James 5:1-12

These small group studies of James contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

James 5:1-12 Inductive Bible Study

Outline:

I. Rich Oppressors will be judged (1-6)
A. The evil rich will be punished (1)
B. Your riches will disappear (2-3)
C. The mistreatment of the poor incurs God’s wrath (4)
D. The wanton and loose living incurs God’s wrath (5)
E. The mistreatment of the righteous man incurs God’s wrath (6)
II. Be patient and persevering (7-12)
A. Be patient like a farmer for the coming of the Lord (7-8)
B. Do not complain against each other (9)
C. Those who endure will be blessed (10-11)
D. Do not swear (12)

Questions:

I.
A.
What is the matter with being rich? What position does the Bible teach we should take on money? Why would the rich person be subject to miseries? Don’t rich people normally have fewer miseries than average?
B.
When will the rich person’s riches rot and their clothes become moth-eaten? What other verses in the Bible give a similar picture? In what way the the rust or decaying of riches be a witness against the rich person?
C.
How did the rich people in this passage treat their workers? What does the Bible say about how rich people, employers, masters, should treat those under them?
Besides mistreating their workers, what other crimes does this group of rich people commit?
D.
What’s the matter with living a luxurious life? If you are rich, do you think it is OK to live luxuriously? What kind of things would a person live luxuriously do?

II.
A.
Be patient towards what? Until when? What does the context tell us?
What example does James give?
How can we strengthen our hearts?
What does it mean that the coming of the Lord is “near”? This was written almost two thousand years ago so how could it have been “near” at that time?
B. Does the doctrine of Jesus’ second coming and the imminency of his return have any affect on our daily lives? Knowing that Jesus is coming back soon, how should we treat others?
C. Those who endure what will be blessed? What is the other choice besides enduring? Any other similar passages in James?
D. Why do you think James mentions swearing here? What relationship does this have with the prior verses (1. Speech is one of his tests for the character of a person. 2. The judgment is coming so we need to watch what we say and do.)

Cross-references:

I.
1 Timothy 6:6-10 – Do not love money. Money is the root of all kinds of evil. (Like what?)
1 Timothy 6:17-19 – Instructions to the rich.
Matthew 6:19-21,24 – Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.
Pro 23:4-5 – Do not weary yourself to gain wealth.
Proverbs 28:11 – The rich man is wise in his own eyes.
Leviticus 19:13 – Instructions on paying a worker.
Deuteronomy 24:14-15 – Instructions on paying a worker.
II.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 – Be patient with everyone.
Romans 8:18 – The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us.
2 Timothy 4:6-8 – There is laid for Paul, and all those who love His appearing, a crown of righteousness.
Near – Romans 13:12, Heb 10:25, 1 Peter 4:7, 2 Peter 3:1-10.

Teaching Points:

1. We know from other Scriptures that being rich in itself is not a sin. Sometimes God chooses to bless certain believers with great riches. Can you think of anyone in the Bible who was very rich (Abraham, Job, Solomon)? We can see from verses 4-6 that these riches led them into various sins, which we will discuss later. Basically they were greedy and selfish, loving their money and mistreating others. This is the problem. They were selfish to get more money and once they had it, they used it on themselves instead of to glorify God, just as in James 4:3. So what is the right view of money and materials? Firstly, money is not evil, but neither then is it the key to happiness. It is neutral. There is a right way and a wrong way to get money. There is a right way and a wrong way to use money. The question is, do we love money? How to tell if we love money?

1. If you find yourself often thinking about money and how to make more money.
2. If a major topic of conversation between you and your friends and family is how to make more money or plans to buy a house or other materials.
3. If you often compare how much you make or the amount of materials you have to others either in pride because you are doing well or in envy because you aren’t.
4. If you are stingy and find it hard to give to God and other people.
5. If you love spending money and find a thrill in buying expensive items because you can.
6. If at work, you are scheming for ways to get a promotion or always thinking about changing to a better paying job.

The right view is that money is only a tool. It is a tool to provide for ourselves and our families. Nothing more. All that we have is given to us by God. Whatever we have, we should be content with. It is not sin to have a plan for the future, either our career or a financial plan or a retirement plan. But as we learned last week, it is sin if God is not in the equation. It is sin if money itself is our goal. The rich people in verse one allowed the love of money to take over their lives and lead them into all kinds of evil. Because of their sins, they would be judged, and for what?

2-3. James highlights the temporary nature of money. It is not lasting. There are not earthly materials or riches that will not fade away eventually. If gold and silver can rust and be stolen and fade away, imagine paper money these days. In the recent economic meltdown, literally trillions of US dollars worth of capital just melted away. In 1914, about 4 German marks equaled one US dollar. In 1923, 1 trillion marks equaled one US dollar. People had to wheelbarrow around their money to buy bread and some burned it as fuel because it was so worthless. We’ve all heard stories of people who lost their fortunes by theft, or bad investments, or fire, etc. Even if you manage to get through your whole life and hold on to your money, you can’t take it with you. This treasure will not pass God’s test. Even their rust (decaying, temporary nature) will be a testimony declaring the stupidity of those who place their hope in money. You say, yeah, I can’t take it to heaven, but I will sure enjoy it on earth! But actually rich people are not really more satisfied or happy than poor people. They always want more and their riches leads them into many kinds of sins that they wouldn’t be exposed to or tempted by if they remained poor or average.

