“You also be patient and strengthen your hearts, for the Lord’s return is near.”
James 5:8 (NET)
As a child, I had some out-of-town relatives who often came for weekend visits. I always looked forward to their coming because we did some fun things and I usually stayed up later than my usual bedtime. However, I don’t think my mother was so excited about their stays. She had to do a lot of extra work after teaching school all week; she and my dad slept on the extremely uncomfortable couch because we didn’t have an extra bedroom; and it seemed that she cooked for days while this couple helped very little. Her perspective was very different from mine.
As we look at this section of James, we see two groups of people who have different perspectives of the future: those who ignore the coming of the Lord and those who look forward to it because it will bring the peace, rest, and blessing that this life doesn’t give.
Read James 5:1-6, which focuses on the first group.
In chapter 4 James dealt with believers who needed to repent. Now, at the beginning of chapter 5, he turns to a group of people who do not follow Jesus. His words become far harsher—much like those of the Old Testament prophets announcing doom.
1. How are the attitudes of these rich people similar to the attitudes of the believers in 4:13-17?
2. James tells these rich to mourn and weep, words often used by the Old Testament prophets. Read these references and write down the reasons why the people were mourning and weeping.
a. Isa. 13:6
b. Isa. 15:1, 3
c. Amos 8:2-3
3. How are Jesus’ words in Lk. 6:24-25 similar to James’ words to the rich?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Read about the sheep and goat judgment in Mt. 25:31-46 and consider how it relates to James, particularly his words in 5:1-6.
We saw James address some rich people within the congregation in 1:10-11, so we know that rich people can follow Jesus, although it is hard (Mt. 19:23). Sometimes the term “rich” is used to refer to those who are rich but who are unrighteous, living for themselves rather than for God; that seems to be the way that Jesus uses the term in these verses in Luke.
4. How does Ps. 37:16-17 relate to James’ warnings?
Tomorrow we will look specifically at the sins of the rich people addressed in James, but we don’t want to quit today without considering some application from these verses. Why would James speak to a group of unbelievers who would not even hear his message? Calvin suggested two basic reasons: 1) so that Christians would not envy rich people, and 2) so that Christians could bear the injustices of the rich, knowing that the day would come when God would right all wrongs.32
5. Sharing Question: What do you envy about those who have more than you do? How does this passage help you with those feelings?
6. Responding to God: Spend time simply focusing on the fact that the day will come when God does right all wrongs. Thank Him that someday what seems very wrong about our world will be fixed. Write your thoughts and feelings below.
Reread James 5:1-6. In our study yesterday we focused on the fact that God will judge the rich unbeliever. Today we are going to look more specifically at their sins.
1. What were these rich landowners doing wrong? It is not the fact of their wealth but their attitudes and the use of their riches that he condemns. What specifics does James give?
2. How do these verses relate to the sins James attributes to these rich people?
a. Deut. 24:14-15
b. Jer. 22:13
c. Mal. 3:5
d. Jam. 2:8
Although James addresses the unbelieving rich here, we can commit similar sins. Those of us who live in the U.S. are very guilty of having materialistic mindsets and of thinking that the things we hoard and on which we selfishly spend money are “needs”. Moo says, “In the western world, where amassing material wealth is not only condoned but admired, we Christians need to come to grips with this point in James and ask ourselves seriously: When do we have too much?”33
3. What is Jesus’ message to His followers in Mt. 6:19-21 about material things?
4. Sharing Question: What are you hoarding on earth? What are you amassing for yourself—clothing, stocks, savings, jewelry, beautiful things, etc.? What is your motive—fear, envy, security, selfishness? How is this in opposition to Jesus’ words in Mt. 6:25-34? What do you need to do about it—maybe give something away?
We know that God’s names are indicative of certain characteristics of His person. In 5:4 James uses the name Lord Sabaoth or Lord of hosts.
5. Psalm 80 has a number of references to the Lord of hosts. The NET Bible translates the term as “invincible warrior”. Look at Ps. 80:1, 4, 7, 14, 19. What characteristics of God seem prominent? How would they apply to the context of James 5:4?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Read in your Bible resources about the Lord of hosts, or find cross-references that use that name. Write down your insights.
6. Responding to God: Consider one area of your life where you need to turn to God as your Lord of hosts. Write a prayer or poem expressing your feelings toward Him as Lord of hosts.
Read James 5:7-12. Be sure and learn 5:8 for encouragement when you need it!
