This post is the final post of my study of the epistle of James. Today we will study chapter four and five. James somewhat changes course in these chapters. The previous three chapters focused primarily on faith and works. These two chapters view of living a Christian life. As before James’ words are in blue and mine are in black.
- When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. — This verse helps me understand previous verses in the Bible where is flatly say “Ask and you will receive”. Here, James puts some necessary conditions on those words. Asking for the wrong things will get no more response from God than not asking at all. The last part of this verse is the clincher for me. If we ask for something that simply increase our worldly pleasure then don’t count of God answering in the affirmative. In my opinion, narcissism is one of the biggest idols in today’s world. When we always look at things from a selfish self-centered light we are putting ourselves and our personal pleasures above others. Jesus definitely practiced a selfless life and he expects us to do the same.
- Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. — One of my recent personal revelations about the Bible is that Jesus never judged anyone during his ministry but the religious establishment. According to James Jesus expects us to do likewise. James also adds slander to the list. Slander is defined as a malicious, false, and defamatory statement. This goes along with do not bear false witness especially in a hateful way. Of course slander is almost the exact opposite of love.
- Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. — the more affluent among us can’t seem to get a break when it comes to Bible verses. Some say in this verse James is talking to pagan oppressors since Christians would not be weeping and wailing but instead celebrating Christ. The second verse below seems to support that contention but I am just not personally sure.
- The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. – This verse is definitely an attack on those who do not pay a living wage to their workers. Who is included in this group is hard to say but I’m sure the Lord has a list :) Is not raising the minimum wage in the U.S. for more than 10 years part of this? I think it is.
- You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. – Another stern warning from James about having wealth as the idol in your life. It is the self-indulgence aspect of riches that make it so sinful. Not the money itself.
- Above all, my brothers, do not swear — not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned. — To me James message here is quite simple. Always speak the truth! If you are known as a truthful person you will not be asked to swear that you are speaking truthfully. Of course in our legal environment in the U.S. that is another issue. The Quakers and I believe the Amish use this statement to refuse to swear even in the legal mode. In today’s world does this prevent us from saying the “Pledge allegiance to the flag”?? In doing that we are swearing our selves to a kingdom of the world instead of to God’s Kingdom. I will have to think about that one for a while before I can answer. As James said Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak. I will try to do that here. But if you want to chime in with an opinion I would be interested in hearing it.