1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming on you. 2 Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and your silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be for a testimony against you, and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up your treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you have kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of those who reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of Armies. 5 You have lived delicately on the earth, and taken your pleasure. You have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned, you have murdered the righteous one. He doesn't resist you. 7 Be patient therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it, until it receives the early and late rain. 8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Don't grumble, brothers, against one another, so that you won't be judged. Behold, the judge stands at the door. 10 Take, brothers, for an example of suffering and of patience, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we call them blessed who endured. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the Lord in the outcome, and how the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. 12 But above all things, my brothers, don't swear, neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath; but let your "yes" be "yes," and your "no," "no;" so that you don't fall into hypocrisy. 13 Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praises. 14 Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, 15 and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it didn't rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 He prayed again, and the sky gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit. 19 Brothers, if any among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.
The subjects which are introduced in this chapter are the following:
I. An address to rich men, and a severe condemnation of the manner in which they lived, James 5:1-6. There have been various opinions in regard to the persons here referred to.
(1) some have supposed that the address is to unbelieving Jews, and that the punishment which the apostle threatens was that which was about to be brought on the nation by the Roman armies. But, as Benson well observes, it can hardly be presumed that the apostle supposed that his letter would be read by the Jews, and it is not probable, therefore, that he would in this manner directly address them.
(2) another opinion has been, that this, like the rest of the Epistle, is addressed to professed Christians who had been Jews, and that the design is to reprove faults which prevailed among them. It is not supposed indeed, by those who hold this opinion, that all of those who were rich among them were guilty of the sins here adverted to, nor even that they were very prevalent among them. The rebuke would be proper if the sins here referred to existed at all, and were practiced by any who bore the Christian name. As to any improbability that professed Christians would be guilty of these faults, it might be remarked that the period has been rare in the church, if it has occurred at all, in which all that is here said of "rich men" would not be applicable to some members of the church. Certainly it is applicable in all those countries where slavery prevails; in countries where religion is allied to the state; in all places where the mass are poor, and the few are rich. It would be difficult now to find any extended church on earth in relation to which the denunciation here would not be applicable to some of its members. But still it can hardly be supposed that men were tolerated in the church, in the times of the apostles, who were guilty of the oppressions and wrongs here referred to, or who lived in the manner here specified. It is true, indeed, that such men have been, and are still found, in the Christian church; but we should not, without the clearest proof, suppose that such cases existed in the times of the apostles.
(3) the correct opinion therefore seems to be, that the design of the apostle in this chapter was to encourage and strengthen poor and oppressed Christians; to impart consolation to those who, under the exactions of rich men, were suffering wrong. In doing this, nothing would be more natural than for him first to declare his views in regard to those who were guilty of these wrongs, and who made use of the power which wealth gave to injure those in the humble walks of life. This he does in the form of an address to rich men - not perhaps expecting that they would see what he had written, but with a design to set before those to whom he wrote, and for whose benefit the statement is made, in a vivid manner, the nature of the wrongs under which they were suffering, and the nature of the punishment which must come upon those who oppressed them. Nothing would tend more effectually to reconcile those to whom he wrote to their own lot, or do more to encourage them to bear their trials with patience. At the same time, nothing would do more to keep them from envying the lot of the rich, or desiring the wealth which was connected with such a mode of life.
II. The apostle exhorts these who were suffering under these wrongs to exercise patience, James 5:7-11. He encourages them with the hope that the Lord would come; he refers them to the example of the farmer, who waits long for the fruit of the earth; he cautions them against indulging in hard feelings and thoughts against others more prospered than they were; he refers them, as examples of patience, to the prophets, to the case of Job, and to the Lord Jesus himself.
III. He adverts to a fault among them on the subject of swearing, James 5:12. This subject is introduced here apparently because they were in danger, through impatience, of expressing themselves in a severe manner, and even of uttering imprecations on those who oppressed them. To guard against this, be exhorts them to control their temper, and to confine themselves in their conversation to a simple affirmative or denial.
