If we don’t do the spiritual math by factoring in eternal blessings for obedience to our Lord in this brief life then costly, faithful obedience can be very difficult to understand and carry out. This is a constant theme in Scripture, i.e., why do the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer (see Psalm 73 and 37), and one of the most inspiring examples of costly, faithful obedience is Moses: “It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward (in heaven).” (Hebrews 11:24-26) Keep this in mind as we seek to grasp what James and the Holy Spirit want to say to us about unjust suffering.
“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! 4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (Hosts). 5 You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.” These strong words of judgment are addressed to unbelievers (see contrast to verses 7, 9, and 11 below where he begins to address believers) to warn them of coming judgment (and hopefully lead them to repentance and salvation) and to encourage the believers that one day (soon, in God’s view of time) every wrong will be made right. Hence the exhortation to be patient with unjust people (v.7- Gr. Makrothymeō – to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others) and to endure (v.11- Gr. hypomenō – to persevere under misfortunes and trials, to hold fast to one’s faith in Christ* ) and thus be obedient to the end as seen in James’ exhortation in verses 7-11. (*http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon. cfm?strongs=G5=G5278&t=KJV)
7 “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious (highly valued) produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.” The implication here is that the farmer sows in faith (believing for a good harvest) but knowing he is dependent upon the weather (which he cannot control) and time (if he pulls the seed or plant up too soon it will ruin the crop). Likewise, we obey in faith (believing God will reward us) and yet we have trials and injustices which we cannot control (so we must remain dependent upon the Lord) and if we lose our patience with God and disobey we ruin our “harvest of righteousness” which He intends for our good and eternal rewards. (See Hebrews 12:5-11) “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:9)
8 “You too be patient; strengthen (steadfastly set) 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.” [“The idea is it’s right on the edge, it’s just about to happen. This is what we call the doctrine of imminency; that the return of Christ is the next event and he could come at any moment. Only one thing has to happen and that’s the trump of God and the voice of the archangel (1 Thess. 4:16) and when that happens, He’s here. Jesus could come for His church (the rapture) any moment. He’s at hand.” http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/59-31/how-to-face-trials-patiently] This is both comforting and a warning. It is comforting knowing that unjust suffering will end and it warns us not to lose our patience and wrong others for in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15:52) we as believers could be standing at the judgment seat of Christ.
10 “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” Most of God’s prophets were killed and/or greatly ridiculed and treated unjustly. Although we may not be called to be a prophet like they were, we are all called to speak up for the Lord in our sphere of relationships. On the one hand we are not to be mean-spirited and judgmental but on the other hand we are to speak God’s truth even if it makes us unpopular with our family and friends. Jesus’ life was filled with conflicts with His own family, His disciples, the crowds, and the religious leaders because He spoke the truth, which ultimately cost Him His life. If we fit in with the world system which denies God or redefines God to meet their agenda (same-sex marriage, abortion, etc.) it may be because we had rather fit in than lovingly but boldly speak God’s truth. 10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12) Notice we rejoice now in faith for our rewards in heaven later. That is the spiritual math I spoke of in the first sentence above.
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.” [“While patience is willing to rest in a larger plan, perseverance continues to search for closure, knowing that is found ultimately in the justice of God. Many things Job said showed his impatience (Job 3:1, 26; 13:3–4; 16:1–3; 21:4) but yet he persevered to the end.” – Living What You Believe – Ken Boa and William Kruidenier] Job’s ultimate statement of perseverance is found in Job 19:25–27 “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;27 I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Paul’s exhortation to his disciple Timothy is a needed word for us today as we see things go from “bad to worse”. 10 “Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:10-13) [“God does not promise us deliverance from persecution but deliverance through it. Persecution is one of the means God uses to develop our capacity to reign with Him in His kingdom (2 Tim 2:12; Matt. 5:10–12; Rev. 2:10).” Radmacher, Earl D. ; Allen, Ronald Barclay ; House, H. Wayne: Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary. Nashville : T. Nelson Publishers, 1999, S. 2 Tim. 3:12]
Until He comes again,
Len and Kristen