LINK: James 5
James begins this chapter with very strong condemnation for the wealthy who oppress the poor. This passage is very much reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets who spoke against the rich Israelites who oppressed the poor. It is wrong to use one's wealth selfishly and even worse to use it to take advantage of those who are poor and harm them.
Those who are oppressed or persecuted are instructed to be patient. James gives three examples of patience.
- The farmer must wait patiently for his crop to yield fruit. He plants and waters and tends his fields, but must wait months for the harvest.
- The prophets of God spoke God's word to people who refused to listen. They were often ridiculed, mistreated, abused, and even put to death for the messages they brought. Yet they endured and waited for God to fulfill His word
- Job endured a great deal of suffering before the Lord brought blessings back to him. In the end God showed great compassion on Job and gave him even more than he had lost.
The last section deals with those believers who are sick because of sin in their lives. If they will repent and confess their sins, the leaders of the church can pray with them and they will be healed. The sinner will be restored. The church leaders are involved here, because Christians are not to be isolated islands. Our lives have to be intertwined to be effective and to accomplish the ministry God gives us to do. (more on this in the reflection section)
We see the character of God here as being full of compassion and merciful. He waits and waits for sinners to repent, giving plenty of opportunity to them. He sends His message as well as blessings to people everywhere. None of us deserve His mercy or His compassion. We only deserve His wrath! But He is holding back His wrath to give plenty of opportunity for repentance.
We also see the ministry we should have among other believers of keeping each other from straying. We tend to hide our weaknesses from each other in the church. It would be better to have a friend or two to confide in. If we share our weaknesses with each other, we could be praying for each other in those specific areas. This kind of prayer and accountability encourages great growth.
Do you think of God as compassionate and merciful? This is something I think our culture tells us otherwise. Many people think of God as sitting up in heaven judging everyone all the time. He isn't being a judge right now. He is holding back His wrath and giving opportunity for repentance. One day His patience will end, and there will be judgment and no more opportunity for repentance. Then God's wrath will be poured out. But for now, God is being patient and compassionate by waiting and holding back His wrath.
As believers we should be working with God's patience and sharing His compassion and mercy with others. This is practical in being compassionate and helping those in need, but it's also done by communicating God's message of salvation to others.
We should also be talking among other believers about the truths in God's word. We need to hold each other accountable, share our weaknesses as well as our victories with each other, and pray for each other. Let's really pray for one another that we don't fall into sin and stray away from the faith.
God, we thank You that You are a patient God, showing mercy to us by waiting for us to repent. Thank you for giving me that opportunity to know of Your message of salvation. Help me to share that with others so they may know of Your mercy and compassion. May I be open enough with fellow believers to admit what I struggle with and be held accountable to them. Teach us to pray for one another, sincerely lifting our weaknesses to You and receiving Your strength. In the name of Jesus, amen.