In this episode, we begin getting into the final chapter of James – chapter 5. It teaches about the ways we pervert and misuse our opportunity to steward this one lifetime we have been given. James instructs us on how to overcome these distractions and perversions through listening to God and caring for one another.


Isn’t it amazing, it’s only five chapters, not that many words in James, and we’ve just barely scratched the surface, such is the amazing depths of the word of God and the great riches that are there.

The three things you can control

This chapter is largely about the three things that you can control. Of course those three things are who you trust, the perspective that you take, and what you do. And we’re going to be talking a lot here about all three of those things. So, chapter 5, verse 1.

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!

Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.

Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.

Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.

You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.

You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.

You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Mindset of poverty is right now

What this is giving us is a perspective that is very difficult, and it’s the perspective of wealth and riches verses poverty. What is the main difference between someone who’s wealthy—in any respect: spiritual wealth, material wealth, any kind of wealth—and someone who’s extremely impoverished? What’s the main difference? Anybody ever read about this or study it? It’s a time preference. The main difference is time preference.

Someone who’s impoverished, when do they want everything? Now. Payday loan. Why would someone give up 20 percent of their pay just to have it on Wednesday instead of Friday? I can’t spend it on Friday if it’s Wednesday. I can spend it today. I want everything now.

The way you get wealthy is by deferring spending so that you can make investments so you can have something better later. That’s the way investments work. I’ll do something now that may not be as good as I would like to have it now because something better is later.

Well, this whole passage we just read here is establish your heart for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Let’s start with this example in verse 7.

See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.

Now unfortunately, we’ve kind of lost this in our society because we don’t have to wait for anything anymore. You want food? You just take it out of the refrigerator, put it in the microwave, punch a number, and then sit there and fume because it’s taking four minutes for the dinner to go from refrigerated to heated. Who has four minutes to wait? Maybe you can pop up a Netflix and watch it for a little while while you’re taking this immense time to wait for this.

 Or you just jump in the car and go down to Rosa’s and stay in the drive through, and there’s 15 people in the drive through, and you have to wait seven minutes until they hand you your food.

Everything’s instant for us. 

And in this society, they understood, if I want a crop, so that I can eat, for example, so I’ll have any money at all, then I have to wait. I have to plant. I can’t eat my seed corn. I have to save some back so that I can plant!

People with power tend to abuse it

So, verses 1-6 tells you what life is kind of like. What do, in general, people with power and riches—same difference, right? —what do they usually do? Do they usually say, “How can I serve you with my wealth and power? How can I make your life better? I’m the IRS agent. All I want to know is, what can the IRS do to help you have a better life?” Is that how it works? 

“I’m the EPA agent. All I want to know is, —I know you already have a good stewardship of the earth at heart—how can I equip you to just do a better job?” Is that how they operate? Those who have power? 

If you’ve dealt with those people, you knew that’s not generally the case. They have power, and they’re going to use it.

We have friends in this church who’ve dealt with federal agencies, and they’ve come in with the attitude you did something wrong. It turned out they didn’t do something wrong. And the federal agencies orientation is, “Well, we spent all this time on this, we’re not leaving without a pelt. I don’t want to look bad at my next performance review because I have power, and I get graded on how well I use it. So if I have to abuse you to do that, that’s your problem, you little plebe.” That’s how power works. 

Companies. Are companies trying to figure out, how can we make other people’s lives better? Let’s put less sugar in these drinks and charge less so that people’s lives will be better. We’ve learned now sugar’s bad for people. This whole idea of let’s take a 50 cent drink and charge five dollars because we put a bunch of caramel in it, let’s don’t do that anymore.

Do you see a lot of that going on these days? No. But you do see people in the government going and trying to get people that are in business to do that; and they have zero interest in people’s well-being or health. They just want control of the business, right? It’s a dog-eat-dog world. That’s the world we’re in. 

I was talking to a young man in Venezuela, and he was part of the student uprising. And he said, we were marching, and it was so cool; and all the sudden my friends started dying next to me. And I realized I’ve got my little brother out here, and he’s going to die. And he got out of there as fast as he could. He went from student rebel to exile as far as he could. Do you blame him? The government was killing them for disagreeing. 

God is going to take care of all this

Well, that’s pretty much the way it works in the world. And what this passage is saying is, look now. If you have power and you’re abusing it, if you have riches, and you’re abusing it, you know what’s in store for you? You know what you’re investing in? You know what this investment’s going to turn in for you? It’s going to turn into condemnation because the Lord of the Sabaoth is coming.

That’s like Commander in Chief, the head of the heavenly army. That’s that title.

You know, you see the President on TV, and you think, he’s mainly a diplomat. Or he’s mainly this or that. He’s the Commander in Chief. He’s head of all the military. He’s got the ability to punch a button and shoot a missile at somebody. Well, that’s God times a hundred million. And that’s the guy that’s coming back. And he’s going to take care of that. 