IV. He refers to the case of those who were sick and afflicted among them, and directs them what to do, James 5:14-18. The duty of those who were sick was to employ prayer - as the duty of those who were in health and prosperity was praise. The afflicted were to pray; the sick were to call for the elders of the church, who were to pray over them, and to anoint them with the oil in the name of the Lord, not as "extreme unction," or with a view to their dying, but with a view to their living. To encourage them thus to call in the aid of praying men, he refers them to an illustrious instance of the power of prayer in the case of Elijah.
V. In the close of the chapter and of the Epistle, the apostle adverts to the possibility that some among them might err from the truth, and urges the duty of endeavoring to convert such, James 5:19-20. To encourage them to do this, he states the important consequences which would follow where such an effort would be successful, He who should do this, would have the satisfaction of saving a soul from death, and would hide from the universe a multitude of sins, which otherwise, in the case of the erring brother, could not but have been exposed in the great day of judgment.
The profligate rich are in danger of God's judgments, because of their pride, fraudulent dealings, riotous living, and cruelty, James 5:1-6. The oppressed followers of God should be patient, for the Lord's coming is nigh; and should not grudge against each other, James 5:7-9. They should take encouragement from the example of the prophets, and of Job, James 5:10, James 5:11. Swearing forbidden, James 5:12. Directions to the afflicted, James 5:13-15. They should confess their faults to each other, James 5:16. The great prevalence of prayer instanced in Elijah, James 5:17, James 5:18. The blessedness of converting a sinner from the error of his way, James 5:19, James 5:20.
INTRODUCTION TO JAMES 5
In this chapter the apostle reproves the vices of rich men, and denounces the judgments of God upon them; exhorts the saints to patience under sufferings; warns them from vain and profane swearing, and presses to various duties and branches of religious worship, private and public, and to the performance of several good offices of love to one another. He represents the miseries of wicked rich men as just at hand, James 5:1 because they made no use of their riches, either for themselves, or others, and because of the trust they put in them, heaping them up against a time to come, James 5:2, and because of their injustice in detaining the hire of labourers from them, James 5:4 and because of their wantonness and luxury, James 5:5 and because of their cruelty to the innocent, James 5:6 and such who suffer at their hands are exhorted to exercise patience, from the instance of the husbandman waiting patiently for the fruit of the earth, and the rain to produce it; and from the consideration of the coming of Christ, the Judge, being near at hand, James 5:7 and from the example of the prophets of the Lord, who suffered much, and were patient, and so happy; and particularly from the instance of Job, his patience, the end of the Lord in his afflictions, and his pity and compassion towards him, James 5:10. But of all things the apostle entreats them, that they would take care of profane swearing, and all vain oaths, since these bring into condemnation, James 5:12 and from hence he passes to various exercises of religion; the afflicted he advises to prayer; and those in comfortable circumstances of body and mind to singing of psalms, James 5:13, and such that are sick, to send for the elders of the church to pray over them, and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord, whereby not only the sick man would be delivered from his sickness, the Lord raising him up, but even his sins would be declared to be forgiven, James 5:14. And not only it became the elders to pray for sick persons, but also the saints in general, one for another, and to acknowledge their faults to each other, since the fervent prayer of every righteous man is of great avail with God, James 5:16 of which an instance is given in Elias, whose prayer, though a man subject to like passions as other men, against, and for rain, was very successful, James 5:17. And Christians should not only be concerned for the health of each other's bodies, but also for the good of their souls; wherefore, whenever it is observed that any are straying from the path of truth, methods should be taken to restore them, and turn them from the error of their ways; and whoever is the happy instrument of such a restoration is the means of saving a soul from death, and hiding a multitude of sins, James 5:19.
(James 5:1-6) The judgments of God denounced against rich unbelievers.
(James 5:7-11) Exhortation to patience and meekness under tribulations.
(James 5:12-18) Cautions against rash swearing Prayer recommended in afflictive and prosperous circumstances, Christians to confess their faults to each other.
(James 5:19, James 5:20) The happiness of being the means of the conversion of a sinner.
SUMMARY.--The Sins of Rich Men. The Judgments Coming Upon Them. Patience Under Affliction. The Examples of Job and Elijah. Healing the Sick. Effectual Prayer. Restoring Sinners.
*More commentary available by clicking individual verses.