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 Lesson and Discussion Questions – Be Patient for Christ’s Return
James 5:1-12 Video Bible Study
James 5:1-12 Audio Bible Study
I. Rich Oppressors will be judged (1-6)
II. Be patient and persevering (7-12)
I. Rich Oppressors will be judged (1-6)
- 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?
- When will the rich person’s riches rot and their clothes become moth-eaten?
- In what way the the rust or decaying of riches be a witness against the rich person?
- How did the rich people in this passage treat their workers?
- What does the Bible say about how rich people such as employers should treat those under them?
- Besides mistreating their workers, what other crimes does this group of rich people commit?
- What’s the matter with living a luxurious life?
- If you are rich, do you think it is OK to live luxuriously?
1 Timothy 6:6-10 – But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Ephesians 6:9 – Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
Matthew 6:19-21 – Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Proverbs 23:4-5 – Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
Proverbs 28:11 – The rich are wise in their own eyes; one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are.
Leviticus 19:13 – Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Is being rich sin? – We know from other Scriptures that being rich in itself is not a sin. Sometimes God chooses to bless certain believers with great riches. Abraham, Job, Solomon and many others were wealthy. Money is neither good nor evil. It is neutral and can be used for good or evil. However, the desire to get rich will ensnare those who have it. Loving money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
We will see later in the passage that desire for more money can lead one into all kinds of sins including exploiting one’s employees and living a life of luxury. James describes the rich as 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, satisfying their own passions (James 4:3).
2. So what is the right view of money? – 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. Loving money is sin.
The question is, do you love money? How can you tell if you love money?
Here are a few tests you can use to discern if you love money too much.
- If you find yourself often thinking about money and how to make more money.
- If a major topic of conversation between you and your friends and family is how to make more money or plans on spending money.
- If you often compare how much you make or the amount of possessions you have with others either in pride because you are doing well or in envy because you aren’t.
- If you are stingy and find it hard to give to God and other people.
- If you love spending money and find a thrill in buying expensive items because you can.
- 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 in James 4:13-17 about boasting about tomorrow, 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 lust for money, they were going to face judgment from God in the form of “miseries.”
3. Money is temporary (2-3) – It is not lasting. There are no earthly materials or riches that will not fade away eventually.
Everything you see is temporary. It cannot be taken with you into heaven. If gold and silver can rust and be stolen and fade away, just think of paper money these days. Central governments around the world are printing money and going into record debt. Fiat currency has a one hundred percent fail rate if given a long enough timeline. History tells us that money can lose its value very quickly.
In 1914, about four German Marks equaled one US Dollar. In 1923, 1 trillion Marks equaled one US Dollar. That is not a typo. 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, 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. What use would US Dollars or British Pounds be in heaven anyway?
James says in verse 3 that “their corrosion will be evidence against you.”
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.
Proverbs 30:8-9 – Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the bread that is my portion. Otherwise, I may have too much and deny You, saying, “Who is the LORD?” Or I may become poor and steal, profaning the name of my God.
Riches tend to make people self-reliant and prideful. If God gives them to you, thank Him and then generously use them for His service.
4. The sin of the rich – These people were mistreating their employees. They pushed them extremely hard, but did not give them a fair salary.
They apparently promised certain wages or bonuses, but didn’t deliver, unfairly withholding their wages. Making themselves rich on the backs of the overworked, they cared not about the suffering they inflicted on their employees.
This problem exists all over the world. Many bosses care nothing about their employees. They make big promises and don’t deliver. Sometimes they refuse to pay what has been fairly earned. The good news is that God knows and God will judge them for their greed.
Application: Christian bosses should take note. You too have a master in heaven and He is watching how you treat your employees. Treat them how you would like to be treated in their position. What is something which Christian employers should do to show kindness to their employees?
5. The sin of 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 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 himself for owning several mansions when there are homeless people in the world?
Sadly, there are many wolves in sheep clothes who exploit the flock to satisfy their own earthly desires. Some of these have multiple private jets. I have read of one who has a fleet of luxury cars. A lavish lifestyle does not give glory to God. Instead it is a bad testimony and repels people from the church.
