James 5:7-11


Before you begin studying this text be sure to read verses 1-6. The wealthy among men have a tendency to be very selfish and oppress the poor. They live in luxury but are only fattening themselves for the day of slaughter (judgment day). They are deluded because they don't realize what miseries await them. They cheat people who work for them. They sometimes even condemn and murder righteous people and justice is very often not done. Even in our USA, where we promise justice to and for all, there is much injustice. It will always be that way in this life.

Under such circumstances Christians may begin losing their patience and faith. They may begin doubting God's promises. They may even begin blaming each other for their troubles, verse 9. And that's why verses 7-11 have been chosen as an Advent text. (Note that we have added verse 11 which should not be eliminated.)

Tasker: James proceeds to exhort his Christian readers not to lose patience if the day should seem to be long delayed when 'the mighty shall be put down from their seats and the rich sent empty away' -- the day when the oppressed shall be delivered from all the wrongs they have unjustly suffered and their oppressors sentenced to punishment they deserve.
Lenski: Although unscrupulous men inflict all manner of wrongs on you, 2:6; 5:4,6, and prosper despite this their wickedness, Psalm 73:3, 'be patient' under it all.
Adams: After 5:1-6 (vehement enough for anything) James wants to speak encouragement to the faithful.

When you preach this text, be sure to take verses 1-6 into account. All of us, sooner or later, feel that we are victims of injustice and that the Lord is being unfair to us. All of us need the exhortation of verses 7-11 very much.

James 5:7 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.

The text begins with a Greek word, not translated, which means "therefore." This verse follows from the preceding section.

"Patient" is to endure patiently. The word describes the attitude which can endure delay and bear suffering and never give in.

Lenski: 'Long-tempered is the opposite of 'short-tempered.' . . . It is ascribed to both God and men because the word refers to the wrongs that men do him and us, while 'short-tempered' refers to adverse things and thus cannot be used with reference to God. James means: 'With steady, unwavering patience endure all the wrongs that men may inflict upon you.'
Tasker: The verb denotes the self-restraint which enables the sufferer to retrain from hasty retaliation . . . . God is patient because He is 'slow to anger' and 'of great kindness,' and does not speedily inflict upon transgressors the full punishment they deserve . . . . If the all-holy God, faced with the enormity of human sin, is patient, so too, James implies, should the Christian be patient in the face of the injustices of human life.

Note that in this text James calls his readers "brothers" three times, verses 7, 9, 10. He is compassionate and is implying that he himself needs this exhortation just as much as do the hearers. So do you, dear preacher.

"Until" means no longer than the second coming of Christ. Then we will no longer need to be patient because all evils, all injustices, will be past. The second coming is mentioned twice. "The Lord" is mentioned five times. In verses 7 and 8 it is clearly the incarnate Jesus Christ. In the other three references it is the preincarnate Jesus Christ, but the same Jesus Christ.

Tasker: The Christian is now living between these two comings of his Lord, incarnation and second coming, and he looks both backward to the first and forward to the second for inspiration during his earthly pilgrimage . . . He runs with patience the race set before him, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of his faith who endured the cross despising the shame, Hebrews 12:1-2.

In verse 7 James is drawing a comparison between the Christian and the farmer.

Lenski: The point of the illustration is only this patient waiting for the sake of the fruit; we should not allegorize the early and the late rain.

The fruit of the labor is "precious" because it is the reward of labor and patience.

Rienecker: The 'early' rain normally begins in Palestine in late October or early November, and is anxiously awaited because, being necessary for the germination of the seed, it is the signal for sowing. In the spring the maturing of the grain depends on the 'late rain,' light showers falling in April and May. Without these, even heavy rains will not prevent failure of crops.
Tasker: The time between seedtime, or the first appearance of the blade, and harvest was roughly speaking four months, see John 4:35, not a very long period, but fraught with much anxiety in a country which was utterly dependent upon the early and latter rain, the first due soon after sowing and the second when the crop was ripening. . . . His faith in the reliability of God acted as a restraining and controlling influence during what might otherwise have been a time of acute and enervating anxiety.
Adamson: Like the farmer the Christian must be patient and depend on God to consummate his purpose.

