James was probably a son of Joseph and may have been a Nazirite (as was John the Baptist). He is not James the son of Zebedee, nor is he James the son of Alphaeus, nor was he a blood brother of Jesus, since Mary had no other children, being a virgin for life.
(James 1:1) James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
James is writing to Jewish Christians; Jews who converted to Christianity, who recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Today we might call them Messianic Jews. Likely, they continued to practice most all of their Jewish traditions. They probably secretly considered themselves to be better Christians than Gentile converts.
Probably some of these were scattered immediately after Stephen's martyrdom.
The writer was probably the same James who was the head of the Church at Jerusalem, the one who decreed that Gentiles did not need to become Jewish in order to be Christians.
(James 1:2) My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers [diverse] temptations;
James lists various sins later in the letter...
I guess it would be true that the larger the group of people, the more kinds of sin can be listed. Perhaps there are only a few in each of these categories, but as I learned from teaching middle school and high school, it only takes one bad apple to spoil it for everybody.
We are to be happy when tempted because then we have the opportunity to build our faith by exercising it.
James refers to them as brothers. Presumably, he is referring to their Jewish heritage. Likely, this is the same use of the word brother when used of the brothers of Jesus; they are not blood brothers.
(James 1:3) Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience [perseverance].
When our faith is tested it leads to perseverance. The more we practice resisting temptation, the better we get at it.
(James 1:4) But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting [lacking] nothing.
The outcome of perseverence is that we become perfect, mature in the faith, not blown about by our desires and lusts as children who obey every thought to recklessness. We will have all our needs met. James doesn't explain how this works but likely it is a result of our not destroying those things and people around us that we depend on. An immature faith results in reckless behavior which damages our environment — physical and social — leaving gaps in our provisioning.
(James 1:5) If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth [finds fault] not; and it shall be given him.
Based on the previous verse, we see wisdom more than anything else is needed to have our needs met. Giving in to temptations is the opposite of wisdom. Those who require more wisdom are to seek it from God who blesses us with all blessings. Even in the early Church, the apostles had to remind people that God doesn't find fault with us for being spiritually weak as long as we of good heart seek his blessing. God will give us wisdom if we ask. Of course, we may have to ask repeatedly over many years.
It sounds so easy; if you need wisdom, just ask God and he'll give you wisdom. Then why are all these fundamentalist evangelical Protestants always asking for wisdom? Does the blessing of wisdom only last a short time and need to be refilled repeatedly? Or is the wisdom granted only for a small particular thing but doesn't apply generally to all of life? Or does God take away the wisdom shortly after granting it or if you don't use it properly or quickly enough? Or do you have to ask repeatedly, perhaps for years, before God grants the wisdom? It seems to me these fundamentalist evangelical Protestants are torturing themselves with prayer, always trying to get something, even peace of mind. As if they forget to ask God for what they need, they will be cursed. What a horrible way to live life.
(James 1:6) But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
(James 1:7) For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
(James 1:8) A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
(James 1:9) Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
(James 1:10) But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
(James 1:11) For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
(James 1:12) Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
In this world, we must be tested before receiving eternal life. Not all will pass the test.
(James 1:13) Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
God has nothing to do with evil; or for that matter with pain, sickness, suffering, and death. These do occur, but not because God created them; he allowed Lucifer to bring these into the world. God responds as people (and animals) cry out to him for redemption from these. In this limited sense he "uses it".
(James 1:14) But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Notice the human predicament: we are in harmony with God but the entanglement of our soul in original sin creates a force of repulsion away from God. This is temptation, a desire to move away from God's holiness, a boredom with God due to our soul being spiritually blind. Most religions are based on this foundational idea that we have fallen from our true condition.
(James 1:15) Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Here is the sequence...
(James 1:16) Do not err, my beloved brethren.
(James 1:17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
As the source of light, God is never in shadow. In fact, our current predicament is that we are operating in Satan's kingdom which is removed by original sin from God's light and we, therefore, encounter wickedness and sin. This keep us from enjoying the grace and blessings from God. Ultimately, for those redeemed who choose it, we will spend eternity in God's presence in the new heavens and new earth.
(James 1:18) Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
(James 1:19) Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
(James 1:20) For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Some might object that Jesus went into a rage of righteous anger when he cleansed the temple and, therefore, it's good for us to do so also. But notice Jesus was not angry but, rather, zealous. He planned what he would do the day before and took the time to make a whip.
Some might object that Jesus went into a rage of righteous anger when speaking to the religious leaders and, therefore, it's good for us to do so also. There is a Bible reading CD I listen to often and the reader speaks passages of Jesus such as these using an angry voice. I suspect he was not angry at all.