For two days we have looked at the prophetic warnings for the unbelieving rich land-owners who ignored to their peril the love of Jesus and His return. We now consider the second group of people. Rather than ignoring the coming of Christ and His judgment, this group expected it! James continues to deal with having a Blue Jean Faith, one that lasts despite the circumstances!
1. James asks believers to show patience in the face of persecution and injustice from others (the context suggests the treatment of the rich land-owners whom he just addressed as one example). What illustration of the kind of patience James asks believers to show does he use (v.7)? How does that illustration parallel his instruction to be patient?
The word for patience here is different from the one we considered in James 1:3-4, 12. Here the Greek word is makrothusesate, which means long-tempered.34 Tasker helps us understand that the word “denotes not so much the brave endurance of afflictions and the refusal to give way before them even under pressure, as the self-restraint that enables the sufferer to refrain from hasty retaliation. The opposites of ‘patience’ in this sense are wrath and revenge.”35
Barrett says it very bluntly: “’Be patient when people abuse you,’ James is saying (verses 7-9)—and the kind of patience he is talking about is self-restraint. It means ‘no retaliation.’”36
2. The same Greek word for patience in James 5:7-8 is used in the LXX (the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament), as well as in other New Testament passages. Read these verses and write down your insights into this kind of patience:
a. Pr. 14:29
b. Pr. 15:18
c. Pr. 19:11
d. 1 Thess. 5:14-15
e. 1 Pet. 2:20
Stronger Jeans (optional): This kind of patience is spoken of God. Read these verses and write down your insights: Ps. 86:15; 103:8; Jer. 15:15; Rom. 2:4: 9:22. You may need to look up the verses in several translations.
3. Sharing Question: Share about a time when you were treated wrongly and you failed to restrain yourself. What were the negative consequences?
4. What are the believers instructed to do in the midst of injustice and persecution in James 5:8? What is the “why” of that instruction? How does that motivate you to obey?
5. Sharing Question: Have you been exposed to much previous teaching on the return of Jesus? If so, how has it changed your responses to others, if at all? Is there one person with whom you struggle most to be long-suffering? How should you change your thinking pattern in order to be patient with him or her?
6. Responding to God: Talk to God about your desire to develop the kind of forbearance or patience that He shows. Talk to Him about the specific person that you mentioned in the previous question. Write your prayer.
Review James 5:7-12 and focus on vv. 9-11.
1. When we deal with any difficulties in our own situations, we are tempted to turn on those around us to blame them, especially when we cannot blame anyone else! What warning does James give about that problem?
2. What two other examples of patience does James give to help believers deal with difficulties that come from other people (vv. 10-11)?
Stronger Jeans (optional): What do you know from your previous Bible study about the patience, or long-suffering of the prophets? Review the story of Jeremiah, who is a perfect example of what James describes here.
If you are familiar with the story of Job, you realize that he questioned God; he was angry about his situation; and he wasn’t patient with other people. It is encouraging to me, though, that despite those things, he is an example of patience. Maybe our definitions of patience are not complete!
3. Anyway, look at these verses and write down what you do learn from Job’s example of endurance or patience:
a. Job 1:21 (note the context of 1:13-22)
b. Job 2:10 (read 2:9)
c. Job 13:15
d. Job 19:25
4. Sharing Question: How have you been blessed (5:11a) in the past as you dealt patiently, in a long-suffering way, with someone who was not treating you well or justly? How did you feel?
5. Responding to God: Write a prayer, poem, or song based on James 5:11 and the mercy and compassion of God.
Read James 5:7-12. Remember that you need to read the verses in context.
Some scholars attach v. 12 to the preceding paragraph (5:7-11), and others put it with the following paragraph. I am sure that you have noticed that James does jump around with his topics, and a verse often seems disconnected with what is around it. I put v. 12 in this lesson because in my opinion it connects better here.
1. Do you see anything that precedes or follows v. 12 that would connect it either way? If so, what?
2. James gives his readers basically one instruction here stated in both a positive and a negative way. Write it in your own words.
3. How do these verses parallel or clarify James’ instruction in v. 12?
a. Mt. 5:33-37
b. Mt. 23:16-22 (At this time there was popular Jewish teaching that if you swore by anything that did not directly name God, you weren’t bound by your oath.)37
Some have taken James’ words to mean that Christians should not swear an oath, even in a court or other legal situation. Some see it as dealing with voluntary oaths only or those that are attempts to avoid being truthful.38 Certainly, if we followed James’ instructions, no one would have to question the truth of our statements because everything we said would be true and we would be faithful to it. I see this topic to be very “blue jean.” It is so very practical!