If and when the early and late rains either did not come, came at the wrong time, or came in excess, the farmer was tempted to doubt, worry, and complain. It took faith to be a farmer 2,000 years ago and it still takes faith to be a farmer. It is a very good illustration of the child of God awaiting patiently the second coming of Christ.

James 5:8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.

An untranslated Greek word here means "also, just like the farmer." James makes immediate application by saying "fix your hearts." Other translations: "Stablish your hearts," "keep your hope high," "stand firm," "do not lost heart," "be stout hearts," and "keep your courage."

And then he explains why they should be patient and not lost heart: "because the coming of the Lord is at hand." The Bible never tells us not to worry or be afraid without giving a reason. How can you make your heart stable? By reminding yourself that Jesus' coming is just around the corner.

Tasker: Nothing strikes such fearfulness into the human hearts as anxiety due to uncertainty about ultimate issues . . . . The Christians is not meant to be worried about the number of years that may pass before the coming of the Lord. He is called upon to strengthen his heart in the assurance that his Lord's return will bring complete spiritual health, full salvation, and eternal life. Moreover, for the Christian the thought of eternity so dominates and controls the thought of time, that in the reckoning of the Christian time always seems to be short time, see 1 Corinthians 7:29. In other words, the Christian lives so constantly under the influence of the Coming that it can truly be said that 'the Lord draweth nigh.' The literal translation of these last words is 'has drawn nigh.'

James 5:9 Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

Meanwhile, a stern warning. This verse is starkest law. James is talking about Christians blaming their troubles on each other. Here are two good English translations: "By brothers, do not blame your troubles on one another," and "Don't blame your troubles on one another."

Tasker: Christians are tempted to blame one another for the miseries of their present situation . . . Christians are not to groan or complain one against another . . . Mutual recrimination is therefore both useless and sinful, and brings with it the risk of condemnation.
Lenski: To groan against each other as though one can blame a person's distress on another. When one is full of complaint the person is ready to grumble against ever their best friends in an unreasonable way. To give way to such feelings invites judgment from the Lord.
Bengel: Groans are injurious, both to those by whom, and against whom, they are uttered.

The text clearly says that mutual groaning and complaining brings God's judgment down upon the individual. And if not repented of leads to eternal damnation. That's why James adds the last sentence which begins with the word "beware" or "lookout." Why? Well, if Christians are going to spend their time blaming their troubles onto each other, that amounts to unjust judging. And if they continue to live in that sin, then Jesus becomes Judge for them. The word "judge" here is used in an adversative sense. And, of course, "stand at the door" means "He is about to enter."

Tasker: James is echoing the words of Jesus, before the door, see Mark 13:29. His foot is already upon the doorstep; and at His final coming no human being can bar His entrance. The thought of the Lord's return is thus a warning as well as a consolation to Christians.
Adamson: 'At the door', see Mark 13:29, Acts 5:9 and 23; Revelation 3:20, is a picture of imminent judgment, and an incentive to patience.
Bengel: He stands there and is always hearing everything.

James 5:10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

All the commentaries here quote Matthew 5:11-12.

Tasker: Thus did Christ remind His disciples of the privilege as well as of the certainty of their suffering.

In verse 7 James used "brothers" for encouragement. In verse 9 he used it for warning. Here, in verse 10, he uses it to quote example which should encourage them. There follows examples of ill-treatment and endurance, suffering and hardship, suffering evil, suffering what is evil, bad, mean. All of this is completely undeserved.

James implies two things:

  1. They waited patiently for the repentance of their hearers, and

  2. They were conscious of the fact that vengeance belongs to the Lord.

"Take the prophets as an example of evil treatment despite their endurance." And why did they have to suffer? Because they spoke in the name of the Lord.

