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Warnings to the Rich
Summary —The Sins of Rich Men. The Judgments Coming Upon Them. Patience Under Affliction. The Examples of Job and Elijah. Healing the Sick. Effectual Prayer. Restoring Sinners.
1–6. Go to now. The same expression is used in 4:13. There it is a rebuke to those who haste to be rich; here to those who use riches wickedly. Ye rich men. James looks beyond the church of his day to be his nation and to the church of after time. Weep and howl. Because of coming judgments for your sins. 2. Your riches are corrupted. Even their riches in which they trusted are “corrupted,” or spoiled. Much of the wealth of that period was in stores of various kinds which time or improper care would destroy. Your garments are moth-eaten. The rich gathered great stores of garments, carpets, etc. See Matt. 22:11, 12. These would be liable to be eaten by moths if not used. 3. Your gold and silver are cankered. Rusted from disuse. These metals do not literally rust, but do tarnish from long disuse. The idea is that they show they have been hoarded, not used. A witness against you. The tarnish shows that you have hoarded instead of using. Shall eat your flesh. They shall punish you, as though heated by fire and eating into your flesh. This hoarded wealth will curse the possessor. Ye have heaped … last days. Instead of laying up treasure in heaven you have continued to pile up earthly treasure to the last, a matter of extreme folly. What James then thought of as “the last days,” the end of his nation, country and Jerusalem, was close at hand. 4. Behold, the hire of the laborers. These rich men are censured for two sins; viz., the improper use of wealth, and the sinful acquisition of wealth. The Bible is everywhere the friend and protector of the laborer. To keep back the hire of the laborer is denounced everywhere. See Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:14; Jer. 22:13; Mal. 3:5; Job 24:6. The cries of them. Of the defrauded laborers. God will avenge them. 5. Ye have lived in pleasure. Have spent your wealth on your own pleasures. Nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. The meaning is not entirely clear. Probably it is an allusion to the beasts which are fatted and feasted for slaughter and food. They were feasting and engaging in pleasure when the awful destruction was near. 6. Ye have condemned and killed the just. The murder of the 351Just One, Jesus, was the crowning sin of Israel which brought upon them destruction. It was the rich and influential, not the poor, who sought his death. He doth not resist you. Compare Isaiah 53:7.
7–9. Be patient, therefore, brethren. James now turns from the rich, wicked Jews, to his suffering brethren. Let them be patient. Unto the coming of the Lord. That would bring relief. The primary reference is to the relief from Jewish persecution which followed the Lord's coming in judgment on the Jewish nation. Behold, the husbandman. The tiller of the soil has to sow and wait long in patience for fruit. Be you like him. Early and latter rain. The early rain was the November showers which prepared the ground for the seed; the latter rain, the spring showers needed to bring the harvest to maturity. Compare Deut. 11:14. 8. Be ye also patient. Wait, like the husbandmen, for your harvest of joy. The coming. The relief which the Lord's coming will bring is near. See note on verse 7. 9. Grudge not. Do not bear grudges against one another. The Lord will condemn this, and the judge standeth before the door, for the “coming of the Lord is nigh.”
10, 11. Take, my brethren, the prophets. They suffered, were patient, endured to the end and secured the blessing. 11. We count them happy which endured. We believe of them that all such have had a final reward. Ye have heard of the patience of Job. The enduring patience, which refused to distrust God, is meant. The end of the Lord. The conclusion in the case of Job wrought by the Lord, and how his endurance was blessed. The blessing that came on him is a demonstration that the Lord is very pitiful, and full of tender mercy.
12, 13. Above all things, swear not. This verse is an appropriation of Matt. 5:33–37, the words of Christ. See notes there. Swearing is a besetting sin of the East unto this day. 13. Is any among you afflicted? Let him not swear, or engage in any improper use of the tongue, but let him pray. God is the Helper in such an hour. Is any merry? Let his joy be shown, not in wanton speech, but in singing praises. Prayer and thanksgiving are the appropriate expressions for each condition.
14–16. Is any sick among you. In the early church, when miraculous gifts were imparted by the laying on of apostolic hands “as a sign to unbelievers,” one of these was the gift of healing. In most early churches founded by the apostles some one of the elders would have this gift. There is no more reason for the descent of this gift to our times than of any other miraculous power. This passage, then, describes what was peculiar to the early church. The sick were anointed by the elders with oil, a symbol of the Spirit, which effected the healing, hands were laid, and prayer offered. See Mark 6:13; also Isaiah 1:6, and Luke 10:34. 15. The prayer of faith. The prayer for the sick must be offered in faith to be effectual. If he have committed sins. Often our sickness is due to sins against our body. The Lord, 352who raises the sick in answer to prayer, will forgive these. 16. Confess your faults. This verse springs from the preceding. We all need healing of our sins. Let the brother confess his faults as a demonstration of repentance and let brethren pray for each other. Repentance, confession and prayer are the conditions of the forgiveness of sins committed by church members.
17–20. Elias was a man subject, etc. The last verse has affirmed the power of the prayer of a righteous man. An example of its power is now given. Elias was a man like ourselves, yet great results followed his prayer. See 1 Kings 17:1, and following chapters. He prayed earnestly that it might not rain. No mention is made in the Old Testament of this prayer, but it is announced prophetically. He prayed, either before or after, that rain might be withheld until Israel repented. Three years and six months. See Luke 4:25. In the Old Testament the time is not exactly stated. “In the third year” the Lord spoke to Elijah about rain, but we are not informed whether the beginning of the “third year” was when rain ceased to fall, or when he went to Zarephath. It is probable that the latter is meant. 18. And he prayed again. See 1 Kings 18:42. This prayer was on Mt. Carmel after the trial which ended in the overthrow of the priests of Baal, and was followed the same day by rain. 19. If any one of you do err from the truth. If a brother is led away from the gospel. One might be led into false doctrine, or into false practice. And one convert him. Bring him back from his errors and restore him. 20. Let him know. As an inducement to engage in this work of love let him know how great a work has been done. Save a soul from death. Not physical but eternal death. Hide a multitude of sins. The sins of those forgiven are said to be covered or hidden. This passage means that all the sins of the restored sinner, though many, shall be blotted out. See Ps. 32:1.
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