James 5

The Rebuild: Together

The Rebuild: Together sermon notes

Rebuild Together

Passage: James 5:13-18

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Pastor Ben Marshall

 

Key Goals: (Know) Life is better when we do life together. (Feel) Feel the need to do life together with other believers. (Do) Find a small group of people to do life with.

 

Introduction: I attended Taylor University for my undergraduate degree, and while I was there we had a “buzz phrase” that floated around campus, from students and teachers to promotional materials and website slogans: intentional community. If you have ever lived on a college campus, you can understand the gist of it. It is honestly difficult to not live in community. I lived on a wing of a dorm with about 33 other guys. You couldn’t really avoid people. You had to live in community. The intentional part of the community was not just living together but doing life together. We didn’t just want to live on the same wing or attend the same college; we truly wanted to do life together. These guys, from Third West Wengatz, are guys I could call up right now and start a conversation like no time has passed. These are the kind of “doing life together” friends who would be by my side at a moment’s notice. That’s the power of together.

 

Today, as we wrap up The Rebuild series in the book of James, this is the tool James is going to leave us with. James compels us to rebuild together. Later this morning we are going to fire up this engine and (hopefully) see the beauty of an engine rebuilt, with all the parts working together to produce a running engine.

 

First, though, let’s read James 5:13-18 and dive into what the Bible says about rebuilding together.

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 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. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

 

Suffering should lead us to pray (v. 13). This is perhaps one of the more obvious parts of this passage. It just makes sense that when you are suffering, in a storm, experiencing hard times, that you would pray. Even the mainstream media could agree with this, with hashtags on social media that gain popularity wherever a terror attack has happened: #prayfor and then the location. Suffering naturally leads us to prayer. That makes sense.

 

When things are going well, remember where every good and perfect gift comes from: God (James 1:17). James says at the end of verse 13, if you’re cheerful or in good spirits, sing praises! This Greek word means “to strike a chord, to play and sing along with a musical instrument, to sing a hymn to celebrate the praises of God.”[1] It is sometimes when life is going well that we take things for granted. Realize that if you’re not in a storm right now, you should praise and sing praises to God for leading you to where you are!

 

Additionally, James talks about the sick in vv. 14-15. He tells the sick to 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 one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. There is a lot here. First, we do practice anointing with oil at Calvary. There are a number of you here this morning that have followed this passage and gone to the elders of the church, the leadership council, and we have anointed you with oil and prayed over you for healing. The anointing oil is associated with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Oil was used to anoint kings in the Old Testament; Samuel anointed David with oil. When we anoint with oil we are asking for a special presence of the Spirit on someone. We are asking the Holy Spirit to heal and to work in a very special way in this person’s life. The act of elders praying over someone and anointing him or her with oil is spiritually powerful in a way that physically can’t be described.

 

The phrase the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick is not referring to the salvation of an individual, but instead is referring to healing and wholeness of a sick person. The Greek word for “sick” in verse 14 is asthenei[2] and in verse 15 is kamnonta[3], which literally mean “to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless” (Hebrews 12:3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted). Scripture doesn’t separate the physical from the spiritual. The one who is sick could be physically sick and weary or fainthearted spiritually and emotionally. We separate things in our culture that the Bible doesn’t separate. This save the one who is sick is a blend of the spiritual and the physical. There is a connection. For the person here this morning discouraged in his or her faith, who has recently experienced more failure than faithfulness, who may be weary of the battle of life, or the one experiencing physical or relational struggles, be encouraged. Don’t go it alone. Ask for prayer. It brings healing when done in community. James reveals the context of prayer and healing in verse 16 in such a way that it could be the definition for “intentional community.” But before we dive a little deeper into this verse, do you want to see if this engine will start? I do too. Let’s give it a shot.

 

Okay, so why the engine? What’s the significance of starting this, other than being able to say we started a car engine on stage during the service? We began this series with a broken engine. There were parts on the ground. There were pieces missing. There were broken parts. It was an engine that did not work. Over the past ten weeks, we have been slowly rebuilding this engine. It took time, just like it takes time to rebuild our lives with the Gospel. Today is the culmination of that hard work. When we heard that engine turn over, it was the result of many parts working together to produce a finished, working engine.

