Four Final Thoughts – James 5:13-20


Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. Elijah was a human being like us, yet he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain upon the land. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the earth produced its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.  

As James wraps up his letter of instruction, he points out some personal and corporate practices that we need to adhere to.  

Are you suffering? Pray! Are you happy? Sing about it! Are you sick? Call the presbyters!

“This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1695; cf. Mk 6:13; Jas 5:14-15.”

We notice that this anointing of the sick is accompanied by the command; confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. Why would James tell us that you may be healed only after mentioning confession and prayer?

Confessing our sins to one another is an act of humility. Although I know God is always with me and sees everything I do. I don’t see Him, see me though. When I confess my sins to the priest [who is Christ’s representative] I see him see me and I am humbled in my spirit. Knowing that I am actually seen and heard, compels me to not want to commit these sins anymore. It is also a great relief to [actually] hear the words of comfort, “Your sins are forgiven” knowing that they indeed are (I John 1:9).

This forgiveness from God leads us to righteousness. If we are to pray for one another, to be “effective” (though this actual translation didn’t use this word) we must be righteous, The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. This is how these three things tie together.

Lastly, we are instructed to bring back a sinner from the error of his way. The error is to stray from the truth. If we are to be able to do this, we must remain in the truth ourselves. Remaining in His truth gives us the grace to lead the sinner back to a life of truth, in the forgiveness and grace of His Church.

So this week, let’s go to confession! To be cleansed from our sin to serve God and our neighbor in true righteousness.

Amen.

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So…You Wanna Be Rich? – James 5:1-10


Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance. Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and late rains. You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not complain, brothers, about one another, that you may not be judged. Behold the Judge is standing before the gates. Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who have persevered . You have heard of the perseverance of  Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord because,”the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” But above all my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your “Yes” mean “Yes” and your “No” mean “No”, that you may not incur condemnation.  

Before James moves forward from his teaching on boasting in our arrogance, he gives us an example of what this arrogance looks like and a warning of what it will bring.

Throughout the scriptures, there are warnings against the rich and the fate that awaits them. Why? It’s because of the attitude of the heart (here is another recurring theme in his letter). In who do we trust? In riches, or in God?

Then Jesus said to his disciples: Amen, I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Matt.19:23-24  

While riches may bring luxury and pleasure for a short time here on earth, is it worth exchanging the luxury and pleasure of the kingdom of heaven?

Though he warns the rich of the judgement that awaits them, he also commands the true disciples of Jesus to show patience for the coming of the Lord. For as sure as the judgement of the rich shall come, so shall the vindication of God’s people.

James gives words of encouragement that though we may be suffering now for a short time, our reward will be great if we persevere through them. He brings our thoughts to Job – and to all the prophets who suffered at the hands of the unrighteous, all of who are experiencing now the compassion and mercy of the Lord.

You could call it the “you can pay me now or you can pay me later” theological approach. Suffer a little now and have eternal happiness or have earthly happiness and suffer throughout eternity. Much like the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31).

There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen; and feasted sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores, Desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, and no one did give him; moreover the dogs came, and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell. And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom: And he cried, and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame. And Abraham said to him: Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted; and thou art tormented. And besides all this, between us and you, there is fixed a great chaos: so that they who would pass from hence to you, cannot, nor from thence come hither. And he said: Then, father, I beseech thee, that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, That he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments. And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. But he said: No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will do penance. And he said to him: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead.

With all this in mind, James now calls us to remember Jesus’ command in Matthew 5: 33-37, “Again you have heard that it was said to them of old, Thou shalt not forswear thyself: but thou shalt perform thy oaths to the Lord. But I say to you not to swear at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God: Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool: nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king: Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil.

The purpose of the oath in Old Testament times was to guarantee truthfulness by the one calling on God as a witness. We, as God’s children, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit should let our word guarantee our truthfulness because of that fact alone. Because He is the faithful witness (Rev. 1:5).

So this week, let us be patient in our sufferings, whether it’s physical, emotional, financial or even spiritual, remember; the promise of God is granted through perseverance. Let us also remember to be a people of our word. Who we are often reflects who God is to others. Let’s live in a manner worthy of the Gospel!

Amen.

Speak No Evil: James 4: 11-17


Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver and Judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor? Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit”- you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead you should say, “If the Lord wills it, we shall live to this or that.” But now you are boasting in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is sin. 

Maybe James put these two sections together for the same reason I chose to (although I’m not sure I’m infallibly inspired). Since there seems to be a paragraph break between verses twelve and thirteen (though in Greek writings, there were no such thing) it would be very easy to separate these thoughts, but I found that verse 16 tied them together beautifully, All such boasting is evil.

Let’s look at the content of verses eleven and twelve,  Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother, is equivalent of one who speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you will remember back in chapter one of our study “Doers and Not Hearers Only” we saw that the “perfect law applies to the Mosaic law as described in the Old Testament. The law of freedom refers to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. James combines these two titles to show we have fulfillment of the Mosiaic law in Christ”. If we speak evil or judge our brother, we are setting ourselves above the law as a judge. James quickly reminds us that that there is only one Lawgiver and Judge who is able to save or to destroy. However, this is not a call to dismiss or not to confront sin within the faith community, but against passing judgement in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of our own sin.

