For an introduction to this series, click here.
January 3, 2008
My blog is finally back! I have moved, and I had to wait for what seemed like forever to get Internet access. Then my grandpa died, and that disrupted things. I did really miss this time each morning, and hopefully I can get back in the routine starting today.
"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 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. 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." (5:1-4)
James here addresses people who are rich by fraud. Of course not everyone who is rich got that way by fraud, but it is common in the human condition. God will certainly make things right in this world one day, even in earthly situations that we sometimes think God doesn't care about. James here says that God does care about justice and equity. This should be a warning to us as believers to show the love of Christ in all situations, not just in church or in a mission or something like that. The way we love God should reflect in every aspect of our lives, including business.
"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. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 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." (5:7-11)
This is where our focus and our preparation should be. It is not wrong for us to plan for the future, it is just wrong for us to plan the wrong way. Building material wealth is not a good goal for a believer. James says that instead of building material wealth we need to be laying up spiritual wealth with the Lord.
"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 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 one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 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. 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. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit." (5:13-18, ESV)
There are two schools of thought on this passage: one says that this passage refers to physical sickness, and the other says this passage refers to spiritual sickness. I kind of fall in the latter camp. I have seen people physically anoint sick people with oil in response to this verse, and I am not saying that they are doing something bad. I just think that you have to read the context. It says, "The prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up." It is a certainty. It is not always God's plan to heal physical sickness, but it is always His will to heal spiritual sickness. Also the next verse mentions confession of sins and prayer for one another that we may be healed. The emphasis in that verse is clearly on spiritual healing, and I think that applies to the previous verse as well.
Maybe that is a misinterpretation of the verse on my part, but I don't think it is fair to a lot of sincere people to tell them that God will heal them. But what about anointing with oil? That would seem really weird for a spiritual problem. That probably refers to spiritual ministration by others, but if somebody was struggling spiritually and wanted to be physically anointed with oil, I can't imagine any pastor or elder having a problem with that.
As far as confessing sins, I think instead of dredging stuff up all the time and wallowing in misery, I believe it has a lot more to do with being honest about who we are and the struggles we face. Some of the most encouraging times in my spiritual life have been the times when someone told me they were experiencing the same things I was. Too many of us come to church and we think we are supposed to act perfect, like we have everything figured out. That's not what James is telling us to do here.