Being patient amid challenging times, by Rev. John Kwasi Fosu

Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg – Bible Study material on James 5:7-12

The text of James 5:7-12:
7 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. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! 10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. 12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.

Having warned his readers against inappropriate behaviour put up in difficult times such as speaking evil against one another, making plans without God in order to control their lives, and by accumulating wealth with the intention of giving them life and peace they crave in James 4:1-5:1-6, James 5:7-12 focusses on the appropriate attitude of patience needed amid suffering. This passage highlights James’ perspective on the need to wait on God amid suffering. The study thus brings out two main aspects on patience with a corresponding warning against sins of the tongue.

1. a. Be patient like the farmer (James 5:5-7)
In his commentary about what it means to be patient, James uses the illustration of the farmer to indicate that patience is connected to waiting. Using an illustration of the farmer, James seems to indicate that just as the farmer patiently waits for his/her produce, so also are we to wait in anticipation of the Jesus’ return.

b. Do not complain against one another (James 5:9)
To James, whilst waiting for the Lord’s return in the midst of suffering, we are not to grumble so that we “may not be judged.” James’ argument is that grumbling is like delivering God’s final word of judgement. In this light, because God is all-seeing, God knows about all wrongs and injustices. Moreover, grumbling during suffering shows that we are not content with God’s work in our lives and in the life of those around us. Most insightfully, rather than telling God our problem, we speak bad things about others therefore lose our good perspective about our problems.

2. a. Follow the perseverance and patience examples of the prophets and Job (James 5:10-11)
The second example James uses to illustrate the meaning of patience is the prophets and Job. By his reference to the prophets, James illustrates the point that being patient is an act of faith (James 510). For the prophets served as examples of suffering and patience. James mentions Job probably because he was steadfast in his dependence on God to answer him in the face of terrible suffering and loss. Worthy of note is the fact that Job’s perseverance was not due to Job’s focus on his circumstances. Instead, Job relied on the character of the God he had experienced and relates to.

b. Avoid swearing and let your yes be yes (James 5:12)
The second warning, after citing the example of the prophets and job, is against using oaths to back up our words. Rather than swearing, James instructs his readers to “let your yes be yes and your no be no…” It seems clear that James’ readers used to be people who often backed up their words by swearing to something. In this light, it appears that the person taking the oath would take it seriously depending on the object or deity that they were swearing by. This practice, therefore, lead to a situation where one could not trust person’s words.

Today’s studies on James 5:7-12 has focused on the theme of patience. Relating it to our previous studies on James 5:1-6, it is obvious that James describes patience as a solution to the problem associated with the life of grasping and exploitation that James condemns. The virtue of patience is of much treasure especially in today’s world that is characterized by materialism and fast-paced culture. Being aware that the present life is full of challenges, James encourages us to focus on God’s future. In this perspective, one can live a life of generosity, love and patience with one another.

1. State some examples of remarks that shows that a person is grumbling in the midst of suffering.
2. Under what circumstance does Job’s example encourage our appropriate behaviour during suffering.
3. Give some examples of situations that tempt us to swear.
4. Being patient is an act of faith. Explain.

Proper attitudes to wealth, work and to the poor, by Rev. John Kwasi Fosu

Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg – Bible study material on James 5:1-6

In our previous studies, we focused on proper perspectives to life by emphasizing that life is short, death is certain and God is sovereign. This lesson on James 5:1-6 focuses on the related theme of our attitudes to wealth, work and towards the poor.

Wealth- Money should be regarded as a temporal commodity (James 5:1.3)
It is most probable that James’ description of the rich in this context is about those who are not Christians. For that reason, James warns them to repent and weep because of the coming misery. In this light, the rich who are unrighteous have placed themselves in extravagant luxury and lifestyle at the expense of others. In other words, the people became rich through exploitations of others.

James brings out the perspective that wealth and for that matter money is a transitory commodity that disappears before our eyes (James 5:3). James’ perspective meant to contradict the popular perspective in the ancient world that fine clothing and big purse served as symbols of wealth. To James, therefore, exploiting money from the poor and hoarding it makes no sense in view of its temporary nature.

Work – Wealth creation must be ethically sound (James 5:4)
In James 5:4, James observes that money that ought to be in the hands of labourers are rather in the possession of their masters or landowners. It is most probable that James alludes to a similar incidence of Leviticus 19:13: “‘Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.”

Taking advantage of one’s workers through hoarding of wealth and ignoring the needy around them is therefore problematic from the perspective of James (James 5:4). In this light, James condemns the rich both for how they acquire their wealth and for what they did with it. It means James rebukes them for their unjust business practices such as unfair pay to their workers.

Poor – Avoid exploitation and oppression of the vulnerable (James 5:5-6)
Closely related to the need to create wealth in an ethically sound environment is James’ instruction on the attitudes towards the poor. Attention has already been drawn to James’ questioning of the phenomenon of not paying workers fairly. James describes this attitude on the part of the rich and thus wealthy landowners as an abuse of power. James’ use of the expression “you have condemned and murdered innocent men” probably refers to the inclination of the unrighteous rich to use the courts or the legal system to oppress the poor. Similarly, murdering the poor could denote any act of cruel behaviour that leads to the death of the poor who may be innocent people or vulnerable in the society.

Worth observing in this lesson is the fact that James is principally speaking to the non-Christian wealthy landowners who were taking advantage of the poor in his time. James’ teaching about the temporal nature of money, in the first place, discourages us from being envious of the wealth of the rich. Most importantly James’ instruction on wealth and poverty encourages us to be good stewards of the resources entrusted to us by using it to build God’s earthly kingdom.

Moreover, James invites us to desist from any act of manipulating and controlling of people or situations to get what we want. Last but not the least, James reminds us on the need and thus the opportunity to become more detached from earthly goods and thus share our material items such as money, cars, homes, time, gifts, talents and professional expertise with others.

1. Wealth is to be regarded as a temporary commodity. Do you agree?
2. Identify two ways in which the rich exploit the poor in contemporary times.
3. State some three ways in which we can be good stewards of our earthly possession and thus share them.

Memory verse: James 5:2