Big Idea: Wholehearted living to the glory of God.
When he left school one of my friends worked for a time at a metal fabrication business, Major Metals. Initially he spent his time riding his push bike between the metal fabrication workshop and the Ag equipment shop about 2 kms away.
Every day they would ask him to go and pick up some weird and wonderful object. Sky hook. Mild steel or high tensile? 2¼ inch or 2½ inch. Red or blue.
One day he did get a rest though. As usual he was sent on his errand. Got to Agies, handed the work order over and was asked to stand at the end of the counter until it was filled.
Took him 45 minutes before he realised the gag, work order was for a long weight – wait not weight. He had got his long wait.
As James closes his letter he focuses on spending our last days waiting well in wholehearted living to the glory of God.
How do we wait well to the glory of God?
In this section of our passage James gets all (thunder sounds!!!!) Old Testament.
To his point OT wisdom writings. Today, he is clearly Prophetic.
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.
Very similar to Isaiah pronouncing woes on Israel’s idolatrous neighbours.
Now I’m pretty sure that Isaiah didn’t think that the kings of Assyria or Babylon or Egypt would read his prophecies. These words of judgement were given as a warning to God’s people Israel – don’t follow the nations, that road will lead to judgement and destruction. They look powerful and attractive. They look like they can help you, save you. They can’t. In the end they can’t even save themselves.
And that is very much the message of James in v1. The rich being spoken of are not followers of Jesus.
Rather if they knew what lay before them they should be in distress (weep and howl) because miseries, judgement is coming upon them.
So, James is not speaking directly about his church. But the message is for the church, for us. Don’t live like the nations live. Don’t bow down to their gods. Don’t join in their religion.
Don’t HOARD your wealth. Read v2.
This is how the ungodly live. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded,
They have so much they can’t keep track of it all. So much so that it rots and corrodes through lack of use.
As a young fella my money was mostly coins. Made round to go round. Rolling stones gather no moss.
Wealth used wisely will not rot, will not corrode. BUT here the corrosion will be evidence against you [says James] and will eat your flesh like fire [judgement]. You have laid up treasure in the last days.
Rather than using wealth as God intends – to share, to help, to assist … they hoard it.
And on the day of judgement their hoarded wealth will not save them, it will not buy them salvation, it will speak against them, it will earn them judgement. Who wants that?
James is exhorting us not to live like this; not to long to be able to live like this. Use what you have in a godly way, not a worldly way.
Wealth is not for hoarding and it’s not for EXTRAVAGANCE. This is how the ungodly live. Read v5.
You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
To live like the rich and famous, in luxury and self-indulgence sounds so attractive and seems so enviable.
Until you consider the last day, the day when we will all be called to account – you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
There is no way of reading that as a congratulations, well done good and faithful servant.
You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. It’s chilling. You are the fattest, juiciest looking turkey on the eve of Thanksgiving… well done! Come and get your prize.
Your present might be pleasant. Your future is frightening.
The world hoards, the world is extravagant, the world is greedy. Read v4
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.
You will do whatever it takes to get more. Even ripping others off.
But you have not got away with it. The Lord knows, he hears the cry of the downtrodden, he sees your fattened hearts, he will right all wrongs for all eternity.
James is not against the wise and careful use of money. Saving for retirement, providing for the family, paying the mortgage and the bills. But are your retirement plans honouring to God or set on extravagance? He could be speaking against your extravagance of family holidays, or even the family home.
He is warning us to be clear on the deceitfulness of wealth this is not how God’s people live in the last days.
Do not live like them.
If James’ word to the wealthy was prophetic. Then his word to the wise, to believers is Patience. (x7) To live patiently as we await the harvest, the return of our King.
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. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
The farmer sows his crop, waters his crop, fertilizes and cultivates his crop; he maintains his machinery, and makes sure that he is ready for harvest time. He watches the weather reports, consults the agronomist, haggles with the bank manager. He might even dabble in selling crop options if the price is right.
The one thing he cannot do is to force harvest day to come any earlier than it is coming. That’s above his pay grade.
It requires patience. There is a way of waiting well. At the end of v7 it sounds like James makes a meteorological statement, talking about the early rains and the late rains, but it is actually theological.
Deuteronomy 11:13-14 People standing poised ready to enter the promise land. This is how you live in God’s place.
And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, [what James has been talking about – not being double minded, being wholehearted] he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, [there it is] that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. [your harvest]
If you patiently live wholeheartedly for God, he will provide for you so that your harvest may be great. The time is coming. Jesus will return for us, his people. Be patient. In the in between time; between salvation and the full experience of the promise persevere in waiting well.
Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord.
How? James says don’t grumble. Read v9
Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
Why would he say that? Grumble is another theological term.
The book of Numbers. Grumbling against God’s provision, God’s discipline, God’s leaders. Expressing a dissatisfaction in God’s way of leading His people and providing for His people.
The term grumbling sounds so innocuous. A little bit annoying but pretty harmless. Yet in Numbers, in the wilderness it led to severe judgement – they will never enter my rest. Grumbling is not patiently waiting on God. It is grumbling against God’s provision and it is grumbling against God’s discipline – in a tick we’ll consider Job and his example of patience.
