People's New Testament
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
5:1 Warnings to the Rich
SUMMARY OF JAMES 5:
The Sins of Rich Men. The Judgments Coming Upon Them. Patience Under Affliction. The Examples of Job and Elijah. Healing the Sick. Effectual Prayer. Restoring Sinners.
Go to now. The same expression is used in Jas 4:13. There it is a rebuke to those who haste to be rich; here to those who use riches wickedly.
Ye rich men. James looks beyond the church of his day to be his nation and to the church of after time.
Weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Because of coming judgments for your sins.
Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
5:2 Your riches are corrupted. Even their riches in which they trusted are corrupted, or spoiled. Much of the wealth of that period was in stores of various kinds which time or improper care would destroy.
Your garments are motheaten. The rich gathered great stores of garments, carpets, etc. See Mt 22:11,12. These would be liable to be eaten by moths if not used.
Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
5:3 Your gold and silver is cankered. Rusted from disuse. These metals do not literally rust, but do tarnish from long disuse. The idea is that they show they have been hoarded, not used.
And the rust of them shall be a witness against you. The tarnish shows that you have hoarded instead of using.
And shall eat your flesh as it were fire. They shall punish you, as though heated by fire and eating into your flesh. This hoarded wealth will curse the possessor.
Ye have heaped up treasure. Instead of laying up treasure in heaven you have continued to pile up earthly treasure to the last, a matter of extreme folly.
For the last days. What James then thought of as the last days, the end of his nation, country and Jerusalem, was close at hand.
Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
5:4 Behold, the hire of the labourers... kept back by fraud. These rich men are censured for two sins; viz. the improper use of wealth, and the sinful acquisition of wealth. The Bible is everywhere the friend and protector of the laborer. To keep back the hire of the laborer is denounced everywhere. See Le 19:13 De 24:14 Jer 22:13 Mal 3:5 Job 24:6.
The cries of them. Of the defrauded laborers.
Are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. God will avenge them.
Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
5:5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton. Have spent your wealth on your own pleasures.
Ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. The meaning is not entirely clear. Probably it is an allusion to the beasts which are fatted and feasted for slaughter and food. They were feasting and engaging in pleasure when the awful destruction was near.
Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
5:6 Ye have condemned and killed the just. The murder of the Just One, Jesus, was the crowning sin of Israel which brought upon them destruction. It was the rich and influential, not the poor, who sought his death.
And he doth not resist you. Compare Isa 53:7.
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
5:7 Be patient therefore, brethren. James now turns from the rich, wicked Jews, to his suffering brethren. Let them be patient.
Unto the coming of the Lord. That would bring relief. The primary reference is to the relief from Jewish persecution which followed the Lord's coming in judgment on the Jewish nation.
Behold, the husbandman... hath patience. The tiller of the soil has to sow and wait long in patience for fruit. Be you like him.
Until he receive the early and latter rain. The early rain was the November showers which prepared the ground for the seed; the latter rain, the spring showers needed to bring the harvest to maturity. Compare De 11:14.
Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
5:8 Be ye also patient. Wait, like the husbandmen for your harvest of joy.
The coming of the Lord draweth nigh. The relief which the Lord's coming will bring is near. See PNT Jas 5:7.
Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
5:9 Grudge not one against another, brethren. Murmur not (Revised Version). Do not bear grudges against one another.
Lest ye be condemned. The Lord will condemn this, and the
judge standeth before the door, for the coming of the Lord draweth near (Jas 5:8).
Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
5:10 Take, my brethren, the prophets... for an example. They suffered, were patient, endured to the end and secured the blessing.
Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
5:11 We count them happy which endure. We believe of them that all such have a final reward.
Ye have heard of the patience of Job. The enduring patience, which refused to distrust God, is meant.
And have seen the end of the Lord. The conclusion in the case of Job wrought by the Lord, and how his endurance was blessed. See Job 42:10 The blessing that came on him is a demonstration that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful (Revised Version).
But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.
5:12 Above all things, my brethren, swear not. This verse is an appropriation of the words of Christ (Mt 5:33-37). See notes there. Swearing is a besetting sin of the East unto this day.
Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
5:13 Is any among you afflicted? Let him not swear, or engage in any improper use of the tongue, but let him pray. God is the Helper in such an hour.
Is any cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Let his joy be shown, not in wanton speech, but in singing praises. Prayer and thanksgiving are the appropriate expressions for each condition.
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
5:14 Is any sick among you. In the early church, when miraculous gifts were imparted by the laying on of apostolic hands as a sign to unbelievers (see 1Co 14:22), one of these was the gift of healing.
Let him call for the elders. In most early churches founded by the apostles some one of the elders would have this gift. There is no more reason for the descent of this gift to our times than of any other miraculous power.
Let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. This passage, then, describes what was peculiar to the early church. The sick were anointed by the elders with oil, a symbol of the Spirit, which effected the healing, hands were laid, and prayer offered. See Mr 6:13 Isa 1:6 Lu 10:34.
And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
5:15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick. The prayer for the sick must be offered in faith to be effectual.
If he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Often our sickness is due to sins against our body. The Lord, who raises the sick in answer to prayer, will forgive these.
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another. This verse springs from Jas 5:15. We all need healing of our sins. Let the brother confess his faults as a demonstration of repentance and let brethren pray for each other. Repentance, confession and prayer are the conditions of the forgiveness of sins committed by church members.
Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
5:17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are. Jas 5:16 has affirmed the power of the prayer of a righteous man. An example of its power is now given. Elijah was a man like ourselves, yet great results followed his prayer. See 1Ki 17:1 and following chapters.
He prayed earnestly that it might not rain. No mention is made in the Old Testament of the prayer, but it is announced prophetically. He prayed, either before or after, that rain might be withheld until Israel repented.
And it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. See Lu 4:25 In the Old Testament the time is not exactly stated. In the third year the Lord spoke to Elijah about rain, 1Ki 18:1 but we are not informed whether the beginning of the third year was when rain ceased to fall, or when he went to Zarephath. It is probable that the latter is meant.
And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
5:18 And he prayed again. See 1Ki 18:42. This prayer was on Mt. Carmel after the trial which ended in the overthrow of the priests of Baal, and was followed the same day by rain.
Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
5:19 If any one of you do err from the truth. If a brother is led away from the gospel. One might be led into false doctrine, or into false practice.
And one convert him. Bring him back from his errors and restore him.
Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
5:20 Let him know. As an inducement to engage in this work of love let him know how great a work has been done.
Save a soul from death. Not physical but eternal death.
Hide a multitude of sins. The sins of those forgiven are said to be covered or hidden. This passage means that all the sins of the restored sinner, though many, shall be blotted out. See Ps 32:1.