4. What sin are the rich committing here? These people were mistreating their employees. They worked them extremely hard, but did not give them a fair salary. They apparently promised certain wages or bonuses, but didn’t deliver. They unfairly withheld wages. They were making themselves rich on the backs of the overworked and had no desire to treat the people under them fairly. Does this sound familiar? As I see it, this is the exact situation of what is going on in China. Many bosses care nothing about their employees. They make big promises and don’t deliver. They withhold what has been fairly earned. Anyone have this experience? The good news is that God knows and God will judge them for their greed.

5. The next sin is luxurious living and wanton pleasure. What is luxurious living? Basically it is living a lavish lifestyle FAR higher than what is needed. It is indulging oneself in the lust of the flesh and the lust of life by buying everything possible to satisfy one’s wants. What is the matter with living like this if you have the money? The problem is that God has given the money to you and you are a steward of it. Using it like that is a waste. How can a person excuse using dishes that costs thousands of dollars when there are starving people in the world? How can a person excuse themself for owning several mansions when there are homeless people in the world? I believe God makes some Christian rich and successful businessmen to help support His work. Rich Christians should use their riches for God’s kingdom and not their own. The verse says that the day of slaughter is coming. God is going to judge this kind of person, and not only the rich person that loves money, but anyone who love money.

6.Not sure exactly what this is referring to, but it is the last step of the love of money. It is killing the righteous to preserve one’s own way of life. Maybe it is a result of overwork or other factors. This has happened many times in history where the rich either directly or indirectly kill the poor the become richer. Some irresponsible corporations do the same thing today by cutting corners.

Summary: If you are rich, what kind of lifestyle should you live and how should use your money? If you are poor, what should your attitude be towards money? In China, people are becoming more and more materialistic. How should our lives be different than those who are materialistic? What other Biblical passages talk about money? Why do you think the Bible talks about money so much?

II.
7. Maybe we are holding the short side of the stick, meaning we are being mistreated or overworked. What should we do? Go on strike? Demand justice is done? Complain about our bosses? I tell you that poor or average people can love money just as much as the rich person. We are not to take vengeance ourselves. We are not responsible for their conduct, but we are responsible for our own. We are to be patient with these people and the injustices in the world as we wait for the Lord’s return. The illustration of the farmer tells us that this “waiting” period of time is temporary.

8. Jesus is coming again. At that time He will judge the rich and He will reward us if we have lived the right way and responded the right way to these kinds of situations. How can we strengthen our hearts? We can turn to His Word. We can be encouraged in the fact that true treasure is stored up in heaven, that true blessing comes from God, that true happiness comes from our relationship to Him, that  He loves us, and that He will hold all of these people accountable for their actions. In God’s eyes, Jesus’ second coming is near. The word often used in theology is imminent. That means that it could happen at anytime. The coming is certain. In comparison with eternity, it is near. Nothing needs to happen first. Read cross-references.

9. All of these injustices done to believers by the rich, might lead us to complain and grumble. James warns against this using two-fold logic. The Judge is standing at the door, meaning He will hold these people accountable for their sins, and He will also judge us if we respond in the wrong way. It should be an encouragement to us that the Judge is coming soon, but this is only true if we are doing what is right. Some people think that Jesus’ second coming is an irrelevant doctrine, something in the distant future with no relationship to today, but this passage teaches us that is not true at all. It has a direct impact in how we live. Imagine kids are left at home by themselves and they know their parents will come through the door at any second in a flash. Will this not affect what they do? Sure, they will want to keep everything straight and tidy and be on the best of behavior knowing that their parents may return at any time. But imagine if they knew their parents wouldn’t return for two weeks. Then how would they act? The first 13 days they would probably be out of control, not clean anything, fight, argue, etc. Only the last day they would get ready for their parents’ return (I actually read a story of a family  exactly like this). Jesus’ second coming reminds us we need to be ready all the time. Also it enables us to be patient when suffering at the hands of others. And it reminds us that judgment is coming for the wicked; we don’t need to take vengeance ourselves.

10-11. Because Jesus’ coming is near, we should also endure. The one who endures to the end will be saved. The opposite of enduring is giving up. We already learned about the test of trials earlier in the book. The concept here is similar. The good news for us is that no matter what difficulty we are in the middle of, God loves us. He is compassionate and merciful and has good plans for us.

12. James was discussing the coming judgment of the Lord and takes the opportunity to mention again one of his pet peeves, speech. He reminds his readers that all of our speech will be judged by God. Therefore we must be careful not to swear. James has taught throughout the book that speech is a window to the heart, a test of our true character. As such, we should know that God is always listening and will definitely judge us for our speech. The Jews had a habit of swearing deceitfully. They literally had an entire system set up where one kind of swearing didn’t have to be kept and another did. For example, they might swear by the food on the alter or by the stones of the temple when these were not binding. According to Mac, only swearing by the name of the Lord was binding. Our yes should be yes and our no should be no. That means we don’t need to have different levels of promises. Anytime we say we will do something, we should do it even if it hurts. That means we need to be careful before we make promises. This applies to even simple areas of life. Don’t tell the clerk the highest you will pay is 20 yuan if you plan to pay up to 25 yuan. That is lying. Think before we speak and remember to include God in our promises. In other words, don’t promise to do something if we haven’t first considered if God would want us to do it.

Study James 5:13-20

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