 

Just like that engine, the body of Christ, the church, works best when we do life together. When we see a Christian faithfully serving, faithfully following Christ, and faithfully leading in his or her home/work/school, we are seeing the result of many parts working together to produce that fruit. It is not the Christian left by him or herself that thrives, but the Christian in godly, intentional community.

 

Today is not about the engine; it is about doing life together. The engine starting is the sum of all the little parts working together for an intended purpose. We can’t rebuild alone. We must rebuild together. This verse in James, again, gives us the formula for rebuilding together: 16Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. It is in confession and prayer that Christian community is clearly experienced. Being fully known is uncomfortable. But we need people in our lives that fully know us. The healing here is literally “to make whole.”[4] Sin thrives in the dark, hidden away in our mind and heart. And let’s be honest, we can’t live in freedom and victory alone. We’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. Confession brings healing because sin is being dealt with in community.

 

Confession alone doesn’t bring healing. Prayer must be present, and the prayer of a righteous person is effective. The righteous person is not perfect, but has developed a habitual lifestyle of character and integrity, faithfully following the Word of God. This person is one who loves the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27).

 

James gives an example of the prayer of a righteous person from the life and ministry of Elijah, an Old Testament prophet.17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. James describes Elijah as a person just like us. One translation says that Elijah was a human being like us.[5] He was familiar with the struggles of life; the hardship and toil of trying to be faithful through adversity. Elijah is our example from James of a righteous person’s prayer having great power as it is working. Elijah prayed in faith, as a faithful follower of God, and God responded. 1 Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

 

Where James writes Elijah prayed fervently, the literal translation is “in prayer he prayed.”[6] He prayed with the fervent, persistent, confident prayer of a righteous person. For three and a half years there was no rain. Elijah faithfully followed wherever God directed him to go during this time, and eventually he prayed again that rain would come. Elijah had to patiently wait for the answer to this prayer, but God responded and sent rain upon the earth once more and the earth produced a harvest.

 

If we want to rebuild together, we must do three things according to the passage:

First, we must pray with and pray for one another (vv. 13-15). Through private and community prayer, we need to pray for each other. We need to pray for protection, pray for opportunities to share our faith, pray for healing, pray for God to grow and mature each another. We need to pray against the work of our Enemy in the lives of others and pray for physical, spiritual, emotional, relational healing. We must pray with and for one another. And we must do it often.

 

Second, we must confess to one another (v. 16). This closely follows praying with and for one another. How will we know what to pray if we don’t know the struggles and temptations of our close friends? Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says Two are better than one, for they have a good reward for their toil. 10For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! . . .12And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. We are stronger together than apart. Do the nitty gritty of life together. Confession is a big part of that. We will struggle and we may fall, but let us not fall alone. Fall in community with believers around you to pick you up, dust you off, and help you continue to walk down the narrow road.

 

Third, we must be faithful (and it is easier to be faithful as we follow Christ together) (vv. 17-18). Elijah, a human being just like you and me, was faithful to God even when he didn’t understand, even when the situation was abnormal. He wasn’t super human; he wasn’t a “super Christian” (same as Job from last week). Elijah was faithful. Day in and day out, in the little things and the big things, Elijah gave himself wholly to God. He determined to faithfully follow God.

 

Determine today, with a few other people, to be faithful together. Husbands and wives, determine together (and include your children if you have them) that you will pray with and for one another, confess sins, failures, and shortcomings to one another, and faithfully follow Christ together as a family. Singles, determine together with a group of friends that you will pray with and for one another, confess sins, failures, and shortcomings to one another, and faithfully follow Christ together as a close group of friends. Young adults, students, kids, find close friends and perhaps older adults and determine together that you will pray with and for them, confess sins, failures, and shortcomings to one another, and faithfully follow Christ together.

 

We are going to end things slightly differently this morning. A little over a month ago we took our high school students on a winter retreat. Saturday night at this retreat, our guys’ group did something really special. It’s one of those things I’ll look back on many years from now and still remember in detail. It was an impactful night. We gathered together in a big circle around a fireplace and lived out James 5:16. We had a very intentional time of confession and prayer that led to healing. During this time we had students confessing things they were struggling with, things they had tried to handle alone but it wasn’t working out. They needed accountability and community. They needed some guys to do life together with them. Every time one of these guys confessed, our whole group would stand up, go put a hand on him, and one or two of us would pray for freedom and healing. Afterward, we challenged everyone to continue this with an accountability partner. Today some young men are living in healing and freedom from sin because of living out James 5:16.

