Home » Various Sermons » The Wise Christian is Patient: James 5.7-11

The Wise Christian is Patient: James 5.7-11


“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.  See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.  You also, be patient.  Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.  Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.  As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.  You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” – James 5.7-11

In the previous section of James we found James warning the Rich that soon their riches will fade to nothing and by essence exhorting his readers to keep following the instructions of God.  Here now then James begins once more to give advice of what to do during trials, this time to have patience, to have patience in part despite what the Rich has done to done (as the last portion describes), or patience in the other various trials which had come (noting the other sections of James)[1].  As James had spoken so poorly of the rich in the previous section, he now returns to speaking directly to the readers and in much more positive terms[2].  Moreover as the Rich were warned of the coming of Christ, now James encourages with the coming of the Lord[3].

James is now working toward the close of his letter (from verses 5.7-20), and as he begins to do so while he doesn’t use the normal manner in which to close, he still uses a manner which is evident in other Hellenistic letters[4].  Not only that, but as James began the letter by speaking on patience and endurance thus it is only natural that he returns his readers back to endurance and patience, thus as he begins to conclude he comes back full circle[5].

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.” – James 5.7

James reminds his readers that they must have patience, until the coming of the Lord.  He begins this section by calling them to patience, the word which appears again in this verse and in eight, as well as the words “endure” and “endurance” in ten and eleven, basically he stresses to his readers to have patience[6].

After commending the readers to “be patient,” he adds “therefore,” and this is essence shows that the previous section and this are connected, i.e. James tells his readers of his warning of the rich to therefore have patience[7].  The Coming, or the return of Christ is often referred to within the New Testament[8], such as 2 Peter 1.16 “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Or 1 John 2:28: “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”

Moreover like other New Testament Epistles, such as 1 Corinthians, 2 Peter or Jude, James too in closing his letter makes reference to the endtimes[9].  Noting for example 1 Corinthians 16.22-24: “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.  My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.”  Likely James here as in these passages is referring to Christ (and not God the Father) as he reminds his readers to have patience[10].  As he writes of the return of Christ he uses the phrase, “coming” which has the meaning of “presence” and when used in “secular Greek” it gives reference for when a King would arrive[11].

Thus as James writes of the Coming of the Lord, even before he mentions “Lord,” he tunes our attention that some royal official is coming.  Thus when we get the Lord to come, we get this concept of the return of a Great King, the return of the Christ.   Moreover James saw the return of Christ at any moment, at sooner than latter and the way in which writes of the return of Christ is another indicator of the letter as an earlier work[12].  Thus Christ’s return could be at any moment, his coming was something that would happen quickly and would happen as it would with the best of Kings.  But until this Grand coming, James reminds his readers that they must have patience that they must endure until Christ returns[13].

As James commends his readers to have patience for the coming of the Lord he uses the term “brothers” once again (and will repeat the phrase in 5.9 and 5.10), showing once more the closeness he had to his readers, as opposed to the negative way in which he reacted to the rich[14].  James then turns to another image.

When James speaks of the early and late springs he shows his Jewish roots, as farmers in Israel looked toward the rains in the fall (October to November) and spring (April to May) as well as evoking the Old Testament idea of rain as a gift from Yahweh[15]. As Deuteronomy 11.14 says: “he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil.”  The image of the farmer for patience is in a sense rather natural, for after he has planted he can nothing but hope for rain, but hasn’t the clue when (if) it will come[16].  This use of a farmer as an image of patience is also found in other New Testament passages, for example 1 Corinthians 9.7 relates “Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?”

Moreover the early and late rains are all dependent upon the faithfulness of God for example Hosea 6.3, Zechariah 10.1 and thus  they reflect that in a sense a sort of “confidence” that as the rain comes from God so too will Christ Come also to deliver them[17].  Also as it is the wise farmer who waits upon the God in patience for his harvest, so too it is the wise Christian who waits in patience for the return of Christ[18].

“You also, be patient.  Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” – James 5.8

James writes here to “establish your hearts,” or better yet “strengthen.”  By telling his readers to strengthen their hearts he bring out an idiom that comes the Septuagint and refers to either gaining courage that comes from one’s trust in Yahweh (as seen in Psalms 111.8 LXX which reads: “Firm is his heart; he will never be afraid he looks on his enemies.” or a firmness of intention (as seen in Sirach 6.37: “Reflect on the statues of the Lord and attend to his commandments at all times.  He himself will strengthen your heart, and your desire for wisdom will be granted.” And also 1 Thessalonians 3.13 “so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”)[19].

In the above examples notably 1 Thessalonians and Sirach the strengthening of the heart is focused on God himself (who in Psalms 111 has the Firm heart), but here instead James calls us to strengthen our own heart.  Thus James here is calling his readers as always is calling us to focus upon ourselves and to make hearts be filled with courage and have a purpose in these times of trials[20].  Our hearts are to be active, we are be doers and so instead having a lazy faith of do nothing patience, James instead insists that our patience must be one which is active and God centered[21].  Thus though we may be in times in trials, our patience in waiting for the Lord’s return will only help us[22].

As I have already noted the way in which James speaks of the return of Christ as soon, “at hand” indicates the letter as early to many scholars it also shows many scholars that the return was supposed to be sooner than it has been now 2000 years later.  Yet while James indeed spoke of it as coming soon, he like us didn’t know the true time of the Lord’s return.  The truth of the matter is as it was soon for James its even sooner for us and thus as James insist that we have certain actions because of this soon return, we have all the more reason to have right actions[23]!  Our actions and hearts should thus be affected by the Coming of the Lord which is at hand.  In essence we are in a period that Christ’s return is always at hand, it is always soon!