Tasker: Affliction has always been the lot of God's saints; and it has never detracted from their blessedness . . . . Affliction aided them as they trod their appointed way of salvation . . . Of all the prophets, whom James must have had in mind, perhaps the most outstanding in this connection is Jeremiah . . . This hyper-sensitive, warm-hearted patriot, compelled to proclaim a succession of divine messages to his countrymen that were unpopular because they were of necessity pessimistic, who was so sympathetic toward the sufferings of others, was himself beaten, put in stocks, imprisoned in a dungeon, and thrown into a cistern by the very men whom he would gladly have saved, if such salvation had been possible, from the doom that awaited them.
Lenski: We, like Jesus, pronounce a beatitude on the prophets who were such patient men, see Matthew 5:12; 23:34; Acts 7:52. There is only one way in which we can join the glorious company of the prophets, and that is to bear with patience the sufferings that come upon us. . . . Although the Lord honored them by making them his mouthpieces, they were not spared. They merely made utterance, the Lord used them. James indicates divine inspiration.

See Daniel 9:6. There Daniel is praying to the Lord and confessing that the children of Israel did not listen to the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Dear pastor, preach the Word of God faithfully. There will be those who will ill-treat you as they did the prophets of old. But you must endure patiently. Ill-treatment from people who do not like your preaching cannot and does not stop the blessings of the Lord from flowing upon your head. John the Baptist lost his head for speaking the Truth but is with his Lord. Stephen was stoned for speaking the Truth and is now seated in glory. All were patient endurers. Good examples for preachers. Good examples for Christians.

James 5:11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

James begins this verse with a "Look!" "Stop and think!" He wants us to think about the blessedness of those who are on their way to everlasting life. Look at the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.

Tasker: 'Perseverance' is a cognate with the verbs translated in the previous clause 'which endure.' It is not the same word as that used for patience in the other verses of this section, and expresses a determination to face a particular trial or series of trials without flinching. . . It is not so much the self-restraint of Job under affliction, leading him to be patient with others, that is here emphasized, for Job was very far from showing patience in this sense with his so-called comforters. What Job did, however, display in a marked degree was a determination to endure whatever might fall to his lot without losing faith in God. He believed even when he could not understand. See Job 1:21; 2:10; 13:15; and 19:25.

By the way, James says we bless those who have endured. There are many, many of them, for example Hebrews 12:1. Oddly enough Job is not mentioned in Hebrews 11. By the way, so far as we know, Job never knew that all his griefs came directly from Satan with the Lord's permission, or at least the Scriptures do not inform us of it. We mention this only because very often in life we so much need "perseverance" but do not know what is causing the grief which we are suffering. We don't have to know. The Lord keeps on saying: "Only believe."

"Have seen what the Lord finally brought about" has been translated as follows:

The commentaries reflect these differences in translation:

Tasker: 'The end of the Lord' was the complete vindication of Job by his Maker . . . . He was granted a fuller understanding of the mystery of the divine purpose, and a more direct experience of the majesty and sovereignty of Almighty God.
Adamson: 'End' indicates consummation . . . . Job's lapse in patience proper did not exclude him from the Lord's pity and mercy. The example of Job therefore would have a special appeal for those in trial. . . . Though 'end' can mean 'purpose' it is best taken here as 'outcome,' 'issue,' 'result.'

The differences among these translation are not serious. The point is clear. There is a host among people, who during their lifetime, stood up under the pressures of ill-treatment and endured. We count them blessed because they are now in heaven. Job was a singular example.

What lies behind all of this blessedness? Two adjectives which are applied to the Lord. If it were not for these two qualities, no one would ever patiently endure what must be borne in this life.

Bengel: 'Very pitiful.' He does not lay upon the patient more than the person is able to bear. He mercifully gives a happy issue.
Lenski: These are two choice adjectives; the former is found only here, the latter is poetical. See Luke 6:26. . . . James admonishes to patience and brave perseverance and does not fail to add the strongest comfort.

That is true. Note the many references to the Old Testament passages in the AAT and other translations at James 5:11. Tasker notes that here James is referring to Psalm 103:8.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A Epistle Texts, Festival Season Sundays, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1983, pp. 9-12. Used with permission.

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