James, Lesson 6 (Chapter 5): Warning, Patience, and Prayer

Warning to the Rich

Scripture is clear that wealth isn’t something we are to place out trust in.  Of course, this is contrary to the way of the world.  Nonetheless, for the Christian, he is to trust in God.  For example, King Solomon warns, “The one who trusts in riches, this man will fall, but the one who helps the righteous, this man will rise” (Proverbs 11:27).  St. James begins by warning his wealthy readers what lies in store if they have faith in the idol of wealth instead of God.

Read James 5:1-3 and Matthew 6:19-21

–          James is making his case built from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6.  What are the rich doing, whom he is condemning?


–          Based on where they have placed their treasure, where is their heart?


–          Why is this even more foolish considering we are in “the last days”?  What is James pointing to?


Read James 5:4-6

–          The rich have amassed their treasures here because of where their heart is.  Because they have trusted in wealth, what have they done to amass it?


Jeremiah 12:3: As for you, Lord, you know me; you see me.  You test whether my heart is with you.  Drag the wicked away like sheep to the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter.

–          The “day of slaughter” was an expression referring to the final judgment for the wicked.  What are the rich doing even though the Last Day, the final judgment, is coming?


The New Testament uses the term ho dikaios, the Righteous One,” to refer to Jesus.   We see this in Acts 3:14, 7:52, and 22:14; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:1, 29, and 3:7.  Here is where it gets interesting: James uses that same expression in Chapter 5, verse 6.

Acts 9:5: This is what Jesus told Saul on the way toAntioch, because he was persecuting the Church: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

–          If James is referring to Jesus through his use of the term “the Righteous One,” then what is he saying in verse 6?


–          James’ warning to the rich is based on what event that awaits us all?



Read James 5:7-11

–          James is now, not speaking to the rich, but the oppressed, poor Christians.  To what event is James pointing them (James 5:7-8)?


–          Because the Lord is returning, how does this truth encourage Christians?


–          What three examples does James use to let Christians know that our current-day sufferings are not forever?


Read James 5:12

–          Which commandment is James referring to in this verse?


–          What is his main point?


Depression, Euphoria, and Sickness

Read James 5:13

–          If one is depressed, what does James extol him to do?


–          More than simply asking for relief, value does prayer bring?


James then deals with those who are cheerful.  It seems he is simply telling them to sing because they are happy.  Yet, much more is going on here.  Just as what precedes (depression) and follows (physical sickness), James is dealing with a problem. 

Today, we would ask, “Why would someone being happy ever be a problem?”  It is not simply being happy or cheerful.  The Apostle Paul gave the same advice to the charismatics in Corinth.  There, some Christians saw the content of their faith as emotional, lacking intellectual depth.  Paul’s solution was to pray and sing with the mind and emotions (1 Corinthians 14:15). 

James is giving the same remedy.  For those who are happy, where that is the substance of their faith–emotions–James then tells them to sing psalleto.  That’s the Greek word for “psalms.”  They were to sing words that had substance to them, to add substance to their purely emotional view of faith.


Read James 5:14-15

Verse 14: “sick”: from the Greek asthenei, meaning a specific bodily ailment.  This is physical sickness.  As with all sickness and death, this is a result of our Fall into sin.

Verse 14: “elders”: the Greek has the direct object preceding it: the elders.  So James is not referring to elders in a generic sense but those placed into an office.  Today, we would call such a man “the pastor.”

Verse 14: “church”: earlier James used synagogue to refer to the congregation.  So here, James is making a distinction.  James is not just saying the pastor of a congregation, but pastors of the Church.

Verse 14: “pray over him,” not “for” him: This lets us know that the person was too sick to get out of bed.  This was solemn time when the clergy of the Church gathered around someone who was sick in bed, probably near death.  Traditionally, throughout Church history and liturgical rites, the “over him” implied the laying on of hands.

Verse 14: “anoint”: The New Testament has two words for anoint:

  1. Aleitho: refers to the application of oil normally for everyday, earthly purposes.
  2. Crio: This is the root word for “Christ,” meaning “anointed One.”  This is the word used for sacred anointing.

So, the anointing of oil in this passage is not a sacred anointing.  The “praying over,” with the possible laying on of hands, and the oil all focus that what is to happen specifically for the sick person.

Verse 14: “in the name of the Lord.”  This denotes that the oil is not the cause of whatever may take place for the sick person; it is the Lord.  The oil has served it purpose.

Verse 15: Focuses on the three acts:

  1. The prayer of faith will save the one who is sick
  2. The Lord will raise him up
  3. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven

Faith that is acceptable to God places its trust fully in Him.  So a “prayer of faith” is offered fully in line with wants God wants (otherwise it would not come from faith but from something else), knowing that God will answer according to His will.

Verse 15: “Save”: can also mean heal but also save in the spiritual sense.  This prayer for one who is sick, based on context, is for the Christian who seriously sick and possibly dying.  It is not for the unbeliever.

Verse 15: “raise”: This is resurrection talk.  It can refer to the sick person getting well and, thus, getting out of bed.  But the immediate context (the part following) and larger context (James’ earlier focus on the Last Day and the final judgment) show the primary meaning is to prepare the person for death and the final judgment.  Why?  James gets to that next.

Verse 15: If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  James speaks in the future tense.  When is this forgiveness to be realized?  On the Last Day, when the saint of God is welcomed into eternity, body and soul.

–          To what sin is James referring?


–          What then is the main point of what James tells the clergy to do for one who is seriously ill?


James now moves from the clergy praying, anointing, and absolving a sick person to what every Christian is to do.

Read James 5:16-17

–          What does verse 16 tell what each Christian to do?


–          What healing is James referring to in verse 16?


–          How does James’ words in verses 17-18 help us today, we who are so “results-oriented”?


Read James 5:19-20

–          What do theses verses show how each Christian is to be his “brother’s keeper”?


–          What type of death is James referring to in verse 20?


–          What’s the ultimate focus of James 5:13-20, earthly or eternal?