 

Today we’re going to end the service living out James 5:16. What does that look like? There are people here this morning with physical and spiritual ailments, struggling through sickness, cancer, chronic pain, family issues, sin issues, recent betrayals, hardships, and so on. If you are willing this morning to stand up, we want to pray for you. If you are struggling and need prayer, we are asking you to go ahead and stand up where you are. If you are seated, we want you to find someone who is standing and pray with and for them. One or two of you, or everyone around a person, can pray. If you’re standing, you don’t need to tell your whole story to everyone around you. If you’re praying for someone, you don’t need to know the whole story to pray. Pray for the need of the person as you have knowledge of it. Pray for spiritual growth and health. Pray for God to receive glory through this person’s story and struggle. Pray for strong faith.

 

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/G5567/psallo.htm.

[2] http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/G770/astheneo.htm.

[3] http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/G2577/kamno.htm.

[4] http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/G2390/iaomai.htm.

[5] The NET Bible.

[6] J. Ronald Blue, James in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, gen. eds. John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1983), 835.

The Rebuild: Patience

The Rebuild: Patience sermon notes

Patience

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the important of patience. (Feel) Feel compelled to fix our eyes on Jesus. (Do) Be patient.

Introduction: Over the last two weeks in our series on James, we have explored two formidable enemies of rebuilding our lives: arrogance and self-indulgence. This series has been built on the idea that anyone, regardless of where they are starting, can rebuild their life with the gospel. Jesus transforms our brokenness into purpose, and this book has been written to help us do that. This morning is critical! In our passage, James will call us to an incredibly important rebuilding tool. It is one we often joke about praying for, but its power to transform your life, your marriage, and your parenting is second to none. Please turn to James 5 James 5:7–12[1]. We will read the passage and then dive into the meat of it.

7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

 

One of the most important life lessons everyone has to learn is how to respond correctly when you have been wronged. It happens to everyone—at some point in our lives we will all be wounded! Often we are surprised by it; we are living life happily, delighting in how blessed we are, and then wham! A difficult trial hits us broadside: a family member betrays us, someone at work spreads malicious gossip about us, someone we look up to at church severely disappoints us, we discover a close friend’s secret sin. We are shocked, angered, and disoriented. We begin to wonder, “Is there anyone I can trust?” How do you respond? With frustration or anger? Do you grumble and complain? Get even? How do we rebuild from here? Our passage this morning is the passage you turn to when you are working through hardship and betrayal. There are two key words in this passage: patience and steadfastness. The word patience shows up four times (v.7-2x, 8,10) and steadfastness twice (v. 11-2x).

 

The first thing we need to understand about patience is that patience is something you are not something you do. Look at verse 7. Be patient, therefore, brothers. Then look at verse 8, You also, be patient… James does not tell us to do patience, he tells us to be patient. Be the type of person who is patient. Patience is the ability to endure a great deal of mistreatment from people or circumstances without losing your temper, becoming irritated or angry, and without taking vengeance. The Greek is a combination of two words: long and spirit/soul, so a patient person is a “long-souled” person. Some languages describe patience as “a heart that remains seated during provocation.”

 

Patience is often associated with wisdom (Proverbs 19:11 Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense) and it includes the ability to bear pain or trials without complaint, and to suffer long under provocation. It is a fruit of the Spirit much like self-control, the combination of which keeps us from acting impulsively or sinfully in the heat of adversity.[2] It is important as we define patience to understand that patience is not passivity (unresponsiveness) or indulgence (tolerance). Patience is the loving and merciful response to being wronged, sinned against, neglected, or abused. God is our ultimate example of patience. In Matthew 18:23-34, Jesus used a story to give us a glimpse of what God’s patience looks like.

 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

 

This parable deserves its own sermon, but the key aspect that I want us to catch is how and from where we derive our patience. Our ability to be patient flows from how God has treated us. He has been so merciful to us. How many times have we sinned against him? 1 John 1:9 promises us that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. How many times? 7? It is unlimited. God has forgiven all of our sins through Christ Jesus! Psalm103:12 declares that our sins have been removed from us as far as the East is from the West! God’s “long-spiritedness” or patience with us is what drives our ability to be patient.

 

Lets’ go back to James 5, because James doesn’t just tell us to “be patient,” he gives us three beautiful visions of what patience looks like in real life.

