Summary: This is the 10th of 11 Studies on the Bok of James, which contains a warning to the rich and also words of comfort to those who are facing persecution on account of their faith.

James 5:1-6

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. 4 Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5 You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.

After talking about not speaking ill of, and judging one another, and about the need to make plans according to the will of God, and not boast about our plans as if we are sure they will happen, James then turns his attention to the rich people who are not living the way the Lord wants them to live. Let’s look at what James has to say to them. It seems like he is talking about the rich people who are not Christians, because later he addresses the believers in verse 7 when he tells them to be patient. Let’s see what he tells the rich people of the day.

He begins by telling the rich to weep and howl in advance of the miseries that are to come upon them. He talks about this misery they will suffer with a tone of certainty, and not as if it were a possibility. It seems that the rich are going to suffer in a way that’s going to result in them weeping and howling and he tells them to do that even before that misery comes upon them.

He goes on to talk about the nature of their riches and uses terms to describe how useless and empty they are to save one from God’s judgment and eternal condemnation. He uses the words, ‘corrupted,’ ‘moth-eaten’ and ‘corroded,’ meaning that they will not hold any value on that Day of Judgment. He then says that these riches will be a witness against them and will consume their flesh like fire would. He goes on to say that the rich had heaped up or stored up treasure in the last days. The riches that the rich people possessed were not being earned well or used well, but were rather being hoarded for a rainy day, but instead a Day of Judgment was coming when that wealth would have been of no use.

James goes on to explain the process by which the rich made their wealth. They did so by not paying their laborers what was due them, which means they were either not paying them or they were under-paying them for their labor. He says that two cries were going up to God – that of the wages that were not paid the laborers and that of the reapers themselves. He adds that these cries had reached the ears of the Lord of the heavenly armies, making it clear that the Lord will certainly pay heed to those cries and deal with the rich.

James goes on to tell the rich that they have lived on the earth in luxury and pleasure and have made themselves fat as a result, and adds that it is in preparation for the day of slaughter, thereby making reference to oxen and cows that are made fat for the slaughter. This further strengthens his warning that judgment is coming upon the rich. He then goes on to say that they had condemned and murdered those who were just and upright in order to amass more wealth, and adds that though they did that, they did not resist them. So it appears that the rich people had got rich at other people’s expense, including their very lives and it was a certainty that God was going to deal with them for all their ill-gotten gain.

Though it does seem like he’s talking to the rich people of the world, the world has changed a lot since then, and there are many in the church today who are as guilty of the same things as these people were back then. So many live for none but themselves, making money at the expense of other people, taking lives of people so as to increase their wealth, under-paying or not paying laborers who work for them, and for all this, such rich believers can be sure that the same fate awaits them as well.

Let’s examine our own hearts to see if we find ourselves guilty of the above sins of selfishness and greed, and repent if we have to, lest we find ourselves awaiting the same fate that James warned the rich about.

James 5:7-12

7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. 8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! 10 My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. 12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment.

James then turns his attention to the believers, whom he refers to as brothers and sisters and encourages them to remain patient as they wait for the return of the Lord Jesus. This verse seems to indicate that it’s perhaps these people were the ones being exploited by the rich people. He seems to be telling them that the Lord sees and knows, and will repay their oppressors in due time – when the Lord returns and though it might be hard for them to undergo the oppression they undergo, they need to remain patient and wait for the Lord’s return, when both they will be rewarded for their labor, as well as their oppressors will be recompensed for their oppression.

He then makes reference to the patience exercised by farmers, who wait patiently for the harvest as they wait both for the early and latter rains. No one knows for sure whether the rains will come, yet they wait in hope. He says, that they too, need to wait, but their waiting is in hope or assurance of the Lord’s return.

He then encourages them to set their hearts/desires firm and strong in preparation for the coming of the Lord, meaning that they need to desire God and His ways deep down in their hearts because it’s those desires that lead to plans and a lifestyle that is either godly or ungodly. Every believer needs to live life with this perspective in mind – the Lord’s return is close at hand. We are not going to live on this earth forever – our life here is short-lived, and we need to live life with that sense of reality, using all we have to love and serve the Lord. No one knows exactly when the Lord will return but one thing we do know is that none of us has too long to live on the earth, and when our time on earth is done, then the Lord’s return is as good as come for us, because when He does return we who die in the Lord will be resurrected to meet Him in the air, and then those who are alive and remain will also be caught up together with the Lord in the air. (Read 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).

James then goes on to caution the believers to not grumble against one another and warns them if they do, they will be condemned. Though this might seem like a very hard statement to make – that we will be judged for grumbling against one another, we need to remember that the Lord looks at us as His Church quite differently than the way most of us look at ourselves. The Lord redeemed us to be His very own, and we are His Body, His Family, part of His Kingdom, and more, and so God expects us to respect one another and take care of, and love one another. Grumbling against one another is the first step towards hurting and harming one another and when we do that, we are going against the Lord Himself who is trying to build us up. We are trying to tear down what the Lord is trying to build up. Grumbling against one another is almost like grumbling against God Himself. He cautions those who grumble against one another that they will be judged/condemned by Jesus whom, he says is standing at the door, meaning that His return is close at hand.

He then goes on to encourage them to remain patient in the midst of their suffering and makes reference to the prophets who spoke on behalf of the Lord and suffered but remained patient in their suffering. Those prophets were considered blessed because they endured the suffering they went through patiently and he encourages them to go through the suffering they go through with the same kind of patience.

He then makes reference to the one man who is referred to in the Bible, and even today as the one who endured tremendous suffering but still remained patient through all of it – Job. He reminds them that Job persevered through this suffering and was able to live to see the wonderful things the Lord brought forth for him, after his suffering was over. He goes on to remind the believers that the Lord, who sees their suffering is both compassionate and merciful, meaning that the Lord feels what they go through, and will help them through it and reward them accordingly later, and He is also merciful, meaning that He will not punish them according to their wrongdoings.

James then goes on to address another issue that is related with the issue of being patient – it’s that of trying to convince someone of one’s honesty by swearing on heaven or on earth or on anything else. Perhaps the believers were being falsely accused of things by those who oppressed them, and in an attempt to prove their innocence, they perhaps were sometimes being tempted to swear on something. But James talks about taking oaths, just like Jesus did in Matthew 5:33-37 that one should not take oaths and that a mere ‘Yes,’ or ‘No,’ should suffice, and anything more than that would be considered a sin. James goes on to say that if anyone takes an oath, then he will fall into judgment. In the above verses James starts off by addressing the rich people who were oppressing the poor and cheating them of their wages, then he goes on to encourage those who are being persecuted or undergoing suffering to remain patient, and finally he discourages them from taking oaths for any reason whatsoever.

For the Audio Version of this Study on YouTube, click here -

For the Audio Version of this Study o Spotify, click here -