(James 1:21) Wherefore lay apart [put aside] all filthiness [moral filth] and superfluity [overabundance] of naughtiness [wickedness], and receive with meekness the engrafted [firmly planted] word, which is able to save your souls.
(James 1:22) But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
Notice the importance of works. All Christians agree that we are to live lives pleasing to God. Even salvation is based on our repentance, on our turning from sin, on our doing the word of God. We must stop sinning to be saved; that is what repentance means, to stop committing sins. Those who think they can read the Bible then go off to sin are fooling themselves. Apparently, the Christians James was writing to had this very problem.
(James 1:23) For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
(James 1:24) For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
(James 1:25) But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
(James 1:26) If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
(James 1:27) Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
(James 2:1) My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
(James 2:2) For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment [shabby clothes];
(James 2:3) And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay [fine] clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool [at my feet]:
Many churches segregate by socioeconomic status but James condemns this. Some churches by their very doctrine can't obey; in the word-faith, health-wealth churches people below middle-class must hide it because this indicates weak faith and disqualifies them from church ministry.
(James 2:4) Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
(James 2:5) Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
(James 2:6) But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
(James 2:7) Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
(James 2:8) If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
(James 2:9) But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
(James 2:10) For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
This verse is typically used to prove the doctrine of total depravity; that even the smallest sin such as a little white lie is the same to God as murder or adultery. But this verse doesn't say this at all. The law, the 10 commandments, addresses mortal sins, major sins keeping us from redemption.
This verse at first sounds profound but actually isn't. Who would ever think you have to break all 10 commandments for it to count against you? Of course if you only break one law you are guilty of sin. James makes it sound like you are even guilty for the laws you don't break, but I doubt he had that in mind.
(James 2:11) For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
This is a horrifying verse, and there are many like it. It seems to imply that murder and adultery were very common in that day, even among Christians. I can't imagine a preacher today saying what James says here; they would, rather, refer to our materialism or self-centeredness or to what we do on the internet.
God's law is a package deal, it's all about pleasing God. If you displease him on one point, then you have displeased him, period. However, God does honor our repentance, as the story of king David illustrates. God refers to him as a man after God's own heart even though he murdered someone to take his wife away. What was special about David was he came before God with a repentant heart and in devotion and love of God.
The purpose of the Mosaic Law was to delineate what pleases and displeases God. Of course, some of it, such as rules allowing for divorce, was added by Moses and was not of God. Now the law is written in our hearts, but it is still the law.
(James 2:12) So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
(James 2:13) For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
(James 2:14) What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
Faith without works is dead faith and cannot save.
(James 2:15) If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
(James 2:16) And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
(James 2:17) Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Faith without works is dead faith and cannot save.
(James 2:18) Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
(James 2:19) Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
(James 2:20) But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Faith without works is dead faith and cannot save.
(James 2:21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
(James 2:22) Seest thou how faith wrought [worked] with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
Abraham's works were expressions of his faith. He did not first believe God, then later, as an independent activity, do good works; rather, his faith manifested when he did the works (or when he resolved in his mind to do the works). Before doing the works he did not yet have faith. Faith expresses itself through works; it comes into existence through works. Until you do something, there is no faith. Faith is not a purely mental phenomenon but involves the body and the will.
(James 2:24) Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
We are not saved by works only. People often claim that those who reject salvation by faith only believe in salvation by works only, but this is not the case; we are saved by a combination of faith and works. Here are the key ingredients...
(James 2:25) Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
There is no reason to think Rahab stopped being a harlot after protecting the spies; in fact, making such a drastic lifestyle change would have aroused suspicion. But certainly she would have given it up once rescued by the Israelites in the conquest of Jericho.
I have heard many Bible teachers insist Rahab was not really a harlot at all; this fact seems to contradict their doctrines, so they deny it. It seems odd to me that people who claim to use the Bible as their basis for truth are so quick to abandon it when presented with uncomfortable verses such as this. But apparently God sticks with people through the sometimes long process of redemption. Of course there is a point at which a person needs to stop the sinning; the excuses will one day run out and the person becomes guilty of mortal sin, of sin leading to eternal damnation.
James strongly emphasizes Rahab was justified by her works. He does not say she was justified by works only nor does he say she was justified by faith only. Those who insist in salvation by faith only typically misrepresent those who don't as if we believe in salvation by works only; this is very rude to the extreme. James clearly teaches that saving faith requires works; those without works do not have saving faith.
(James 2:26) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Faith without works is dead faith and cannot save.