So what he says to us, verse 7, when you see this gross injustice in the world, when you see people abusing their power, their prestige, their station, just be patient. Why? It’s all going to get taken care of. It’s all going to get taken care of.

Brethren—this is the twelfth usage of brethren here in verse 7. Therefore be patient, brethren—Have this perspective. Everything’s going to get sorted out. The Lord’s going to come back and take care of all this. It’s just a matter of time. 

The way you have wealth is by not falling into this way of thinking. This is the world’s way. Remember you have a gear shift. You can go into the world; you can go into the kingdom. 

And how did you do that? With your mouth. With your thoughts. With your actions.

Don’t get sucked in just because you see, it sure looks like if you look out for yourself you get a benefit. 

There’s a lot about riches we can talk about. What I’d like to do is kind of do the whole chapter and fill up the time we have with some insights. 

So then verse 9. 

Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!

My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.

Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.

But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment.

On the first rattle out of the box, we’ve got all kinds of injustice in the world. People abusing their authority. People abusing their position, their capacities.

Don’t buy into it. All that stuff’s going to get sorted out. Everybody’s going to get what’s due to them. Unless the God of mercy lets them off the hook, in which case we should be happy about that because that means we’re getting let off the hook.

So, you see other people doing bad things. Don’t buy into it. Don’t you do the same thing. 

Don’t grumble against one another

Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned.

What is that? How is that exactly the same as the rich and the powerful abusing their position? How is it exactly the same? When you grumble and complain against one another, what are you abusing? Are you not abusing your relationship with someone who has some sort of trust in you? Or has some sort of esteem for you? 

If it’s one another, that means there’s a connection of some kind, right? And when we grumble and complain we’re basically doing the same thing. We’re taking advantage of our position to try to control another person.

Why do we grumble and complain? Well, there’s several reasons why. Let’s use junior high as a way of thinking about this. 

We’ve got the junior high clique, whichever version of it. I’m going to use the female version because they use words.

You’ve got the clique, and you have to conform to the rules of the clique in order to participate. And how do you police that? How do you impose your will on people? Well, you grumble and complain about them. “Look at her shoes. Look at her. Look at that behavior she has. Why is she—” And you get everybody oriented towards that. And then this person’s excluded.

It’s not our job to condemn or control another

Or you condemn them. And you gradually let them know through an emissary that, you’re being condemned over there. Why do you let them know they’re being condemned? So they can conform their behavior. So you get to be in control of them. 

Well, are other people’s choices something we’re supposed to control? I mean, we’re supposed to invite people to do good things for their best interests. But we’re trying to control them so that we have some sort of feeling that I’m better. I’m in charge. I’m the little god of my own world. And it’s extremely counterproductive. 

When we’re condemning, who’s chair are we sitting in? We’re sitting in God’s chair.

Now we’ve created a little idolatrous situation for ourselves where we are in control of the world and where we are using condemnation to get our way. 

Well, there is a judge of the world. There will be condemnation. There is condemnation today. But it’s not our job to do either one of those things.

The judge is at the door

So he says Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! You know that judge that’s going to make all of them come to what’s right and true? All of them. All those bad people out there doing bad things. You know who else he’s going to judge? Me. 

And you know how long that’s going to be? Not very long. It’s just a wisp of vapor, right? Our lives are not very long. In the scheme of how long we’re going to exist on the earth—old earth then new earth. The old earth part’s just a wisp of vapor. 

He’s standing at the door, just around the corner. For some of us it’s more just-around-the-cornerish feeling than for others. I can start to feel the cold wind blowing just a little bit, you know?

Ezekiel’s example

My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.

Poor Ezekiel. God came to Ezekiel and said, I’m going to give you a job to do. Here’s how it’s going to work. If you do what I ask you to do and warn the people, then I’m not going to give you any responsibility for what they’re going to do because they’re not going to listen to you. Your ministry’s going to fail. And, in fact, they’re going to persecute you. But if you’ll tell them, then I’m not going to hold you accountable for anything they do.

But if you don’t tell them, I’m going to hold you accountable for not telling them. You’ve got to go along with that. 

What do you say? There’s no good choice there other than to do what you’re told. And that’s what God’s telling Ezekiel. Look, that is going to be a terrible job I’m giving you to do, but it’s your job. And if you’ll do it, I’ll grant you great favor for doing what I asked you to do.

And Ezekiel did it. Quite amazing. That’s a great example.

Job’s example

Look at the example of Job. Poor Job. God’s favorite guy. God’s up in heaven telling Satan, have you seen my servant Job? He makes you look so bad. You are so abused by Job’s life.

And Satan’s [like] well, he’s not righteous. He’s just smart! Look at what you pay the guy! I mean, you give him everything he asks for. Who wouldn’t do that deal? So he says, take away everything he’s got. 