“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” – James 5.9

James tells his reader to not “grumble” at each other, or perhaps better to not sigh or groan at one another.  The Greek words here, stenazein gives the idea to sigh because of a situation of distress and we get the idea that the readers are sighing at each other and doing so in a confrontational matter[24].  Moreover James is once again harking back to this statements concerning about poor speech and extends to mere grumblings at each others, even if in times of difficulties[25].

Instead of grumbling one should focus of the humility and joy that produced the peace of James chapter four, instead of grumbling and even judging we should focus producing peace[26].  James warns his readers to not judge and is probably again influenced by Jesus words in Matthew 7.1 “”Judge not, that you be not judged.” and moreover he warns his readers about this not judging for the Judge is right at the door[27]!

James has now shifts from the coming of the Lord to the coming of the Judge[28].  And as he relates to his readers that he Judge right at the door he is speaking not only to the faithful, but also the unfaithful[29].  This verse should remind one of what James had already said in 4.12 “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

But James is also most likely referring once again to the words of his brother[30].  Noting Matthew 24.33 (and Mark 13.29 which says basically the same words): “So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.” And Revelation 3.20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

By referring to this time of Judgment we see that James is trying to have his readers reflect upon their actions and behaviors and be prepared for when they open the door to the Judge[31]!  Although it seems likely that the Judge here refers to Jesus, one must be caution since as noted this verse refers also to James earlier words in 4.12 which referred to the Father[32].

“As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” – James 5.10

As he has already done James returns to looking toward Old Testament characters as examples, here he views the prophets as martyrs[33].  James much like the writer of Hebrews as 11.35-37 says “Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.  Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—” looked toward martyrs as men and women who were symbols to be followed because of their ultimate faith, even to death[34].

Certain prophets such as Jeremiah or Ezekiel we see as figures whose messages went on people with deaf ears and who faced many hardships in delivering their messages.  As well as Daniel whose was even thrown into a den of lions for his faithfulness.  Isaiah is said to have been sawed in two (which may be reflected in Hebrews)[35].  Basically the prophets lives under trials and yet they choose to serve God instead of the world.

Moreover James refers also to his brother’s words as Jesus once related in Matthew 5.10-12: “”Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  James relates to us as the Prophets endured trials so do we and therefore we ought to look toward them and try to emulate them[36].

“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.  You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” – James 5.11

Like his use of the prophets he uses this image of Job as a man of patience, to hearken his reader that during their own trials to also have the patience that Job had[37].  Here James begins to refer his readers to the traditions which had sprung up concerning Job, namely that of him as steadfast man, one who was extremely patience, something that the biblical story doesn’t present as much[38].  Like his use of the prophets he uses this image of Job, to hearken his reader that during their own trials to also have the patience that Job had[39].  In Ezekiel 14.14 we read “even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord God.” shows that Job already by Ezekiel time was thought of as a man of virtue, one which was to be emulated[40].

James seems to refer to a work known as the Testament of Job[41] which speaks specifically of Job’s patience.  For we see as Moo puts it “In this book, which presents Job as pronouncing a blessing on his children, Job proclaims that he is “fully engaged in endurance” (1:5) and encourages his children to be “patient”; for “patience is better than anything[42]

As mentioned when one looks as the Book of Job we don’t really get the idea of him as a man of patience, instead we see a man who insistent that he is being punished unfairly and he calls Yahweh to answer for his unjust sufferings.  However Job did always have his “continued hope” in Yahweh and that in truth Job patience is shown by his faith, in his constant questions and demands Job faith is shown by his being active in questioning rather in his simple silence[43].

As we know of Job’s suffering we also probably know of the end of Job’s story, namely that though Job went through a terrible trial he also received a greater reward[44].  In sense James tells us that our present problems are just a part of the story, for in the end Christ is Coming and in full glory and then our situation shall be truly good[45].

In Conclusion:

We are called to patience in whatever trials are to come, we are called to active obedience to God.  All the more so, since the Return of Christ is soon, it can happen at any point!  But we have models which we can follow, those of the prophets and that Job.  While trials will come we must realize that we cannot respond poorly, instead we must respond with how God calls us to respond, namely in patience and active faith.  Let us remember then that we have to follow God in the good time and the bad, but when we follow God in the bad times we must do so in patience and full reliance upon him.

[1] Leahy 376

[2] Johnson 311

[3] Leahy 376

[4] Hartin 780

[5] Moo 220

[6] Moo 220

[7] Johnson 312

[8] Leahy 376

[9] Hartin 780

[10] Leahy 376

[11] Moo 221

[12] Hartin 780

[13] Moo 221

[14] Johnson 312

[15] Leahy 376

[16] Richardson 219

[17] Moo 223

[18] Richardson 219

[19] Johnson 315

[20] Johnson 315

[21] Richardson 220

[22] Moo 223

[23] Moo 224

[24] Johnson 316

[25] Moo 224

[26] Ricardson 222

[27] Moo 223

[28] Leahy 376

[29] Oesterley  427

[30] Moo 225

[31] Moo 225

[32] Johnson 317

[33] Leahy 376

[34]Moo 226

[35] Johnson 318

[36] Richardson 223

[37] Hartin 782

[38] Hartin 782

[39] Hartin 782

[40] Leahy 376

[41] Moo 228

[42] Moo 228

[43] Moo 229

[44] Ricardson 226

[45] Moo 230


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