace from our last discussion, now it’s war! What lays behind the peace was the purity that is the first mark of God’s wisdom from above. So now we discover what lies behind the wars and fighting, which are so common among the professed people of God. The impure lust of the human heart, the lust connected with worldly wisdom which is fleshly & devilish. Notice some versions use “lusts” and others use “pleasures”. That is because the Greek (  ἡδονή hedone ) word means the pleasure that comes from the gratifying of our desires, rather than the desires themselves. If our desires run riot and we find a sinful pleasure in their gratification, we at once have the root of endless contentions and warfare. See Luke 15:13-30 and remember Jesus died to forgive us of this kind of behavior.

v4, The strong language of James in calling professed Christians, “adulterous” is justified because we are personally responsible for making our self an enemy of God, even after He made us to be friends! If we choose to keep living like an enemy, even after He once treated us like a friend, then we will be treated with the worst of punishment, see Luke 19:27. Look closely at the word ‘abomination’ in Luke 16:15, then you will understand why friends of this world are enemies to God.

v5, has a wonderful revelation of God’s desire joined with the purpose of Scripture. That is to have His Spirit live within us, ever since our first day when God breathed his breath (pnuema) into Adam, to the day Christ breathed upon his disciples, His Spirit has desired to live within us. Gen. 2:7 & Jn. 20:22, Acts 2:38-39 & 17:25. Do you believe this? Our God is a jealous God, 2nd Corinthians 11:2.

v6-10, These words are written to help us know how to repent. The key is wanting to repent! Sometimes for the desire to repent, we need to ask God for help in giving us the opportunity to repent and start personally employing these instructions from James. Afterall, we can’t make ourselves cry! But God can, so asking God to help us repent isn’t an impossible request, it’s just rare that we do it, but try we must! See Acts 11:18, 2nd Tim. 2:25. If Christians get good at doing anything, it should be in doing repentance! Why? Because the ultimate goal of every Christian is surely to end up “exalted” by God. That can only be done in Christ, who is the Victor, wherein real exaltation & glory truly exists. “Exalted” is something God wants to do for each of His children, if we will only submit to his beautiful will in repentance. The word exalted means that God will lift us up above our greatest dreams of glory, and it seems the human imagination is incapable of having a clear vision of how glorious this magnificent position is, or how high the infinity of grace truly is around His Throne of Grace. Please read Luke 18:14 & 1st Peter 5:6. Do you believe this?

Meditations on James 3:13-18

v13, If we cultivate “meekness”, then the Holy Spirit will bear that fruit to maturity, and wisdom is enjoyed. Galatians 5:23. Another word for meekness is gentleness, the Greek word is “Praytes” means “power under control”, and is best demonstrated by placing a bit in a horse’s mouth to bring it’s power under control. Which may be one reason why it is set closely beside “self-control” in Galatians 5:23. How do you cultivate your heart so that meekness can grow? One fact is certain, you will not be preparing yourself to be weak, but you will grow strong in the grace and knowledge of Christ. This is a principle that has always been true for God’s children and expressed very clearly in Psalm 37:11, as well as Jesus in Matthew 5:5. Exercising power under control results in owning physical virtues that even worldly people admire, regardless of how atheistic they claim to be. 

v14-15, To harbor bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, is the opposite of trying to cultivate gentleness or meekness. It is an attitude that harvests worldly fame and godly wrath at the same time, because no one can be a friend to the world and God simultaneously, see James 4:4. The progression of earthly wisdom only goes downhill. People who neglect spiritual realities and needs, become devoid of what their soul needs, which is godly wisdom, not earthly wisdom. See 1st Corinthians 2:13-15. If people like this do not repent, they eventually become children of the devil, who is a type of father or legal guardian, turning them into slaves of sin. See John 8:44 & Romans 6:16-22

v16, “confusion & evil works” The result of entertaining envy and arguments. Confusion in the greek language means living reckless lives that are apathetic towards authority and entertaining anarchy. Evil works in the greek language means intentionally acting out sinful deeds, as in criminal activity. Jesus was counted as a criminal on a cross by the Roman authorities because he let the Jewish leaders intentionally charge him with insurrection against Caesar. Paul teaches that those kinds of people are not entering into the Kingdom of Heaven, see Galatians 5:19-21  & 2nd Thessalonians 2:12. Their first step towards entrance is accepting Godly wisdom in Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for them as their sacrifice for the sins we have committed along with them. 

v17-18, Heavenly wisdom from God is available to everyone on earth. Our Creator designed us with an appetite for it, however, our spiritual appetite is weakened and even perverted by the sin we commit. James describes the fruit of the Spirit as Paul did in Galatians 5:22-23 but with different words. Instead of saying exactly what the fruit of the Spirit is, like Paul does, James is explaining the fruit’s condition. This is what makes the fruit of the Spirit so different and better than the way an atheist would share love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control. You and anyone that wants PEACE with our Creator and heavenly Father, can plant the seeds of the Kingdom in our heart by prayerfully reading his word, (Mat.13:19) and along with obeying those words, we are given His Spirit to germinate those seeds and grow His fruit. This is good news!