But first, what concerns me at the moment with MPC as I read this passage is that there is some grumbling. There is grumbling about our Session. Some are grumbling about the men who are called and ordained to lead and pastor us here MPC.
I’m not talking about writing letters to Session. That is a good thing to do. Clear communication. Raising concerns, that’s helpful.
The grumbling I’m talking about is spreading a spirit of mistrust and suspicion. Suggestions of sinister motives, underhanded actions, being unnecessarily secretive. And expressing that in unhelpful, ungodly ways and contexts. I’m not saying our Session can’t make mistakes. But if it does grumbling is not the way to deal with it. Approach your brothers, and in a godly humble way raise your questions. And address any such talk for what it is .. sin.
That is not submitting to the leaders God has placed over us for this time in this church.
This is in essence the thing that called judgement down on the Israelites in the wilderness. It is in the spirit of what James is warning against in v9. It may be that you need to repent.
It is not harmless. And it does not go unheard by the judge standing at the door v9b.
The deputy principal at my high school use to sneak around the corridors, stand just out of sight by the classroom door and then she would silently glide into the room, unannounced, especially if there was bad behaviour going on.
The judge at the door, well aware of what is going on. Therefore, wait well.
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 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.
Follow the example of the prophets and of Job, persevere in patience, even as you suffer trials due to your faithfulness and obedience. Everything worked out well for Job but it took 38 chapters and a lot of bad advice and accusations. Showing that God’s plans and purposes will prevail even though trials may assail us for a time.
The prophets generally had a hard time. Ridiculed, ignored, suffered, even killed. But they are remembered as God’s faithful servants, steadfast in their commitment to him, blessed and now enjoying the fruits, the harvest of being steadfast servants of God, persevering.
Again, in v12 James is clear that if matters how we speak. Read v12
But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
Does this mean that if we are called to court as a witness, we cannot swear an oath to “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?”
No. But he is saying that as one of God’s people in everyday living we should not need to make such oaths. That our yes be yes and our no be no.
That our speech be truthful – that we would own up to our failings and forgetfulness; that we would not speak half-truths or a carefully curated “truth” which misrepresents ourselves, others or the situation.
This would be to misrepresent God if we are known as his people yet are loose with the truth.
Patient perseverance means living with a commitment to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, please help us God.
There are some hard things in this section of the passage. But the underlying word is prayer. Patience used 7 in last section; prayer used 7 time here.
To help us understand the hard things better we need to note the context.
I reckon it’s Wisdom against Wandering Read v19-20
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
Here is the good news of bringing back a wandering sinner.
Our Gracious God has lovingly included us in His work of salvation.
Also, the example of Elijah as a man of prayer in v17. When Elijah prayed fervently that it might not rain it was in the context of Israel wandering from God, following idols, not being wholehearted about honouring and trusting in God. And when Israel turned, Elijah prayed again and it rained. The wanderers brought back and God’s blessing restored.
In the context of Wisdom against Wandering James calls on us to prayer.
Let every situation lead you to prayer.
Look at v13 If you are suffering … pray If you’re happy … pray (singing praises).
There is no situation where prayer isn’t relevant and right.
And that includes sickness. James now expands on this topic of sickness to also embrace sin.
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. v15 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.
I suggest James is teaching us about restoration (being called back and restrained in our wandering) through confession and prayer.
There are times where illness/weakness may cause us to examine our lives and be convicted of the need for confession and restoration. I think that is the elders visit which leads to prayer and the symbolism of anointing with oil; outward symbol of being restored to God.
There are more regular times where (v16) we confess our sins to one another and pray for each other.
Challenging us on the issue of CONFESSION. Not just private.
And in his teaching here James makes some connections between the physical condition and the spiritual condition.
v15 Prayer of faith will SAVE the sick… v16 Confession and prayer will lead to HEALING.
The connection is more of a dotted line than a solid line. If he has sinned … may be healed.
Don’t be flippant about the spiritual nature of life or about sin. Don’t be passive or disobedient about confession and praying together.
If you are beset by sin, trapped in a downward spiral talk to one of the elders. We will come and talk with you about your sin, pray with you about your sin and seek God’s work in you. And if appropriate anoint you with oil as an outward symbol of your renewal.
One way Growth Groups can really help each other is to have times of confession and prayer for one another. I would suggest splitting into pairs or triplets, same sex, trusted members confess and pray. May not be appropriate for all groups. I’ve been a part of that practice in the past and found it very helpful.
Come Thou Fount
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above
In the first sermon of this series, I told the story of James’ death, martyrdom. Died because he would not deny the Lordship of Jesus. When his church came to bury him, they noticed that he had knees like a camel. I assume that means calloused and hard. They got a glimpse into the time he spent in prayer. I think that as we read through James we get a glimpse of his wise and loving patience as well.
James waited well. Will you?
Waiting Well is actually affirming that we are living under the Lordship of Jesus. We may not be faced with being thrown from a tall building and then stoned to death.
But we are called to … Prophetic lives; not bowing to the idols of our world. Patience which is wise and loving. Prayer which is regular and renewing.
That is how we wait well.
Fix your heart on the coming day. Choose to love your church family. Be a person of prayer; established in the habit of prayer.