 

1. Patience looks like a farmer waiting (James 5:7-8)

The farmer pictured here is the sustenance farmer of first century Palestine. He plants his carefully saved seed and hopes for a harvest, living on short rations and suffering hunger during the last weeks. His whole livelihood, indeed his life and the life of his family, depend on a good harvest; the loss of the farm, semi-starvation, or death could result from a bad year. So the farmer patiently waits for an expected future event; no one but him knows how important this harvest really is, but he must be patient no matter how hungry he becomes.[3] He knows that if he is patient until after the “later rains,” there is a reward, so he works and waits because of the coming reward. Just like that farmer, James tells us that we believers can be patient because we have a coming reward— the coming of the Lord. The Bible tells us repeatedly to anticipate Jesus’ return.

  • Revelation 3:11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown
  • Philippians 4:5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.

 

The Scriptures teach that Jesus could return today. We are encouraged to live like we believe that! Think about this: if you knew that Jesus was going to return at 12:59pm today, would you have been a little more patient with your children this morning? Here is the reality: the hardships, betrayals, and frustrations we are working through with people who drive us crazy will soon be over. So be patient. Be compassionate and merciful like the Lord has been with you. He is returning soon.

 

A Quick Warning: Now before he gives us the last two visions of patience, James drops in a warning about grumbling against one another in verse 9. The thing we need to know about grumbling is that it is the antithesis of patience. Grumbling is neither merciful nor compassionate. God is once again our example in this; God does not grumble about our faults and failures, instead he continues to love despite them. But just like Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18, if we refuse to change, God will judge. Look at verse 9. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. So the return of Christ is both an encouragement to be patient and a warning not to grumble.

 

2. Patience looks like the prophets remaining steadfast (James 5:9-11)

God’s prophets endured incredible wrongs at the hands evil doers as well as from God’s people. Hebrews 11:35–37 lists some of the things done to them. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated…These prophets all suffered because of their faith, yet in their suffering they patiently endured and stood fast in their faith. The word translated steadfast carries the idea of “clinging or cleaving to God.” Courageous endurance is another possible translation.  

 

A hard reality of life is that doing God’s will often leads to suffering. The prophets bore up under suffering and maintained their spiritual integrity, waiting patiently for the Lord himself to intervene to transform their situations. Regardless of what the world throws against us, the patient person clings courageously to God. Hard stuff does not blow us off course because we are moored to Jesus. We can endure because we have an anchor, a sure foundation, a rock that will not move. Have you tied yourself to Christ like that? We know tough times are coming. Are you connected to Christ in such a way that when the winds blow you will remain steadfast? Verse 10 ends with Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. This verse is a pretty clear promise: we will be blessed if we remain steadfast in our faith and patient with others.[4]

 

3. Patience looks like Job eventually seeing God’s purpose (James 5:11)

The last, and I think best, reason for us to “be patient” is the lesson we learn from Job’s life: our present suffering is never the “end” of our story, because when Christ is revealed in glory we will be like him.[5] Our story will end like Job’s, not with suffering but with joy! I was reading this passage to Esther Harrington just this week. Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Job suffered miserably. Satan desired to destroy his faith but he couldn’t do it—not because Job was a “super Christian,” but because Job was tied unshakably (steadfastly) to his Lord. He patiently endured everything Satan could throw at him, and in the end the Lord proved himself merciful and compassionate.

 

Rebuilding with Patience: We have work to do. If you have a short fuse, you are not patient. If you snap at your kids over minor, childish things, you need to grow patient. Those of us easily frustrated with the driver in front of us are not patient. When we are quick to find fault with co-workers’ failures, we are not patient. That exasperated ‘sigh’ when you’re asked to do something? That is impatience.

 

What needs to change? James tells us right in the middle of this passage. Look back at verse 8. I purposely skipped over it. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James tells us to establish our hearts. It is a command, an imperative. Now the Greek word for “establish” can also mean “strengthen,” but these two words don’t help me much. I struggle to know what it means to “strengthen or establish my heart.” So let me share with you one other way this Greek word is translated, because the word is also found in Amos 9:4. …there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them; and I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good. That phrase “I will fix my eyes upon them” is the same word as “establish.” The idea is this: patience flows from fixing our eyes upon Jesus and not on the circumstances we are facing. Fix your eyes; set and establish your heart in Jesus! Look for his return, trust in his promises, refuse to let temporary circumstances drive your attitudes and feelings. It’s just wind, and you are tied to the rock!