(James 3:1) My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
(James 3:2) For in many things we offend all [we all stumble]. If any man offend [stumble] not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle [control] the whole body.
If you are able to control what you say, you will be able to control what you do. This assumes some sort of preeminence of the power we have in choosing our words. This is a good general guideline but not universally true; there are plenty of examples of smooth-talking world leaders who have total control of their words yet perform genocide on their people. All kinds of con men have learned to effectively lie and manipulate using their words.
Trying to say things only to bless others and to not curse them is a good way to honor God. The goal: to uplift and encourage others rather than tear them down and make them feel bad.
Perhaps James is also talking about controlling our passions and vices by modifying how we talk about such things. For example, if we are trying to eat healthier we should talk about healthy food and speak about the topic of unhealthy food harming our bodies. This is not the health-wealth doctrine which takes this to the extreme, nor is it the creed of motivation and management that you can speak the possible into existence.
Notice the emphasis on personal holiness, on perfecting ourselves individually in word and action rather than on becoming part of a community and of sharing in ritual and ceremony. We need both.
Notice this verse contradicts the idea we are all totally depraved, sinning continually. James presupposes without discussing the topic that we can change our speech (and thereby change our actions) through diligent practice to become perfect.
(James 3:3) Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
James is saying: just as you control a horse by a bit in its mouth, so also you control your body by your spoken words.
James is trying to prove that the power of speech controls the body, but he is mistaken. I doubt if you could support such a notion from modern psychology. You control your speech by controlling your speech; you control your actions by controlling your actions. Certainly improving in one area helps with the other.
(James 3:4) Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm [rudder], whithersoever [wherever] the governor [pilot] listeth [desires].
James is saying: just as you control the movement of a ship with the rudder, so also you control your body by your spoken words.
James is trying to prove that the power of speech controls the body, but he is mistaken. I doubt if you could support such a notion using modern psychology. You control your speech by controlling your speech; you control your actions by controlling your actions. Certainly improving in one area helps with the other.
(James 3:5) Even so the tongue is a little member [body part], and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter [forest] a little fire [spark] kindleth!
The tongue doesn't boast of great things, the soul does. The tongue participates along with the vocal chords, the lips, and other parts of the throat and mouth.
It's true that our words have a big influence on others. We are social creatures and are incredibly sensitive to the words of others. We would be better off, I think, to mostly ignore what people say.
(James 3:6) And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity [evil]: so is the tongue among our members [body parts], that it defileth [corrupts] the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature [one's life]; and it is set on fire of hell.
Notice the progression: (1) the tongue (our speech) is corrupted by the powers of darkness; (2) the tongue (our speech) then corrupts our body, causing it to sin and destroying our lives. This assumes that speech controls the body. This is a mistaken view; I doubt if you could support such a notion from modern psychology. It is true the powers of darkness corrupt and influence our soul.
Even though I prefer a strictly literal interpretation, there is no benefit doing so here; it doesn't enhance the meaning. But I do it anyway to illustrate the concepts. Various translations translate this verse differently, but the general gist is as follows...
1. The tongue is a fire
In translating this literally we must consider how a part of the body can literally be a fire. Since this image is usually considered as a metaphor, this suggests that the tongue and the fire referred to are both in the spiritual realm, since that realm contains symbols.
In phrase #5 below, we see that the tongue speaking wickedness is on fire; that is to say, it is a fire. If a piece of wood is on fire it is proper to say that it is a fire. After all, what is a fire if not something that is burning?
2. The tongue is a world of iniquity [among the parts of the body]
Since speech is the way we communicate our innermost thoughts of the heart, and since the tongue is one of the key organs of speech (vocal chords, mouth, and lips are others), it is proper to say that the tongue is the iniquity in our hearts that we express through our speech. This symbol of the tongue being iniquity is real in the spiritual realm since symbols have real substance in the spiritual realm. That is why Catholic devotions such as the Sacred Heart of Jesus are so awesome — the physical parts of the body are tangible symbols.
3. The tongue defiles the whole body [the whole person]
If one part of our body is defiled, so is all the rest. We can't pretend to be pure of heart if our tongue is on fire (because of our wicked words).
4. The tongue sets the course [cycle] of nature [of the person's life] on fire.
The tongue is a fire because it is on fire. When it comes in contact with all the other aspects of our life, it sets them on fire as well. As the wicked words leave the mouth and wreak havoc on others, the fire spreads to everything it touches, especially to our own bodies.