I believe God makes some Christians rich and successful businessmen so that they will generously help support His work. Rich Christians should use their riches for God’s kingdom and not their own.
Verse 5 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 loves money.
Application: Spend some time to evaluate your lifestyle and your regular giving. Is there anything that needs to be adjusted? Do you need to cut out a luxury so that you can give more?
6. You have condemned and murdered the righteous – James mentions this as the last indictment of those who love money. It is killing the righteous to preserve one’s own way of life. Maybe it is a result of overwork or other factors. Certainly slavery is one example of this happening in history. Many slaves were killed to sustain the lifestyle of their captors.
Solomon’s words that “there is nothing new under the sun” are true. History repeats itself again and again. The rich either directly or indirectly kill the poor to become richer. Some irresponsible corporations do the same thing today by cutting corners.
DuPont knowingly poisoned thousands of people with Teflon in order to make a profit. Some estimates say that 99.7% of Americans have been poisoned with Teflon. They knew it was harmful and kept doing it because it was highly profitable.
Every rich person who has exploited the poor to enrich themselves will one day face judgment from God.
Application questions: 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? How can you guard against materialism? What other Biblical passages talk about money? Why do you think the Bible talks about money so much?
II. Be patient and persevering (7-12)
- Be patient towards what? Until when?
- 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?
- 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?
- Those who endure what will be blessed?
- What is the other choice besides enduring?
- Why do you think James mentions swearing here?
- What relationship does this have with the prior verses?
1 Thessalonians 5:14 – And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
Romans 8:18 – I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
2 Timothy 4:6-8 – For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Hebrews 10:25 – Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Be patient – In verse 7 James gives the application to the poor people for the first part of this chapter. They are to be patient.
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?
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.
2. Jesus is coming again – At that time He will judge all of those who exploit others and He will reward all of this who put their trust in Him and respond to these trials in the right way. He says to “strengthen your hearts for the coming of the Lord.”
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.
From God’s perspective 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. The entire church age is the last time period before Jesus’ return. It was already near two thousand years ago. And it is certainly nearer today!
3. Do not grumble against one another – 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. To many eschatology is a controversial topic with no bearing on day to day life. But this passage teaches us that is not true at all. Jesus’ second coming motivates us to be patient and respond to trials with trust and perseverance. It has a direct impact on how we live.
Imagine kids are left at home by themselves and they know their parents will come through the door at any moment. Will this not affect what they do? Sure, they will want to keep everything straight and tidy and be on their best 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 thirteen days may look very different from the last. It is possible that they would be a lot looser until the last day knowing that their parents weren’t about to return. On the last day they would get ready for their parents’ return.
But we do not know the day or the hour. So we need to be ready all the time.
4. Because Jesus’ coming is near, we should also endure (11) – James says “we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.” The one who endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13). The opposite of enduring is giving up. We already learned about the test of trials in chapter 1. 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.
5. Do not swear (12) – James was discussing the coming judgment of the Lord and takes the opportunity to mention again one of his favorite topics, 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 hold us accountable for every word we speak.
Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.”
The Jews had a habit of swearing deceitfully. They literally had an entire system set up where one kind of oath didn’t have to be kept and another did. For example, they might swear by the food on the altar or by the stones of the temple, but these oaths may not be binding. To the uninformed (likely foreigners), they would naturally believe the oath and act accordingly. Later it would be broken to their hurt and the one who gave it could just say, “didn’t count.” This type of oaths is similar to the modern habit of crossing your fingers.
Contracts grow ever more complicated. And unfortunately, the unscrupulous use overly long and complicated contracts to trick people and leave loopholes for breaking their word. Always read the contract before signing your name!
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, and even if no one else is forcing you to keep it. If you make an agreement, but later find out it is unfavorable to you, do it anyway. You gave your word.
That means we need to be careful before we make promises! This applies to even simple areas of life. When negotiating, don’t say the highest you will pay is twenty dollars if you plan to pay up to twenty-five dollars. That is lying. Think before you speak and remember to consider God’s will before making a promise. As we learned in James 4:15, “you ought to say ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'”
Application: What is one way you can obey what you learned in this passage to your life this week?
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