Stronger Jeans (optional): Study other biblical references to oaths. Use a concordance, etc. What do you learn?
4. Sharing Question: Has someone ever made you a promise or at least by their words, agreed to something, and then reneged on it? How did that feel? If they didn’t swear to it, why did it bother you?
5. Responding to God: Consider whether you have been guilty of breaking your word to anyone. Have you said that you would do something and failed to follow through? Have you called in sick for work when you were well, instead of following the terms you agreed to when you took the job? Have you agreed to take on a responsibility of any kind, and then not done it at all, backed out, or done a poor job? Ask God to show you any such failure on your part. Although God forgives you totally, He asks you to repent and turn away from actions that do not reflect His character, and He is totally faithful! Write your thoughts below.
The knowledge that Jesus will return some day should affect our lives in practical ways; it should help us have Blue Jean Faith. Kay H. and Dorothy share how their lives have been changed by anticipating that day of His coming.
For a long time I didn’t think much about Jesus’ returning. Whenever I did think about it, it seemed like it would be more of an interruption to my plans for my life than something to look forward to. I wanted to finish college and have a career. I wanted to watch my children grow up and get married. I wanted to enjoy retirement with my husband. Now life is harder, both in a global sense and in my particular circumstances, and I have a different perspective on Jesus’ return. First, it gives me hope. When I watch the news or read about the threatening evil, wickedness and suffering all around us, I’m comforted to know that God has it all under control and He’s in charge of the last days. The world will ultimately be destroyed, but it won’t be because we were careless in our use of natural resources or unable to stop religious fanatics. Jesus will return and He will reign and He will judge.
Second, knowing that Jesus will return helps me to set priorities. There is no shortage of demands on my time, energy, and money. Likewise, there are ample opportunities for entertainment and leisure. I could let guilt or pride drive me to say yes to everything that seems good and worthwhile. Or I could pursue comfort and pleasure. In trying to make decisions, I’m challenged by Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:42-51, especially verses 45-46: “Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.” I imagine Jesus returning at any point during my day and what He would say about what I’m doing. Would He say, “Kay, why are you spinning your wheels in that task when I gave you something else to do?” Or would He say, “Well done.” I’m also challenged to pick Kingdom over convenience. Sometimes choosing Kingdom is saying yes to a difficult or time consuming task, like preparing a meal for someone, inviting neighborhood kids to join us for Spotlight Live on Wednesdays or VBS during the summer, or committing to a weekly Bible study group. Sometimes choosing Kingdom is saying no to a good opportunity and dealing with the inconvenience of disappointing a friend.
Finally, thinking “Amen. Come Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20) compels me to pray for my unsaved family and friends as well as for fruitful labor for all the missionaries I know. I want Him to come soon, but I’m grateful for His patience to allow as many as who will come to repentance.
Maintaining hope, setting priorities and praying for the lost all become easier when I keep in mind that Jesus could return at any time.
Knowing that Jesus will return gives me hope; it gives me a sense of security; and it gives me much joy. Growing up in a church, I accepted Christ as my savior at age nine. However, I cannot remember any sermons or Bible studies that dealt with the second coming of Christ. We sang many hymns that referred to Jesus as king, and we said the Apostles’ Creed each Sunday. Part of that creed says, “He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”
Since coming to Northwest Bible Church some 26 years ago, I have had a deepened understanding of scriptures that talk about Jesus’ return. I don’t pretend to understand everything, but I understand enough that I can think of his return with joyful anticipation. I know he came the first time to suffer and die for our sins. When he comes the second time, he will indeed be king. He will judge and rule this earth for a thousand years.
We sing “Joy to the World” at Christmas time, but this song is really about his second coming. “Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns. . . .He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love.” At Jesus’ first coming most of the world did not accept his truth and grace.
Knowing that Jesus will return also causes me to think about how I am living my life. Am I making wise choices in how I use the material and the spiritual gifts he has given me? Am I making use of opportunities to share the good news of Jesus with my friends and family? Will I be found faithful?
I choose the last verse of the hymn, “The Solid Rock,” for my prayer:
“When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found,
Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.”
32 John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, trans. J. Owen (reprint; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1948), 342.
33 Moo, 210.
34 Hiebert, 295.
35 R.V.G. Tasker, The General Epistle of James: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983), 117.
36 Barrett, 176.
37 Hiebert, 310.
38 Moo, 233.