5. The tongue is set on fire by hell.
There are many passages in the Bible connecting hell and fire. Just as a person in hell will be literally burning, so also while alive on this earth, the spiritual body can burn. In this case, the literal spiritual fire of hell ignites the literal tongue of a person's spiritual body when they speak wickedly. This starts the chain of events of the other images.
In conclusion, there is no reason to resort to figures of speech or symbolic language to interpret this verse. All the images are easy to explain literally using my view of the spiritual realm and Creative Frames view of the universe. The following features...
(James 3:7) For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
(James 3:8) But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
(James 3:9) Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
(James 3:10) Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
(James 3:11) Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
(James 3:12) Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
(James 3:13) Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation [way of life] his works with meekness of wisdom.
(James 3:14) But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
(James 3:15) This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
There are 2 kinds of wisdom: (1) from God, (2) from the wicked spiritual powers. Normally we think of the word wisdom as being of the first kind; certainly that wisdom spoken of in the book of Proverbs is of this type.
The word "wisdom" in this verse refers to the power of discernment, not to good judgment or the discernment of truth.
(James 3:16) For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
(James 3:17) But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated [submissive], full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
(James 3:18) And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
(James 4:1) From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence [from this place], even of your lusts that war in your members?
(James 4:2) Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
(James 4:3) Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
The prayers of these ungodly and carnal Christians are not answered because their motives are wrong. When desiring things from God based on our own appetites and desires instead of giving glory to God or helping others, God will not answer. This doesn't mean anytime we ask for something and God doesn't grant it, that our motives are wrong. All it says is that for these carnal Christians James is addressing, their wrong motives interfere with their relationship with God. There are other reasons God doesn't answer our prayers even when our asking is out of godly motives; such reasons as not being in God's will to do the thing asked for.
(James 4:4) Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
(James 4:5) Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth [desires] to envy?
In the story in Numbers, some men began prophesying in the Spirit and the young Joshua wanted them to stop thinking, presumably, only Moses should prophesy, to jealously guard Moses' role as spiritual leader of the nation.
(James 4:6) But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
(James 4:7) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
We must resist the devil for a while, then he will leave us alone. James doesn't state how long this process will take. I suppose we can tell — if we are being tempted to sin, the process is still underway. We must choose the good over the bad, God over Satan, virtue over vice. I have a hard time understanding how Christians can watch most TV or read most novels or watch most movies or listen to most secular music or play violent video games; God is not in these things.
How do we submit to God. The answer is that we form our lives to pease him. He hates sin and so should we. But he is aware of our weakness and helps us when we ask.
(James 4:8) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
(James 4:9) Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
(James 4:10) Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
In the face of our sinful nature, we are to humble ourselves by becoming penitents who have truly repented from our sins and called out to God for mercy. This is a most humble attitude. With this, God can elevate us by forgiving our sins and redeeming us. He can restore the lost fellowship caused by sin,
(James 4:11) Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
(James 4:12) There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
(James 4:13) Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
(James 4:14) Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
(James 4:15) For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
(James 4:16) But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.
(James 4:17) Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
This verse says that if you know what God commands us to do to be righteous and holy, but if you don't do it, you are sinning. Therefore, knowledge about God's law requires us to obey and conform.
This verse says nothing about those who don't know God's law, about whether they sin. It seems you can only violate a law if you know the law. This implies Adam and Eve were sinless before they ate the fruit.
(James 5:1) Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
(James 5:2) Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
(James 5:3) 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.
(James 5:4) 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.
(James 5:5) Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
(James 5:6) Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
(James 5:7) Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman [farmer] waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
The farmer must wait until the rainy season before the crops begin to grow in earnest. Just so, we are in a spiritually dry season until the coming of the Lord.
From another passage we learn that the phrase "coming of the Lord" refers to the second coming of Christ at the end of the world. Since we know that this was in the far future for those James was writing to, it seems he considers our after death experiences in the spiritual realm to be as important as our life while in this body. This fits the flow of ideas since he was just talking about judgment for the wicked and that their sufferings of judgment would begin immediately after death.
(James 5:8) Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
The time of coming of the Lord is getting closer. We are to be at peace admidst the turbulence of life knowing that this is a temporary condition.
From another passage we learn that the phrase "coming of the Lord" refers to the second coming of Christ at the end of the world. When the redeemed die they will enter either purgatory or heaven; in either case they have achieved salvation. All that remains is for the second coming of Christ and the resurrection. Perhaps life in purgatory and heaven will not be so agonizingly slow as life on earth is so we only need to be patient until death — after that being in the presence of the Lord will provide much needed comfort.
