Living in the Church Family

Sunday School Lesson for August 31, 2003

Background Passage: James 5:1-20

Focal Teaching Passage: James 5:7-18

Exhortations to Patience (5:7-12)

Verses 7-11

As James brought his epistle to a conclusion, his focus was upon the display of godly wisdom through the manifestation of patient endurance. His basic exhortation was for his brethren to "be patient" until the time of "the coming of the Lord" (v. 7). As the context indicates (v. 9), the specific arena where such patience should be on display is that of personal relationships with others in the faith-community. Here, patience may be defined as, "the art of enduring someone whose conduct is incompatible with that of others and sometimes even oppressive" [Kistemaker, 164]. Thus, the word represents a form of self-control that prevents one from retaliating against another for wrongs suffered. As verse 9 suggests, it is possible, if not likely, for complaints and relational fractures to arise within the fellowship, especially when the church is experiencing difficulties. It is in this circumstance that the members desperately need the virtue of longsuffering.

In order to press his point home to his readers, James provided three illustrations of the kind of patience needed in the body:

The kind of patience called for by James should be practiced with four things in mind:

Verse 12

As a final exhortation to his bothers and sisters regarding their inter-personal relationships, James exhorted them to refrain from swearing "either by heaven or earth or with any other oath." Again, the context makes it clear that James’ restriction of oath taking does not relate to court situations or other legal matters, but to the way one responds to accusations from another believer. Tasker’s explanation is helpful:

What James is denouncing is the levity which the name of God, or some substitute for the name of God used to satisfy Pharisaic scruples, tended to be uttered when men’s minds were disordered by impatience, and self-control was abandoned [124].

It is also important to compare the words of James with those of our Lord in Matthew 5:34-37. It is apparent that James virtually quoted Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. Both passages command simplicity in speech, characterized by one’s commitment to "let your yes be yes and your no, no." Negatively, the imperative forbids exaggeration, truth twisting, and double-speak which aims to hide the real truth. Those who have been saved by the God of all truth should themselves be people of truth and honesty. If believers are not truthful, they will "fall under judgment" and their testimony for Christ will be spoiled.


Instructions About Prayer (5:13-18)

Verses 13-15

In this section James addressed the issue of prayer in the body for specific needs that might arise. In short, he called for prayer on all occasions and in all circumstances. The habit of continual intercession is "one of the most obvious features which differentiates a Christian from other people" [Tasker, 126], and when engaged in faithfully, becomes the "antidote for falling into the temptation of grumbling against another believer" [Richardson, 230].

In this section two situations are contrasted with each other, both of which require the response of fervent prayer. The one who is "suffering" in some way as well as the one who is "cheerful" should both be people of faithful and persistent supplication and humble worship—"let him sing praises" (v. 13). There are rich blessings as well as serious spiritual dangers associated with either condition, and the help of God is needed in order to bear them responsibly.

In the case of physically ill members, James supplied a pattern for prayerful action:

Verses 16-18

James’ dramatic emphasis upon prayer continues here with additional exhortations:






Major Themes for Reflection and Application


One: Hurry up and wait! Patience with others in the body of Christ, even in the face of mistreatment, is a grand virtue. How does one develop this kind patience?




Two: The blessings of endurance—In verse 11 James says that those who have practiced endurance have been "blessed." Can you list some of the blessings of endurance and patience?




Three: Confession and prayer—Think about how you can encourage your church family to conform to the model presented in verses 13-16.