James 5:7-12

12/12/09 “Therefore,” says James, meaning that this paragraph should be read with the previous in mind. Even though James was speaking directly to the rich, it was more of a rhetorical strategy for his real audience, the poor. So he is merely continuing to speak to them. “Therefore…” in light of what is going to happen to the boastful and oppressive rich, be patient and endure. These things take time like growing a garden. And endure without complaining, or retaliation.

The temptation in times of suffering and temptation is to lose patience and lash out at the nearest thing. That seemed to be happening to the early church. The outside pressures, economic mostly, caused by the rich upon the poor caused the church to give in to the temptation to vent on each other. We must resist that temptation. Why? Because we know that judgment day is near and it’s not going to be only the rich who are going to be judged. The poor also shall be judged. We must endure and persever. In the end God will come through for his people.

V. 12, “Above all…” Here is a primary point James wishes to make in his admonitions: “Do not swear.” He was not speaking of cursing and dirty language, although the Bible is clear that that is wrong as well. It was fairly common in those days to make oaths to authenticate the truth of what you were saying. The natural result of that was and is to come to believe that with oath-taking one is not bound to tell the truth. This is what Peter did when denying Christ. Obviously, that is an inauthentic and downright dishonest way to live. James is telling his people to be authentic people–because this is what the judge is looking for.

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James 4:1-10

12/9/09 V. 1, Where, asks James, does the quarreling among people (and he’s speaking specifically to the church) come from? As simple as the question is the answer must be profound coming from scripture, since it would directly affect the unity and love of God’s people. The source of all this, he states unequivocally, is that our pleasures control us. Our bodies are manipulated and controlled by sensual pleasures.

V. 2, So since we lust and don’t have something we get angry at the one who does have. This is pleasure controlling our feelings and actions. Envy for what you do not have leads to fighting. That is it. That’s the source of our disunity: the love of our own pleasures.

But James doesn’t dwell long on this negative aspect. He jumps right away to the solution, which, interestingly is not “stop lusting and desiring.” The solution is that you can have what you desire. The reason you don’t is that you don’t ask for it. The NIV adds the word God there, making the statement that we should ask God for what we want. That’s certainly true, but the original doesn’t say to ask God, it simply says to ask. Couldn’t it also be true that we need to ask for what we want from each other? That’s the polite thing to do. But too often we don’t communicate with each other.

V. 3, You might say that you ask, but you don’t really, says James. You ask from wrong motives. So it’s not that we may desire and lust in any fashion, but we should desire and lust in a proper way, with good motives. Our normal motives for desiring and lusting are the gratification of our own pleasure. But this is anti-God.

V. 4, To allow our carnal desires to rule us is to commit adultery against God, and to rebel against him.

V. 5, The Greek here is unclear and this verse is variously interpreted. But given the context it’s possible that James was saying that God himself desires and lusts. But that he desires and lusts for our benefit, that his Spirit would dwell in us.

The word lust is a strong word that need not have negative connotations. “Epipotheo” is to pursue with love or to yearn for earnestly. So lusting with good motives–genuine love for others–is actually a powerful emotion that speaks in tune with the heart of God.

V. 6, God gives us great grace to overcome the power and control of sensual pleasures when he humbles us.

V. 7, By submitting to God’s discipline and working with him to resist Satan’s temptations toward shallow pleasures, the grace of God will send him fleeing.

V. 8, But sending the devil fleeing isn’t the end. Then we must draw near to God and him to us. Work with him for cleansing and eradicating the sinfulness in us. Stop playing with it. Let God remove it from our hearts so we may be single-minded for him.

V. 9, Let repentance wash over us. See the state of our heart and feel the shame appropriate to our condition.

V. 10, Humble yourself before the Lord and he won’t let you stay there. He will exalt you!