(James 5:9) Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
(James 5:10) Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
I suppose if your lot in life is to suffer by persecution or exploitation from others it is good to not let this drain your love of living. I wonder why the New Testament has so much emphasis on suffering and persecution? Perhaps the society and culture was harsh to live in; not surprising since they didn't have coal, oil, and natural gas for energy so everything would have been more burdensome, especially for those at the bottom. Perhaps people were hot-headed and unaccepting of other people's differences, especially religious. It seems to me the early Christian leaders provoked the culture into hating Christianity, much as the fundamentalist evangelical Protestants are doing today. We should not wish to impose Christendom on others.
(James 5:11) Behold, we count them happy [blessed] which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end [outcome] of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful [compassionate], and of tender mercy.
In the previous verse James referred to the prophets who persecuted and endured hardship. James here states that those who endure such treatment for the faith are to be counted as blessed. Suffering for Christ is a way to express love for him. Of course, we are not to seek out suffering for its own sake, but if we find ourselves persecuted for Christ's sake, we are to happily endure it. Sometimes it is not easy to know that we are suffering for the Lord. Job, for example, had no evidence whatsoever that he was performing an experiment in faith to refute Satan's claims that he was only faithful to God because of his prosperity.
In all circumstances the Lord is compassionate and merciful. He seeks our best. It is not always easy to remember this or to see how it is working out, but it is nonetheless true. As long as Job remained true to his faith in God, he was winning the battle. The same goes for us. We must remain faithful and true to God. In many cases, this requires patience.
(James 5:12) But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea [yes] be yea [yes]; and your nay [no], nay [no]; lest ye fall into condemnation.
This verse is not about swearing, that is to say, about filthy and improper language. Rather, it's about using ostentatious and showy words rather than a mere yes or no.
Probably the objection is to slippery showy words which mean nothing, evasive and sneaky speech designed to impress the hearers but having no commitment or content. I've heard this kind of thing many times with people I worked with and it just makes me sick. A simple yes or no is better.
Maybe people who talk like this fall into condemnation because they are lying, misleading, and deceiving. James seems to emphasize this topic by starting with "but above all things" but it seems like an afterthought tacked on at the end of his letter.
Perhaps that culture had fallen into the habit of people not being able to trust the promises of others and so, as a solution, they started added oaths or promises to God or to whatever to emphasize they really mean it. Our modern culture is doing a similar trick with language by always changing words and phrases to express whatever politically correct idea is in vogue. Some of this makes sense based on psychology; for example, if you refer to someone as a person with a disability it is not so demeaning as calling them disabled or handicapped or crippled. (But at this rate it will soon it will be "differently abled" or "physically challenged".)
(James 5:13) Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
(James 5:14) 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:
This practice was given by Jesus to the disciples who taught it to those who followed, to their successors. There is no reason Christians should have discontinued the practice but some who teach miracle healing is not for today have quit doing it. Certainly there are abuses among some who do practice it.
Notice there are multiple elders in a Church. Surely bishops would be included also. This implies that bishops and elders are the same Church leadership role. Other verses about elders, bishops, and overseers:
(James 5:15) 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.
Notice that the prayer prayed in faith by the elders of the Church saves the person prayed over so that they end up in heaven. What could this verse possibly be referring to if not the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick?
The phrase "raise him up" does not refer to physical healing but, rather, to being resurrected at the second coming of Christ — in other words, the person is redeemed. If they had unconfessed and unforgiven mortal sin on their soul preventing them from entering heaven, these are forgiven.
This passage doesn't fit Protestant doctrine at all. How can someone else's prayer save someone?
(James 5:16) 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.
The healing referred to is physical healing. The healing of Luke 5:18-26 involved both the forgiveness of sin and miraculous physical healing. In that incident it was the faith of those who let the infirmed man down to Jesus that triggered Jesus to forgive the man's sins and heal him. They asked for healing, and Jesus both forgave sins and healed.
Perhaps this verse is a continuation of the preceeding verses but referring instead to someone who is sick but not bedridden. This person can go to where the elders are to confess their sins and ask for forgiveness.
(James 5:17) Elias [Elijah] 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.
(James 5:18) And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
(James 5:19) Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
(James 5:20) 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.
This verse is a continuation from verse 19 and refers to a Christian who strayed from the truth. Notice that the person who strayed lost their salvation. There are many verses such as this that clearly state that Christians can lose their salvation.
Notice the key ingredient of why this person is saved: because their sins are hidden. They are not hidden by being merely covered over, rather, they are hidden because the person quit sinning; they became converted and repented of their sins. You can't repent from your sins if you keep doing the sins; repentance implies changing.
King James Version