Well, okay, go ahead and do that. Just spare his life.

So Satan rakes him over the coals, and Job says, the Lord gave, the Lord take away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

And then Satan comes up to heaven again. (By the way, you realize Satan still has free access to heaven along with the demons? He only gets thrown out in Revelation.) The second time he sees Satan, he says, now you look ten times worse! Look, see, you took away everything, and he’s even better.

So, it’s really clear what God is doing in that circumstance because his arch enemy, who is supposed to be righteous and supposed to rule the world and was displaced by humans, who he’s trying to corrupt to show that, they can’t take my place. Here’s a guy that’s illustrating there’s somebody that’s righteous.

Obedience brings rewards

The hard question about Job is, what’s in it for Job? Well, what you see is that Job came to know God in a much deeper way, in a way where he said, man, I really thought I understood a ton. I didn’t understand anything. I see myself as really small now. 

And God’s like, that’s all I wanted you to know. I didn’t want you to miss out on one second of living by faith and knowing me by faith because you can’t do that in the next world. I just wanted you to have that blessing.

Now, lest anyone else misunderstand my benevolence towards you, I’m going to give you twice as much as you had before, just so everybody understands. You don’t need that for yourself because you now understand what true riches is, but I just want everybody else to understand.

We can see that now. You just read that in a story, and this whole thing plays out in just a few minutes. 

I think that’s why we like movies so much. We deeply appreciate a hero that goes through massive difficulty and outcomes it and wins in the end.

But we only have about an hour to spare on a deal like that. Because we don’t want to actually go through that.  But life is about actually going through it. It actually takes time to go through something like that. 

He’s saying be patient. Endure. It’s an investment. Life’s an investment. This is the perspective we have to take. Who do you trust? Do you trust that the judge is actually coming back? Do you trust he is going to make things righteous? Do you trust that It’s his job to do that and not yours? Do you trust that if you will invest in people wisely as James is telling you to do, that there will be an immense reward to reap for that—positive? Do you understand and believe that there’s an immense negative reward to reap if we don’t do that? 

Be honest even if you’re not under oath

But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment.

This word judgment, I don’t think is a good translation. It is the Greek word hypokrisis, and guess what it is translated every other time it shows up? Hypocrisy. And so, I think it would be better if this was translated lest you fall into hypocrisy. 

Just think about it. If somebody says yes when it’s convenient to themselves and no when it’s convenient to themselves, then the only time you can trust them to actually tell the truth is when they know there’s some immense negative consequence involved. Like, when you’re under oath, and if you don’t tell the truth, you’re going to go to jail. Right? Then that person’s just not trustworthy. All that person’s doing is trying to control their environment with what they say. 

It’s exactly the same as grumbling and condemning. I’m going to grumble against people when I can control them. I’m going to condemn people when I can control them. I’m going to tell lies when I can control my environment. The only time I’m going to tell the truth is when I know the gig’s up.

Don’t do that. Tell the truth all the time. Why? Because truth sets you free. And because what you want for other people is freedom and blessing for other people.

So don’t do that. He already told us the judge is coming. Judgment’s there. Well, judgment’s going to come for grumbling and complaining, abusing your position, and it’s going to come for using words to control rather than to bless.

We heard that the tongue is like a connector to either heaven or Gehenna. We saw that in a previous chapter. So, use your words the right way, and use your words in truth.

Prayer heals the sick

The last passage is verse 13.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.

And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

And it just seems to stop in the middle there. It just kind of drops off. You’d think it’d say some closing, but it just kind of stops for whatever reason.

But maybe that last thing is a summary that we should have the best interests of other people at heart.

So we’re not supposed to be the judge. We’re not supposed to condemn. Does that mean we’re not supposed to tell people the truth? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. It means that our objective should not be to get them under control; it should be to lead them to a constructive path.

And of course we know from Jesus that that first step in helping someone else along the way is to recognize our own fallacies along that same way. We’re fellow travelers and fellow sufferers, not the judge.

Elijah’s example

Then we wrap up with a way to be constructive. So you’ve got evil and injustice in the world. God’s going to take care of that. Should we do anything about that? Well, actually, one thing for sure we should do is what Elijah did: Pray. Because it is not necessarily just that God is just going to wait until he comes back to deal with that. Elijah was dealing with injustice in his world.

Ahab the king was abusing his authority. He was abusing his money, his riches. Terribly.

Elijah prayed to God and said, would you do something about this injustice? Please bring a famine on the land so that people will realize that Ahab is evil, and Jezebel is evil; and this taking the people into idolatry and Baal worship is horrible. 

And God said, okay. I’ll do that. 

Because we don’t have to wait. We can do what we can do in this world to preserve it, to save it. Preserve, save, sozo, same word. We can pray for the world to the extent that we have the ability to be a rich person that does something constructive, we can do that.