about Tomorrow (4:13-17)
Rich Oppressors (5:1-6)
for the Coming of the Lord (5:7-12)
“You do not know
what will happen tomorrow,” vapor, if the Lord wills, boast, arrogance,
knows…and does not do, rich, weep and howl, last days, fraud, pleasure and
luxury, condemned/murdered the just, patient, coming of the Lord, establish
your hearts, do not grumble, suffering, Judge/judgment, swear.
The first paragraph has to do
with the correct attitude about the immediate future. The second paragraph warns
of the judgment in the near future. The last paragraph calls for patience until
the coming of the Lord, which is also in the near future.
Whereas the tone of the second
paragraph is denunciatory, the tone of the third paragraph is one of encouragement.
James is not warning against
planning or profit-making, but against arrogance and boasting (16). Such
arrogance and boasting come from the presumption that we are in command of our
Our future is uncertain. Our
lives are short.
Behind the words “if the Lord
wills” is a heart of dependence on God’s sustenance and respect for His will.
In the preceding verses, James
has just explained why arrogant boasting is evil and taught us what is right
and good (i.e. to honor God’s sovereign will). In this verse, James extends the
teaching on good and evil to include a broader principle—failing to do the good
is in itself evil.
God’s law not only forbids us
to do evil but also commands us to do good. When we
fail to do what is good, we become a transgressor of God’s law. Furthermore,
withholding good deeds can become a harm to others
(e.g. Lk 6:6-10).
Accumulation of wealth (2,3), withholding wages by fraud (4), living in pleasure and
luxury (5), condemning and murdering the just (6).
They have no fear of God and
love pleasure rather than God.
They will be in misery because
God will soon judge them.
According to verses 2 and 3,
the rich keep accumulating wealth that is never put to good use. That is why
their valuables were corrupted, garments moth-eaten, and gold and silver
corroded. The hoarding of wealth contributes to economic injustice in society.
This sin is especially evil because it is done in the last days. In other
words, these rich people disregard the impending judgment of God and indulge in
The day of slaughter is the
time when the owner slaughters his fattened cattle. James uses this language to
depict how the rich are satisfying their hearts with pleasure and completely
unaware of their impending destruction.
We may infer from this verse
that the believers were probably victims of social oppression.
Even if they were not suffering from oppression per se, the exhortation may be
an encouragement for believers to wait patiently for the Lord’s coming, knowing
that God’s judgment will soon take place.
Establishing our hearts means
strengthening our faith in the Lord and not letting our conviction be shaken by
any circumstance (cf. 1Cor 15:58). This inner strength comes from the sure hope
of the Lord’s coming.
“Grumbling,” which literally
means “groaning,” refers to words or expressions that show the inner bitterness
over the offenses of others. Thus when James admonishes us not to grumble
against each other, he is teaching us to stop complaining and bear with one
another until the coming of the Judge.
The perseverance of Job. The
Lord is very compassionate and merciful (cf. Job 42:10-17).
Perhaps some people used oaths
as an expedient way to gain credibility. Therefore, the point of the command is
to speak the truth to one another without invoking the name of God or relying
on other forms of oath.