We are approaching the end of our study of James, and we will spend the next 2 weeks exploring James 5. This chapter is packed full of miscellaneous matters in the Church James wants to address, but all of these matters are tied to one single reminder: the Second Coming of Christ is at hand (vs. 7-9). Even at this early time of the Church, James is concerned that believers have lost their focus. Though they would certainly say they believe Christ is returning, their lives and attitudes reflect a very different reality, and if I am being completely honest, I struggle with this as well. Because of this loss of focus, James admonishes the Church to—
- Focus on the eternal, not the temporal (vss. 1-3). Scholars have stated that the Book of James is heavily influenced by the Sermon on the Mount, and that influence is evident in the first 3 verses of this chapter. James’s admonition on focusing on accumulating wealth echoes that of Jesus in Matt. 6:19-21. To be clear, James is not saying that it is bad to have wealth. What does concern James is how that wealth is accumulated and for what purpose. In the greater context of the book, it appears that James has been made aware that there are some believers accumulating wealth for their own security while their brothers and sister struggle with the basic necessities of life. Rather than hoarding wealth, James admonishes believers to leverage that wealth for the kingdom of God.
- Focus on the needs of others (vss. 4-6). Scholars don’t believe that James was addressing believers who were actually murdering each other. Rather, James seems to be addressing an attitude of callousness. These believers were pursuing self-interest at all costs, oblivious to the harm their actions might cause others. This is the exact opposite to the gospel-centered life described in Phil. 2:1-11. As followers of Jesus what is “legal” or “acceptable” is not the standard. Every decision we make, whether it be at the ballot box or in the boardroom, should be made with the primary concern being others rather than self.
- Focus on patient endurance (vss. 7-11). If James was concerned with the lack of patience in his day, imagine what he would think of us! We have instant access to most everything we desire, and when we don’t get what we want when we want it, we become enraged. It is as if our entire society has reverted to its toddler phase. Our lack of patience as made us distracted and ill-tempered, even in the Church. Impatience causes us to grumble against and resent one another, especially those in church leadership. As James reminds us, the Lord is full of compassion and mercy, and our lives should reflect that attitude as well.
- Focus on being a people of integrity (vs. 12). This is not a prohibition on legal oaths, for Jesus took an oath at His trial (Matt. 26:63-64). Rather, James is admonishing us to be a people of integrity. Whether it be with dealings inside the Church or in the world, we should be consistently honest and reliable in all our dealings. When we are consistently honest in everything we do and say, there is no need for any qualifiers such as “Honestly” or “I swear this time” to earn the trust of others. Ultimately, a life of integrity is a reflection of a heart rooted in faith. Dishonesty, on the other hand, reflects a heart mired in insecurity. We lie to ourselves and to others because we fear rejection by God and man. We lie to protect our carefully crafted images, and in so doing deny ourselves the freedom found in truly being known.
- With which of these 4 areas do you struggle the most? How might that struggle be tied to loss of focus on the return of Christ?
- Read Phil. 2:1-11. How does the “mind of Christ” differ from the priorities of this culture?
- What does it mean to be a people of integrity? What are some areas where you may fail to show consistency? How might certain ideals of “being a good Christian” actually promote dishonesty in the Church?