A key part of the Christian doctrine is the Second Coming of Jesus. When is up for debate and honestly, anyone who puts a date on it is not to be trusted. How are we to wait for Jesus’ return?
You rich people, listen! Cry and be very sad because much trouble will come to you. Your riches will rot and be worth nothing. Your clothes will be eaten by moths. Your gold and silver will rust, and that rust will be a proof that you were wrong. That rust will eat your bodies like fire. You saved your treasure in the last days. People worked in your fields, but you did not pay them. They are crying out against you. They harvested your crops. Now the Lord All-Powerful has heard their cries.
Your life on earth was full of rich living. You pleased yourselves with everything you wanted. You made yourselves fat, like an animal ready for the day of slaughter. You showed no mercy to good people. They were not against you, but you killed them.
Wow, this is harsh. Who are these rich people that James is yelling at? It’s like he’s reading a list of charges.
What does “rich” mean here? The Amplified Bible defines the rich as those who lack true faith and hoard and misuse their resources.
It would be really easy to think about other people who fit that definition. Our question should be, “Am I guilty of any of this?”
- Do I hoard my money and things, using it for only want I want?
- Do I rely only on myself and not God to provide?
- Do I live open-handed, using money as a tool to help others?
Jesus has some things to say to these people:
“But how bad it will be for you rich people because you had your easy life.” Luke 6:24
What are we to do with our money and things? How are we to live? Jesus has something to say about that, too:
“Don’t save treasures for yourselves here on earth. Moths and rust will destroy them. And thieves can break into your house and steal them. Instead, save your treasures in heaven, where they cannot be destroyed by moths or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them.” Matthew 6:19-20
Focus on eternity. Live open-handed. What we have here isn’t ours–it’s given to us by God.
Now if you have ever paid someone for a service, how should you do it? The instructions for that are way back in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
“You must not cheat or rob your neighbor. You must not hold a hired worker’s salary overnight until morning.” Leviticus 19:13
“Give him his pay every day before sunset, because he is poor and depends on the money. If you don’t pay him, he will complain against you to the Lord, and you will be guilty of sin.” Deuteronomy 24:15
Brothers and sisters, be patient; the Lord will come. So be patient until that time. Look at the farmers. They have to be patient. They have to wait for their valuable crop to grow and produce a harvest. They wait patiently for the first rain and the last rain. You must be patient too. Never stop hoping. The Lord is coming soon.
Now James is talking to another group, or the entire church, telling us to be patient. What are we waiting on?
Jesus to return.
“Now, brothers and sisters, we don’t need to write to you about times and dates. You know very well that the day when the Lord comes again will be a surprise, like a thief who comes at night.” 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2
We are not known for our patience. We live in a society of instant gratification, we want things now. Who’s old enough to remember dial-up internet?
It took minutes for a web page to load on a good day. Now 10 seconds is to slow.
James is describing a long patience, like a farmer’s patience. Have you ever grown any plants? You plant the seed in the dirt, water it, and wait. Unless you’re like me and drown it.
The seed is there, under the dirt, growing, but we can’t see it. We know the sprout is coming but not exactly when…
That’s what it means to wait on the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, don’t complain against each other. If you don’t stop complaining, you will be judged guilty. And the Judge is ready to come!
Complaining. Judging. We’ve looked at this before. Remember. “Don’t judge others, and God will not judge you. If you judge others, you will be judged the same way you judge them. God will treat you the same way you treat others.” Matthew 7:1-2
I have to wonder, and this is a question we should ask ourselves, “Am I doing something I would be ashamed of if Jesus came back right now?”
He already knows, he’s God. But there is something to getting caught that makes it worse. If you ever caught your kids, students, or employees messing up, you know how they act. Shocked, trying to hide whatever they’re doing.
Honestly, we all have been caught doing wrong ourselves and try to cover it up, knowing we are wrong.
Brothers and sisters, follow the example of the prophets who spoke for the Lord. They suffered many bad things, but they were patient. And we say that those who accepted their troubles with patience now have God’s blessing. You have heard about Job’s patience. You know that after all his troubles, the Lord helped him. This shows that the Lord is full of mercy and is kind.
We will suffer, that’s a promise. This entire book has been about enduring this world patiently. As Followers of Jesus, we will be rewarded for this patient endurance:
“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way , they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:12
Remember Job from the Bible? He’s the ultimate example of being patient in suffering. He lost his home, children, health, and money. But he would not turn away from God, even after his wife told him he should ‘curse God and die’.
In the end, this is what Job got for his patience:
“Job prayed for his friends, and the Lord made Job successful again. The Lord gave him twice as much as he had before.” Job 42:10
That’s why we endure, because God is full of compassion and mercy.
My brothers and sisters, it is very important that you not use an oath when you make a promise. Don’t use the name of heaven, earth, or anything else to prove what you say. When you mean yes, say only “yes.” When you mean no, say only “no.” Do this so that you will not be judged guilty.
Does this look familiar? It should, James is quoting his half-brother Jesus, “But I tell you, when you make a promise, don’t try to make it stronger with a vow. Don’t make a vow using the name of heaven, because heaven is God’s throne. Don’t make a vow using the name of the earth, because the earth belongs to him. Don’t make a vow using the name of Jerusalem, because it also belongs to him, the great King. And don’t even say that your own head is proof that you will keep your promise. You cannot make one hair on your head white or black. Say only ‘yes’ if you mean ‘yes,’ and say only ‘no’ if you mean ‘no.’ If you say more than that, it is from the Evil One.” Matthew 5:34-37
We have far less control than we would like to admit. We shouldn’t even have to swear, as Christ-Followers we should have such integrity that our yes and no is as good as done, as binding as a written contract. That’s how trustworthy we are to be.
This passage is telling us the Lord is coming. Jesus knows what is happening and he will make it right. The corrupt need to get right with him before he arrives and the sufferers need to be patient.
The Day of the Lord’s return is a hope, a reason to be patient. Without it, there’s little motivation to be patient and endure.
The Takeaway: Be ready for the Lord’s Coming, act right because Jesus is at the door.