James 5:7–10 – Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10 As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Summary – James calls the faithful to be patient in enduring suffering until the Judge comes. This judge is “standing at the doors.” When will judgment be? This strong text condemns the wicked, greedy, and unjust rich. It refers to the “coming” (parousia) of the Lord and the judgment. There are two excellent reasons to think this is not the Last Judgment, but is judgment “coming” of Jesus on apostate Jerusalem in 70 AD: a) “Near” [eggiken] or “at hand” (5:8), when referring temporal events, means the event is near in time. For example: John referring to the imminence of Jesus’ kingdom (Mt 3:2, see also, 21:1, and 26:46) and Luke 21:20 -“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.” Jesus taught clearly that Jerusalem will be judged in the “days of vengeance” before “this generation passes away” (Lk 21, Matt. 24:15). b) James refers specifically to those who “have condemned” and “murdered the Just [One] [ton dikaion]” (James 5:6). Other NT texts refer to Jesus with the very same words (Acts 7:52, 22:14, 1 Pt 3:18, 1 Jn 2:1). The Just One “does not resist you.” This is a rather clear echo of Jesus’ trial in which He was condemned (katadikazo) (Mk 14:60-64). Why will judgment be? James highlights three areas relating to this judgment. a) Corrupt living prepares one for judgment (1-3). The “rich” in Jerusalem tended to be those who robbed the poor, were traitors to Israel (tax-collectors), or the selfish who did not share with the needy. Like impurities burned away, so will the wicked. b) Fraudulent living prepares one for judgment (4-6). Injustices in labor demonstrate wickedness. So unjust payment for labor is one clear example. Murdering “the Just One” (ton dikaion) is the culmination of wickedness.
b) On the other hand, righteous living also prepares one (in the best sense) for judgment (7-9). Sowing righteousness brings the fruit of glory and vindication over enemies.
Insight – Believers must not grumble toward other brethren, but love one another. How do you treat other brethren? Even though the basic setting/fulfillment here is in the past, just as they did, we must let the realities of mercy and judgment must drive us toward love for one another. We all face a judgment before the Lord, which may take place at a time when we do not expect it. Jesus may not come soon, but you may go soon to Him.
Questions For Little Saints
1) What judgment event does James address? The judgment on Jerusalem in 70 AD which demonstrated that Christ now reigns from heaven.
2) Is there any other judgment? Yes. There is a Last Judgment when each of us will give account for our lives.
3) What sins does James condemn (5:1-9)? James condemns greediness, unfairness (injustice), grumbling, and murder, especially the murder of the Just One, Jesus.
4) What must believers do to prepare for judgment? Love Jesus and be kind to others, especially believers, knowing that we have been shown mercy.
Discussion – How can we show our faithfulness to Christ in patience and endurance during this Advent season?
Prayer – (BCP on the Reign of Christ) Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.