The contents of verses thirteen through seventeen also warn us against arrogance, thus tying these two thoughts together.

Does the “plan” of my life correspond with God’s “will” for my life? If my plans override God’s will, that my friends is arrogance. If I’m telling Him that I know what’s best for me in my life, I set myself up as the “god” of my life. Making plans or even making a profit isn’t sinful. It’s the attitude which you have that makes the act sinful.

So whether we  speak evil of one another, speak evil of the law and judge the law, are not a doer of the law but a judge, or as acting as the “god” of our own life; it is boasting it is arrogance it is evil

So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is sin. 

 So this week, let us cease our boasting, arrogance and the evil judgement of our “brothers” because we’ve now been reminded……it is sin.

Amen.

Whose Lover Are You? – James 4:1-10


Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but you do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. Adulterers! Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that the scripture speaks without meaning when it says, “The Spirit He has made to dwell in us, tends toward jealousy” ? But He bestows a greater grace; therefore it says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds. Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you. 

James continues his teaching, this time, addressing loving the world and it’s opposition to God.

He gives us quite a list of worldly attitudes; wars, conflicts, passions, covetousness, killing, envying and fighting. These attitudes or heart issues reveal themselves in personal action. Does this seem to be a recurring theme with James? You bet it does!    

Our lack of faith in the Gospel of Christ will determine our actions, the same as our our actions demonstrate our faith in the Gospel. Look at the list of worldly attitudes James gives, they can all be summed up in one word: selfishness. Could this be the reason there is such a harsh reprimand given here? Adulterers! Drawing on the Old Testament imagery of the Israelites worshiping idols and forsaking the covenant of the God of their Fathers, James tells us we can’t live this way and be a true Christian. The things of the world cannot exist within the people of God. A change needs to take place!

Reminding us that, at our rebirth through Baptism (John. 3:5) we are infused with the Divine nature. Therefore being new creations, he states “The Spirit He has made to dwell in us, tends toward jealousy”, and He bestows a greater grace to accomplish this.

By allowing God’s Spirit to work within us we submit ourselves to God. If we think to highly of ourselves, God will resist us; “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” When we submit to God (give Him the authority over our lives) several things happen. He bestows a greater grace because of our humility. With this greater grace we are also able to resist the devil, assured that when we do, he (the devil) will flee from us! How amazing is that grace!

Submitting to Him and receiving His grace also allow us to lament, to mourn, to weep over our sin keeping us in close fellowship with God. Choosing to let our laughter and  joy be turned into mourning and dejection has in mind the sacrifice of Jesus Himself. He temporaliary gave up His glory in heaven to suffer here on earth (Phil. 2:6-11) this also happens to be our calling through Christ (Phil. 1:29). If we humble ourselves in living out the Gospel, God will exalt us. Nothing pleases our Father more than giving honor to His faithful servants.

The recurring theme; it’s not just what you say, but what you say and do! Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds. Hands and hearts. One represents the outside, one the inside. They must work together, being a unity of body and spirit. A purified heart will present clean works, for what comes out of our hearts is made manifest in our deeds.

So this week, let us humble ourselves before God. Let us put away our selfish motives and the love of the world, and Draw near to God. Allowing once again our faith to be demonstrated by our works.

Amen.

Teaching In Wisdom: James 3:13-18


Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.   James 3:13-18 

James continues his instruction to those who teach. Last week he taught us that a true teacher needs to control their tongue. This week he teaches us that we also need wisdom.

Those who are wise and understanding live their lives in humility with an active faith. Each of these words , by the way, describe the way we use knowledge not whether or not we have knowledge or whether or not we’re intelligent. This is the wisdom from above. On the contrary, those who have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in their [your] hearts, do not boast [be proud] and be false [lie against] to the truth know not how to use their knowledge in a Godly way, for their wisdom is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.   Continue reading

Controlling The Tongue: James 3:1-12


Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly, for we all fall short in many respects. If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies. It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, that are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilots inclination wishes.In the same way, the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how a small fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers. Does a spring gush forth from the same opening both pure and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine figs? Neither can salt water yield fresh.      

This is a passage that we must not take lightly, especially those [of us] who teach. If you’ve read my about page, you will recall I make reference to this passage (3:1). As a teacher, I must at every moment keep in mind the fact that what I teach must be truth, because I will be judged more strictly. It is a sobering thought, one I wish more so called “teachers” would heed. Particularly, here on the” bolgosphere” where anyone can say anything they want and call it “teaching” from God’s word ( I am not exempt from making mistakes, and encourage everyone who reads my studies, to test the spirits to make sure it is of God).  Continue reading

Faith? Works? Or Faith And Works! : James 2:14-26


What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or a sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well”, but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the alter? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”, and he was called “the friend of God.” See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route? For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.   James 2:14-26  

Last week we heard James command us, “So speak and so act…” which is a great lead in to the Holy Spirit’s teaching on faith and works.

He compares faith without works to expressions of sympathy without giving any help, which is totally useless. In the same way, a faith that exists without works has absolutely no value. In verse 18, James warns us not to you the excuse, “You have faith and I have works.”  This is not the way it works (no pun intended). Just as works alone cannot save us, neither can faith alone (verse 24).   Continue reading