Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.
James 5:7-8 (NIV)
Read: James 5:1-12
Consider: We come to the final chapter of James’ letter. Unlike the earlier chapters this section of the letter doesn’t naturally divide into two themes. Instead of dealing with it all in one post, we will look at it over two posts.
In chapter 5, James first of all confronts his readers with the unpleasant truth that some of those who are rich have gained their wealth by unfair means and have been using their wealth inappropriately. These were people who were rich materially, but their actions showed that they were poor spiritually. We must keep in mind that in the earlier chapters of his letter, James was exhorting his readers to ensure that their profession of faith matched their lives, both in terms of what they did and what they said. James is adding to this by encouraging those who are rich materially not to exploit the poor and to use their wealth appropriately. His words from James 2:5 must still have been fresh in their minds: Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
James’ use of language like ‘Your wealth has rotted …’, ‘Your gold and silver are corroded’ and ‘Their corrosion will … eat your flesh like fire’ are very descriptive and point towards the corrosive effect that depending upon wealth can have on a person’s life and character. James is not primarily concerned about their wealth, but about their spiritual poverty.
The second section of this chapter concentrates upon the need for patience. James’ reasoning is that the time is short, as he says in 5:8 – You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Almost 2000 years later, what are we to make of this? We might be tempted to think that the believers in James’ time were expecting Christ to return imminently, but they got it wrong. What we should be thinking is that if they were told the Lord’s coming was near, it is now even nearer for us. Surely the need to be patient and to stand firm in our faith is as much relevant today as it was then. I like James’ use of the farmer as the analogy of how we should wait. As the land will yield its crop in due time, we can be confident that Christ will return at the right time, when the harvest is ready.
There is both warning and encouragement in this chapter of James. Warning that we should not depend upon wealth, but use it correctly to God’s glory and encouragement to wait patiently for Jesus to return.
Pray: Father, may we not rely upon material wealth, but seek to be spiritually rich in living as you would want us to live. Give us a real expectation of your return to earth when the harvest is ready and to play our part in sharing the gospel message with those who need to hear the good news. Amen
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