This is our final chapter in the series, James Abbreviated!
If we were to summarize each earlier post in this series, we would have these three bullet points:
- Christians grow to maturity by trusting God in difficulties; God’s Word renews the way you think. (Chapter 1)
- Christian’s must look after their own poor; generosity within the family of God is evidence of genuine faith. (Chapter 2)
- Holiness is manifest in your speech. (Chapter 3)
- True faith makes the church grow in holiness and generosity. (Chapter 4)
The last chapter is James’s concluding exhortation to persist in Christian maturity amid difficult situations by trusting in God. It’s almost as if James in applying his theology directly to different groups of people in his Jerusalem congregation. For these purposes, we can identify three different categories in James 5.
- Rich people in the church (vv.1-6)
- Persistence (vv.7-12)
- Prayer and confession (vv.13-20)
Let’s look at each category to find the thread of James’s overall message woven throughout the chapter. Starting with vv. 1-6
Once again, key verses will be in italics, followed by brief exegesis of key themes, and a summary in red. I will highlight prevailing motifs and themes in green.
James 5:1-6 “Come now, you rich people! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming on you. Your wealth is ruined and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your silver and gold are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You stored up treasure in the last days! Look! The pay that you withheld from the workers who reaped your fields cries out, and the outcry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived luxuriously on the land and have indulged yourselves. You have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned—you have murdered —the righteous man; he does not resist you.” (HCSB).
The problem being identified is not the wealth that a person may have, but what they do with the resources given. In this case, some of the more well-to-do in the Jerusalem congregation were hoarding their wealth for themselves, while refusing to assist those struggling within their own church family. James here is accusing them of having “murdered” the righteous man in this case (v6), and taking them back to his exhortation in chapter 2, which was to care for the poor in the church. If those who are wealthy (as is the case with these particular individuals) are not also generous, they are heaping up “miseries” for themselves in the life to come (v1), for their faith is in vain—indeed, they are proving themselves unregenerate!
James is just contextualizing his theology on a particular people group, reminding them that, (more…)