For Example... - James 5
As we finish our series on James, the final chapter of this book that challengingly paints a picture of what an appropriate response to the gospel looks like. Aside from everything else I can encourage you to keep coming back to James every so often in your Christian journey as the challenges in it are appropriate and refreshing at each and every stage of life.
In the final chapter, James concludes by giving us three examples. One to avoid and then two examples to follow.
The first example, and the one we need to be wary of becoming, is a group who James simply labels as ‘rich people’ (verse 1). James is writing to people with an ungodly attitude to money. Clearly they had wealth, but they were not recognising what it meant to be good stewards of that money and were neglecting their responsibility to those whom were under their authority.
“Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” (James 5:4)
Some of us, including me, might be tempted to read this and say well I don’t have much money, nobody works for me so this doesn’t apply to me! However, that isn’t strictly true. You may be aware that if you earn minimum wage in this country, working 35 hours a week (£12,831 pa) you are in the richest 9.5% globally. More than that, whether we are aware of it or not, we do have responsibility and authority over workers. As consumers, we are partially responsible for employing those we buy from. Our shopping choices matter. For example, a godly attitude to money will include doing our best to purchase ethically produced clothing. It is not always easy and might mean we have to shop in charity shops from time to time, but it helps to be informed. This website is a great starting point: http://www.thegoodshoppingguide.com/fashion-retailers/
Our next example is equally challenging, but it is an example to follow rather than avoid and it comes from Job.
In verse 11 we read “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
From its very beginning the church faced opposition and persecution, the first recipients of James’ letter would know very well that to be a Christian was not easy. James’ use of Job as an example is an obvious but poignant one. Believers throughout the centuries have taken comfort from Job’s story and if you are struggling then you can too. After enduring the most immense suffering and anguish, Job continues to look to God. In spite of everything his circumstances and friends were saying, Job knew where true salvation was to be found and if we follow his example we will find ourselves joining him in saying:
“I will question you, and you shall answer me. My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:4)
Our final example comes from Elijah and it is to do with his incredible devotion to God in prayer. No matter what situations we are in, joy or pain, James encourages us to turn to God. Elijah was a man of such faith and prayer that when he prayed the rains stopped and there was a famine (read the story in 1 Kings 17). Later he comes across a widow whose young son has died, and after Elijah gives himself in prayer and sees the boy healed and restored.
And yet James describes Elijah as a normal human being, even as we are (James 5:17). You only have to read Elijah’s struggles in 1 Kings 19 to find that he was by no means super human. Therefore we all have it in us to turn to prayer in all things. What would it look like for you to be more devoted to God? Undoubtedly it would start with prayer, so I would encourage you as we finish this book of James to stop and pray to God. Maybe to praise him for the things in life you enjoy, or if life is tough at the moment, turn to him in prayer.
If you’re are interested in reading more, take a look at these articles on wealth, suffering and prayer: