Chapter 5 Verse 1:
It is important to remember that James was writing to refugee Christians chased from their homes in Jerusalem. Now they were starting over in new countries. They had to take bottom of the totem pole jobs; jobs where they would be taken advantage of by rich people. James is addressing the oppressors of his audience. James is bringing comfort to his readers by offering God’s perspective on their oppressor. In order to make appropriate application we need to hear not only the dangers of how wealth can corrupt morals, but also see how God used James to comfort the oppressed. When you consider the passage in this light, how does it change the way you apply content?
Chapter 5 Verse 9:
It is challenging to realize that James gave this instruction regarding complaining to refugee Christians. We wish he had given it to a growing church in the middle of building campaign that was ahead of budget. The reality is suffering breeds dissatisfaction and dissatisfaction breeds grumbling. The audience of James’ writing means that we can never say, “James, you just do not understand my situation.”
However, we should also note that James says not to complain about one another. In the midst of their hardship these displaced believers were tempted to turn on one another. This is also common to human nature.
Consider the following questions when you are in situations like this:
- Who is with/for me in my suffering? These are the people I must not turn on or I will only multiply my sense of isolation.
- What are the real injustices? Go back and read James 5:1-6 and place yourself in the place of the original audience of James. How does this passage strike you in light of your situation?
- Where has God been faithful? You are not alone. James’ letter was a ray of hope that these believers had not been forgotten. James was encouraging the believers not to become divisive and lose God’s faithfulness in their fellowship. What is the equivalent in your situation?
- Where are avenues of ministry? The dispersion of the church from Jerusalem was one of the great missionary movements of all time. James was encouraging these displaced believers to remember their ultimate calling (to take the name of Jesus to the ends of the earth). To whom, when, and how does your current season of suffering allow you to minister to others?
Chapter 5 Verse 16
“Confession and Powerful Prayer”
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Note that the immediate context of powerful prayer is believers confessing their sin to one another. This has proven to be true in church history. One of the most consistent marks of major revivals has been an increased willingness amongst believers to confess their sin to one another (for an inspirational read on the history of revival consider Malcom McDow and Alvin Ried’s book Firefall: How God Shaped History Through Revivals). I believe there are at least three reasons for this.
First, confession sparks powerful prayer and revival because it is a mark of humility and opens the door to God’s grace. When we fail to confess our sin to one another it can inevitably be traced to some form of pride. In our culture, we have accepted in the now “common sense” phrase “that’s none of their business” as if God intended us to use the concepts of personal business or privacy to conceal our sin and squelch His Spirit in our lives.
Second, confession sparks powerful prayer and revival because now we can pray about those things that are inhibiting the movement of God in our lives. When we are not confessing our sin we pray about things that are not interfering with God’s will in our life. If we are serious about God’s will, we will eagerly confess the sin that blocks it.
Third, confession sparks powerful prayer and revival because it unleashes the power of the Body of Christ in our lives. When we are alone in our sin we are trying to find Satan on his home turf. This is like wrestling an alligator in a swamp. Confessing sin to our trusted Christian friends is like moving the battle with an alligator from the swamp to a tree. His jaws are still fierce and nothing to be played with, but the terrain gives us a fighting chance.
Consider the words of Peter in Acts 3:19-20 as you meditate on these points, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”