 

  

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

 

Community Group Questions

1.          Read James 5:7-11 out loud with your group. Discuss key words or phrases that jump out of the text.

2.          What is your typical response when you are wronged? How have you grown over the years?

3.          Discuss the farmer analogy. How does farming help us understand patience?

4.          Why do you think James so closely ties patience and steadfastness? Can you have one without the other?

5.          Read Rev. 21:4; discuss how verses like this can get people through difficult times.

 

[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV.

[2] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Patience,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1619.

[3] Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 183.

[4] Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 186.

[5] Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2000), 230.

The Rebuild: Corrosion

The Rebuild: Corrosion sermon notes

 

Corrosion

Passage: James 5:1-5

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, March 19, 2017

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand there are enemies to our rebuild. (Feel) Feel compelled to fight against self-indulgence. (Do) Place God and his mission first in our life.

Introduction: Last week in our series on James, we looked at a formidable enemy of rebuilding our lives: arrogance. We found that arrogance shows up when we judge others and when we presume upon the future. As we move into chapter 5 this morning, James has one more enemy to introduce to us: the enemy of self-indulgence. James was such an interesting guy. Even though Jesus was his older half-brother, there is zero indication that James believed in or even followed Jesus while he was alive. Yet after the resurrection he became one of the leading apostles of the church. I sort of get that, though; I know I would need some serious convincing if my brother declared that he was the creator of the world.

Unlike the twelve apostles, James never left Jerusalem. He was appointed as overseer of Jerusalem and was also the most “Jewish” of the apostles. History tells us that he was known for how righteously he kept the Law, so much so that the other apostles feared him. Peter refused to eat with Gentiles because he was afraid James might hear about it (Gal. 2:11-12), and James asked Paul to buy the sacrifices for some men about to take a Nazirite vow and Paul obeyed (Acts 21:18-26.)[1] What an incredible guy he had to be that apostle Peter was afraid of him and the apostle Paul obeyed him. While historians disagree on exactly how it happened, we know that the pharisees martyred James in Jerusalem. They were upset at how many people were coming to Christ. What is interesting for us this morning is that it was happening amongst the religious elite and the wealthy. Jewish temple priests and rich landowners—powerful and influential people—were repenting of their sins and turning to Christ.

Listen to Acts 6:7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. In our passage this morning you are going to see why James was killed, but I also think you will see why so many repented and turned to Christ. Listen to how strong this language is. James 5:1–6[2]

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

If I were a wealthy first century Jewish landowner reading this passage, I imagine I would either be genuinely convicted and love James for his boldness to confront, or I would think he was a jerk, shooting his mouth off about matters he does not understand. It would be hard to read this and stay neutral. How I would like to handle the passage this morning is for us to take a few minutes and break down exactly what James was saying to his immediate audience, and what they would have heard and thought. Then let’s fast forward 2000 years and see if God has a message for you and me this morning.

 

Confronting Corrosion: James begins by calling out rich people. Look at verse 1. Come now, you rich. James is addressing a very specific class of people. He does not distinguish whether or not they are believers, just their socio-economic status. They are rich.

First Century Context: First century Israel was a peasant society in the sense that “its sole of source income was subsistence farming.” In his book ‘Peasants’, Eric R. Wolf describes peasants as rural cultivators whose surpluses were extracted by the ruling elite in order to underwrite its own standard of living.[3] Perhaps you remember the phrase “Pax Romana” or Roman peace—the idea that Romans conquered the known world and made it peaceful for centuries? The Pax Romana was real, but hidden behind that “peace” were oppressive tributes, taxes, and tolls that completely impoverished the average person. So the wealthy grew wealthier and the poor grew poorer. This problem was compounded by the fact that the wealthy elite were also the “purity elite;” the wealthy also controlled the temple, the tithes, and sacrificial offerings. The rich exploited the poor through religious purity—this is the very reason why Jesus in Matthew 21 turned over the moneychangers’ tables in the temple: they had turned God’s house into an oppressive exploitation machine.

