“James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:1-4
James is an interesting book to organize, at least for the purpose of a cogent outline. James frequently shifts from one set of issues to another. In this way the letter bears a lot of resemblance to Proverbs and other Wisdom Literature.
Although the letter has an opening (1:1) and a body (1:2–5:20), it lacks a typical closing. The body begins with a call for the readers to remain faithful in the trials they are experiencing (1:2–18). James then offers practical guidance for living out one’s faith (1:19–3:12). In particular, James is concerned with 1. believers neglecting to care for the disadvantaged (2:1–13), 2. failing to take action toward other believers (2:14–26), and 3. not controlling the tongue (3:1–12).
Another large section of the letter (3:13–5:6) deals with wisdom in action (so living out our faith and not wisdom in action). Here, James shows us that those who profess to be wise are not to be arrogant, boastful, or selfishly ambitious, but rather pure, humble, and peaceful. Finally, James brings it back around and counsels his readers to be patient in their suffering and to rely on both God and each other (5:7–20).
So in conjunction with the first four verses of chapter one that I’ve already read, I want to read this final bookend to set the stage for this week’s message. Tomorrow we will dive into what it all means.
James 5:7-20, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.
9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.
10 As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.
12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.
14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.
19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”