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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.

Posted by Joe Ligon with

James 4





I think we sometimes idealize the early days of the church.  In much the same way that we talk about the “good old days” of our lives, we often think the early days of the church must have been the best days.  And while that is obviously true in Acts 2 when the church was born, it didn’t stay true very long.  Imperfect humans (and that is all of us) have the incredible ability to mess up a lot of stuff including the church.

As James starts this chapter, he mentions the fights and quarrels among Christ followers.  And he asks the most pertinent question:  “what is the cause of this behavior”.  And then James answers his own question.  The cause of all these fights and fusses and quarrels and arguments is us.  It all comes from the battles that rage within each of us and too often spill out onto others.

We see that as far back as Cain and Abel.  Lot and Abraham are also examples of that as are David and Absalom.  Even the disciples got into it over silly stuff like who was going to be the greatest in Jesus’ Kingdom.  In Acts 6, we find arguments breaking out in the early church.  The Corinthians were suing each other in court.  The Galatians were “biting and devouring” one another.  The Ephesians were not in unity.  And even in the Philippian church, two women would not get along with each other and it was affecting the church. 

In other words, if you find yourself in the midst of a battle, either in your family, your work, or your church, the first place you should look is at yourself.  Our own sin may very well be the source of the conflict.

When our own sin is the source of conflict, it seldom stays focused on those around us.  It always bleeds over into our relationship with God.  Verse 4 speaks of us being at enmity with God or being an enemy of God.  Our battles with others always affect our relationship with God.  Always. 

One of the dirty little secrets of these battles is we almost always believe we are right and everyone else is wrong.  Think about it.  If we knew we were wrong, surely we would stop the struggle.  It is that belief that we are right that leads to the problem of pride that verse 6 speaks of.  When our pride reinforces our belief that we are right and our continued belief that we are right continues to fuel the fight, we will find ourselves in opposition to God.  If you will look carefully, you will discover it is not just that we are opposition to God but that God opposes us.  By the way, that is never a good position to be in.

The last part of verse 6 speaks volumes.  God gives grace to the humble.  The solution to the pride that fuels our fights is humility.  When we humble ourselves and admit that it was our own sin stirring up the conflict, God is quick to pour out more grace on us.  That grace is the sweetener in our relationship with Him.  And that grace is exactly what we need to deal with those we have been in conflict with. 

The chapter ends with a stark reminder that none of us are promised tomorrow.  As Christ followers we are promised eternity but not necessarily tomorrow.  So, as we think about and plan our future, we need to do so in light of the will of God.  Let us make sure our plans fit God’s will.  And let us understand that God’s will may be very different from our own long term plans.  But God’s will is always best.  Always.

Posted by Joe Ligon with

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