James: A Slave of Christ Day Six: Chapter 5:1-12
Worldly success looks so different from spiritual success. We place so much value on money, yet James couldn’t be more direct in his opening statements in chapter 5 of the danger it poses in the lives of the wealthy. It isn’t that having money is wrong, but if it is the source of our security, then we have placed our security in the wrong thing. It would seem this message is given as a warning to unbelievers, but as Christians, it is always wise to measure ourselves against cautionary statements found in Scripture.
The truth is that many will not enter Heaven because their love of money captivated their hearts. Their money was their security, but when they passed away, none of it could be taken with them. Jesus speaks of how difficult it is for a rich man to enter Heaven: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24, ESV). In a similar vein, James warns: “This corroded treasure [wealth] you have hoarded will testify against you on the day of judgment” (James 5:3, NLT). Jesus points out that people will miss out on Heaven because they became slaves to money, and James confirms this by reminding his readers that their love of money will be brought before them on the day they are judged by God.
Another very interesting message to take home from this chapter concerns how we treat those who work for us. Do you pay your employees fairly? Or do you slight them by cheating them, whether refusing to pay a fair wage or mistreating them in any way? We should not live lives of luxury while our employees struggle to pay their bills or make ends meet. While it is only fair that the owner receive compensation in keeping with the expense of running a business and the stress involved, we should still reward those who are in our employ by paying them a reasonable wage.
The middle portion of this chapter begins with a reminder that we need to be patient as we wait for the Lord’s return. One thing we shouldn’t get involved in as we wait for Him is grumbling about one another. We will be judged by the words we say about fellow believers—words we never repented of or apologized for. We should also not be idle while we wait. Idleness often leads to discontent. I think of times of waiting at the doctor’s office when my children were much younger. To help them wait patiently for their turn and distract them from getting irritable or arguing with one another, we played “I Spy” games. If we simply sat there with nothing to occupy us, they would annoy one another and have the intense desire to look in the cabinets—both would get them into trouble.
Waiting teaches us patience—an important lesson we all need to learn. But while we wait here for His return, we have work to do. Satan will try to distract us from our work by sending things meant to destroy us. In these seasons, how will we respond? James reminds his audience of Job in the Old Testament who was a great example of how we should wait. His situation was torturous, and he waited a long time for a better one and the return of his health, yet he remained faithful during his season of suffering—something that greatly pleased God. The believers James was writing to were experiencing a time of danger for living out their faith. Job’s testimony was one that would be a source of encouragement to them as they faced adversity.
Verse 12 reminds us of the importance of keeping our word. We should be a people who can be trusted to speak the truth. James warns us not to make oaths regarding our statements, but to simply say “yes” or “no” and to keep our word. We can look at something as simple yet as serious as marriage vows. In our society today, nearly 50% of marriages will end because people didn’t keep an oath they made. Hurt and pain and brokenness follow these empty promises. May we not only keep our promises but remember that any oath made before God is a very serious pledge. If we don’t mean it, we shouldn’t say it—and if we say it, we need to mean it and honor it.
The last portion of this chapter will be covered in tomorrow’s post. James 5 is full of rich instruction and encouragement—too much to cover in one devotional post. May we not only study this book but seek to live it out as a loud testimony for the One who gave His life for us.
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. (James 5:7, ESV)
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. (James 5:12)
Do not miss out on reading James 5 today!