Setting

We have studied the exhortations on doing the word and having a faith that is accompanied by works. We have also learned two areas of application, namely speech and strife. In this lesson, we see that James relates faith not only to the present but also to our attitude towards the future. The teachings in this passage stress our accountability towards God, who is in control of the future and will judge everyone when the Lord comes.

Key Verse

(4:15, 5:7)

Did You Know...?

1. Lord of Sabbath (5:4): This designation comes from the Hebrew expression that means “the Lord of Hosts.”
2. Early and latter rain (5:7): “In Palestine the early rains came in October and November soon after the grain was sown, and the latter rains came in April and May as the grain was maturing. Both rainy seasons were necessary for a successful crop. Knowing this, the farmer was willing to wait patiently until both rains came and provided the needed moisture.” [ref]

Outline

  • Arrogant Boasting about Tomorrow
  • Denunciation of Rich Oppressors
  • Waiting Patiently for the Coming of the Lord

General Analysis

  • 1.

    How does each of the three paragraphs relate to the main subject—”the future”?

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    The first paragraph has to do with the correct attitude about the immediate future. The second paragraph warns of the judgment in the near future. The last paragraph calls for patience until the coming of the Lord, which is also in the near future.

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  • 2.

    Compare the tone of the second paragraph (5:1-6) and the third paragraph (5:7-12).

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    Whereas the tone of the second paragraph is denunciatory, the tone of the third paragraph is one of encouragement.

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Segment Analysis

  • 4:13-17

    1.

    What is James warning us against? Planning? Profit-making?

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    James is not warning against planning or profit-making, but against arrogance and boasting (16). Such arrogance and boasting come from the presumption that we are in command of our own lives.

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  • 2a.

    What two things about our lives does verse 14 remind us of?

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    1. Our future is uncertain.
    2. Our lives are short.

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  • 2b.

    How does the reminder in verse 14 determine the way we live our daily lives? Do you live your life today with this in mind?

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  • 3.

    What attitude is James teaching us to have in verse 15?

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    Behind the words “if the Lord wills” is a heart of dependence on God’s sustenance and respect for His will.

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  • 4a.

    How does verse 17 relate to the preceding verses?

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    In the preceding verses, James has just explained why arrogant boasting is evil and taught us what is right and good (i.e. to honor God’s sovereign will). In this verse, James extends the teaching on good and evil to include a broader principle—failing to do the good is in itself evil.

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  • 4b.

    Why is it a transgression (violation of God’s law) if we do not do the good we know?

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    God’s law not only forbids us to do evil but also commands us to do good. When we fail to do what is good, we become a transgressor of God’s law. Furthermore, withholding good deeds can become a harm to others (e.g. Lk 6:6-10).

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  • 4c.

    Where do you stand when you measure yourself with the teaching of this verse? What good deeds do you need to start doing?

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  • 5:1-6

    5a.

    What sins does James denounce in this paragraph?

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    Accumulation of wealth (2,3), withholding wages by fraud (4), living in pleasure and luxury (5), condemning and murdering the just (6).

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  • 5b.

    What does the conduct of these rich people tell us about them with respect to God?

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    They have no fear of God and love pleasure rather than God.

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  • 6.

    Why should these rich men and women weep and howl?

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    They will be in misery because God will soon judge them.

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  • 7a.

    What is wrong with heaping up treasure in the last days (3)?

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    According to verses 2 and 3, the rich keep accumulating wealth that is never put to good use. That is why their valuables were corrupted, garments moth-eaten, and gold and silver corroded. The hoarding of wealth contributes to economic injustice in society. This sin is especially evil because it is done in the last days. In other words, these rich people disregard the impending judgment of God and indulge in wanton living.

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  • 7b.

    Are you heaping up treasure in the last days? What are you doing with your possessions?

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  • 8.

    Explain the words “you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.” (cf. Jer 12:3).

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    The day of slaughter is the time when the owner slaughters his fattened cattle. James uses this language to depict how the rich are satisfying their hearts with pleasure and completely unaware of their impending destruction.

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  • 5:7-12

    9.

    What does the word “therefore” tell you about the situation that called for patience?

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    We may infer from this verse that the believers were probably victims of social oppression. Even if they were not suffering from oppression per se, the exhortation may be an encouragement for believers to wait patiently for the Lord’s coming, knowing that God’s judgment will soon take place.

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  • 10.

    What does it mean to establish our hearts (8)? What does it involve?

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    Establishing our hearts means strengthening our faith in the Lord and not letting our conviction be shaken by any circumstance (cf. 1Cor 15:58). This inner strength comes from the sure hope of the Lord’s coming.

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  • 11.

    How is grumbling a sign of impatience?

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    “Grumbling,” which literally means “groaning,” refers to words or expressions that show the inner bitterness over the offenses of others. Thus when James admonishes us not to grumble against each other, he is teaching us to stop complaining and bear with one another until the coming of the Judge.

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  • 12.

    What lessons does James want us to learn from Job’s suffering?

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    1. The perseverance of Job.
    2. The Lord is very compassionate and merciful (cf. Job 42:10-17).

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  • 13.

    What makes a person swear? Why is this wrong? (cf. Mt 5:33-37)

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    Perhaps some people used oaths as an expedient way to gain credibility. Therefore, the point of the command is to speak the truth to one another without invoking the name of God or relying on other forms of oath.

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  • 14.

    In view of the teachings of this paragraph, in what ways can you be more patient?

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