So both individual Roman rulers and the Jewish religious elite subjugated the average person. Why is this important to know? Because of what James says next. Go back to the end of verse 1 …weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. The two Greek words for weep and howl have the idea of crying out in misery or torment. The word “howl” actually sounds like someone crying in pain (ololull). James is warning the rich to repent and prepare for a coming judgment. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. This is language not seen anywhere else in the New Testament; James almost sounds like an Old Testament prophet. The view James is trying to give us is from eternity. So much wealth has been accumulated that it can’t begin to be used, so it rots and rusts. It is the rot and rust that indicts the rich man. But as we will see in a moment, gold and silver are not the rich man’s problem; it is their heart.

 

The hidden enemy of greed.

4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

The way labor worked during this time period was if you worked for a day, you were paid that evening. You then took that money and bought food for your family. You have probably heard 2 Thessalonians 3:10 If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. That thought comes from this economic model. What the rich would do was withhold wages. So instead of paying every night, they would pay them at the end of the harvest. The laborer would have to borrow money to buy food and then pay off his loan once he got paid; of course they never made enough money to cover the interest, so the laborers effectively became indentured slaves, while the landowners made vast fortunes from abusing them. It was pure greed. James warns that the cries of the abused have reached the ears of the Lord.

So the enemy James is addressing is greed, the craving for wealth that leads a person to do sinful actions in order to grow rich. Paul warned against the same thing in 1 Timothy 6:9–10. Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. Both Paul and James warn us that the love of money (greed) will draw us away from God and cause us to treat people in ways that God will judge.

 

The hidden enemy of self-indulgence.

5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

The rich that James was rebuking lived luxurious lives. But again, it wasn’t the luxury that was the problem, it was the self-indulgence. The self-indulgent person throws off restraint and discipline and yields to the desire to gratify their own selfish appetites and cravings. Just because we can have something does not mean we should indulge in it. Throughout scripture we are warned against feeding our passions and lusts, and urged instead to develop self-control, generosity and an others-centeredness.[4] Interestingly, the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, tried to find happiness through self-indulgence. Listen to what he found. Ecclesiastes 2:1–11.

I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” 3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine...

4 I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. 5 I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. 8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. 9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure…

11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

 Solomon found that self-indulgence does not bring happiness; it is vanity. James warns that those who spend their lives seeking to indulge their desires fatten their hearts for the slaughter. This is again a reference to judgment. James wants the self-indulgent to understand that a day will soon come when they will answer for how they lived. Let’s fast forward to today. What should we walk away thinking?

 

You don’t have to be rich to be greedy or self-indulgent. Lying on your taxes, stealing from your employer, padding your timecard, sneaking money from your mother’s purse, over eating, bingeing on Netflix, refusing to give—these are all symptoms of greed and self-indulgence.  James really focuses in on one aspect of greed and warns us that God “hears the cries” of those who are being hurt by our greed. Before we think we don’t have any greed to repent of, let’s think a moment about how greedy people hurt those around them:

1. Greedy people must be first in line, so beware if you are in front of them.

2. Greedy people are always looking for loopholes or ways to game the system—watch out.

3. Greedy people abuse service workers who depend on tips.

4. Greedy people live for now and expect others to pay later.

5. Greedy people do as little work as possible and expect others to fill the gaps.

6. Greedy people blame innocent people as they bluff and lie their way out of trouble.

7. Greedy people covet; they covet your stuff, your spouse, your prestige, and they will take it given half a chance.

God will judge greed because of how it abuses other people. Believers are to be recognized by our love, not our greed. In fact, humility mixed with love is the antidote to greed and self-indulgence. Listen to Philippians 2:3–4 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. He goes on to say in Philippians 2:5–8 (NIV) In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

 

Community Group Questions

 

1.          Read James 5:1-6 out loud with your group. Discuss key words or phrases that jump out of the text.

2.          When you hear the word “self-indulgent,” what comes to your mind?

3.          Look at the “seven ways greed hurts others” found at the end of the sermon. Discuss a time you have seen one of these in action.

4.          James tells us that God “hears the cries” of the abused laborers. Can you think of another passage where God says he heard the cries of abused laborers and acted on their behalf? How is this similar or different?

5.          Discuss how humility and love might “cure” greed and self-indulgence.

 

[1] Adapted from “The Death of James the Just, Brother of Jesus Christ” http://www.christian-history.org/death-of-james.html

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

 

[3] https://heldercarlosdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/the-socio-political-and-economic-situation-in-the-first-century-c-e-palestine-the-earthly-ministry-of-jesus-and-the-programme-of-renewal-for-the-people-of-israel/

[4] Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).