Meditations on James 3:1-12

The “greater strictness” of judgment mentioned here, was in the mind of Jesus when he told Pilate, “he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin”, (Jn. 19:11) God knows that when a Christian becomes a teacher, that Christian becomes responsible for what they teach. In the same way, everyone who was responsible for handing Jesus over to Pilate would carry the weight of accountability for taking on more responsibility in the crime. If Christians teach error, we are committing a greater crime than any other kind of teacher because we are influencing people and giving them over to the influence of deceit instead of truth. James was attacking gossip and equating it with a devastating forest fire in a time when man could do nothing but watch and see everything destroyed. God has grace for us, but we should never negate our responsibility, the risk is too great and our accountability is grave (Matt. 7:16-21; 15:10-11, 17-19). Remember the only people Jesus ever called a hypocrite were religious leaders and teachers, his most severe rebukes were pointed at spiritual teachers, not physical leaders but religious ones. 

        Kindles. The point is that a small force can ignite, become out of control, and then destroy everything! Our words have awesome power and they can truly destroy (Prov. 16:27-29)

       Defiles means evil speech such as lies, false vows, and slander as well as blasphemy and gossip. The Bible says they are all evil! A small tongue in our large body controls our direction, relationships, and all we experience in life from peace to violence; it is how we are perceived and how others react to us (Psalm 25:15, 23; 28:23; 39:1-3; 52:1-4; 57:4; 120:2-4; Prov. 16:27; 26:21).

       Hell, (Greek Gehenna) refers to the valley of Hinnom, the place where the heinous child sacrifices took place under Ahaz and Manasseh (2 Chron. 28; 33; Jer. 7:32). This was the wickedest place a Jewish mind could conceive of, and where the first century Jews burned their trash. It also refers to everlasting torment (Mark 9:43-48). It is the image of judgment. Our tongue is hurtful when it is boastful and condescending and thus will lead to the fate of those who are dammed. James is not saying gossip causes a person to go to Hell, rather it is where its concept and veracity leads, the logical conclusion is for us to stop this, or experience a falling away, Galatians 5:4.

       Tame. The tongue is harder to tame than a wild beast! Animals are made to be to be subservient; we are made to be over the animals (Rom. 3:13-14). Can we have rule over the animals but not ourselves?

        Deadly poison, as in deadly cobra venom, the most powerful illustration that could be made in this time! James is using the image of Moses’ snake, how the snakes killed and how the symbol which is the modern medical symbol today, heals (Nub. 21:6-9). This compares the uncontrolled tongue to the deadliest snake, and how our words can be of love or be a deadly toxin (Psalm 52:2; 58:1-6; 64:3; 140:3; Prov. 12:8, 18; 16:24; 18:21; 25:18)

      Made in God’s image. James’ point is that we are made in God’s image and to be in Christ; animals are made for our use and it is our responsibility to care for them. (Gen. 1:26-28; 9:2; Prov. 12:10). Thus, we should have control and care over our own mouths and words!  

        Does a spring. James illustrates these incongruities with examples of the most common crops that were necessary for life from nature (Gen. 1:11-12, 21, 24-25). The point is that we cannot worship God authentically if we use the same mouth to curse His children!

So then, do we fully understand the power of our words? We must be conscious of what comes out of our mouths before it comes out. Squeezing the toothpaste out is easy, but putting it back in the tube is nearly impossible. When our words come out, they are out for good! We must have them under control! How can we do this? By making sure our tongue is under a good helmsman, God (Psalm 19:14; 51:10; 141:1-4; Eccles. 3:7; Mark 12:34; Luke 6:45; 2 Cor. 6:3-10; 10:5; 11:3; Phil. 4:8; Eph. 4:8; 1 Pet. 1:13-14) and by making sure our spiritual formation is growing in Christ as Lord. When our spiritual life is growing, we will be disciplined as our motivations and attitudes are aligned up to His, The Father of Light, love itself.