“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters,or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!”
(James 5:7-9 NIV)
James moves from the test of handling wealth in verses 1 – 6 to the test of patience in verses 7 – 11. There is so much to learn here that we will break this into two days’ study.
In verses 1 – 6, James addressed rich people, specifically, rich people who obtained their wealth at the expense or detriment of others. James spoke to them in very pointed, almost harsh words.
In verse 7, James is back to his encouraging self again, as he encourages the Christ-followers in the churches. Notice the term of endearment: “brothers and sisters”. That’s the James we remember.
So what is James’ command? Be patient.
Is James repeating himself here, from chapter 1, verses 2 – 4? Or is this different?
In chapter 1, James speaks of endurance. The Greek word for endurance (“hupomone”, pronounced hü-po-mo-nā’) is a noun, and means “to remain under”. This word refers to a character quality that God develops in us as we we find ourselves in adverse circumstances. This word is passive, meaning that it is something that is done for us, not something that we do ourselves.
In chapter 5, James speaks of patience. This Greek word for patience (“makrothumeo”, pronounced mä-kro-thü-me’-ō) is a verb, and means “long suffering” (makros, “long,” thumos, “temper”). This word refers not to adverse circumstances as the word in chapter 1, but rather, to adverse people in our lives. This word “patience” is active, meaning that it is something we must pursue and be and do, not something that we have done to us or for us. The opposite of being long suffering is to be short tempered, and blow up and lose our cool at the slightest provocation, over the smallest thing.
After James commands us to be patient, he writes the word “then”. Other Bible translations use the word “therefore”. And whenever we see the word “therefore”, we must ask ourselves, “what’s the ‘therefore’ there for”? The word “Therefore” is normally used in Scripture to refer to something previously written or spoken, that ties the current thought to a previous thought.
So what is James referring to? Is he pointing us all the way back to chapter 1? No, believe it or not, he is referring us back to the preceding thought in chapter 5, verse 6. James is referring to those in verse 6 who did not fight back, even when it cost them their very lives. We are to emulate them, to be like them, and to not seek retaliation or revenge for injustices brought upon us by others.
And how long are we to be patient? Until the Lord’s coming. That may or may not happen in our lifetime. James is implying here that the Lord will take note and deal with the evildoers in His time, not ours.
James goes on to use the illustration of a farmer planting seeds, and patiently waiting for the harvest. James recalls God’s promise of autumn and spring rains to grow the crop (Deuteronomy 11:14). The farmer could go out and yell at the seeds in the ground, asking them why they are not sprouting, or complain that the young plants are not producing fruit yet, but it would be wasted breath and energy, as the seasons have to progress for the crop to produce. It takes time.
James reminds us to be patient and stand firm like the farmer, because the harvest will be here soon. And what harvest is that? The Lord’s return. Will it be in our lifetime? I have no idea. But in the great time span of eternity, the Lord’s return is just around the corner.
So, we must patiently await God’s justice and be patient toward each other and even toward those who make our life difficult. James says that we are not even supposed to grumble or complain about our ill treatment by others – that the judge (God) is at our door, and hears our whining and complaining and bad attitude.
There is so much here… but the nugget of truth today is simple: When Christ comes back, when He arrives unexpectedly, what will He find us doing? Whining and complaining about our treatment by others, or faithfully serving Him, enduring the abuse and bad treatment and being long-tempered toward those who treat us badly?
Father, forgive me for my bad attitude when life does not go as I think it should. I need Your strength, Lord, to be patient and joyful, regardless of how others treat me.