FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1
SCRIPTURE: JAMES 5
Although James is not an Old Testament prophet, he certainly has some of that in him. He is not afraid to speak the truth regardless of how difficult that might be to hear. That’s kind of how he starts this last chapter.
He spends several verses just blasting away at the rich folk. Before we think to ourselves, “Go get ‘em, James. Those rich folks need someone to take them to task”, we need to remember that according to today’s world standards almost every one of us would fit into the “rich” category.
There is nothing wrong with money. It is actually amoral which means it has no moral value on its own. The morality of money comes solely from the one with the cash. There is not even anything wrong with having lots of money. Abraham was very wealthy and yet he was a most faithful man. David was also very wealthy and he was a man after God’s own heart.
The issues at the beginning of this chapter are this. First, what are you doing with the financial resources you have? Do you have money or does your money have you? Second, are you taking care of your financial obligations by paying what you owe and being generous with those around you? Third, are you being honest in your financial obligations and responsibilities?
From there James seems to shift gears to speak about suffering. When James wrote this letter, it was not uncommon for Christ followers to suffer because they had chosen to follow Christ. James’ solution to this was to patiently wait on the coming of Jesus. At the end of the day, the Christ follower can’t lose. He will either go to Jesus when he dies or Jesus will come to get him at the rapture. We just have to learn to wait upon the Lord and trust that He not only knows what He is doing but He is always right on time with what He does.
The next section of this chapter may be one of the most famous ones in this book. James gives us the antidote to suffering: prayer. In other words, staying in close conversation with God has a way of helping with suffering. James also gives us the acceptable response to life being good (being happy or cheerful): praise. Prayer and praise can just about cover anything that life brings our way.
James then mentions those that are sick. The solution to that is to call the elders of the church together to pray for the sick. But these men are to do more than just pray. They are also supposed to anoint the sick with oil. This really is a combination of doing a very spiritual thing (praying) as well as taking advantage of the best medical practices available. (In James’ day, anointing with oil was a medical practice.) When you put this together, we should pray when someone is sick but we should also encourage that sick person to take advantage of the best medicine around.
Before we think that James is hedging his bet on the power of prayer, notice that he uses the example of Elijah as proof of the power of prayer. Prayer really does work. God really does respond to the prayers of His people. And we should always engage in prayer. But God has also given humanity the intelligence to know how to treat physical issues. And we should always take advantage of that.