22 November 2013

James 5:7-12

“Be patient” (vv. 7, 8)


James is writing for an audience who were expecting Jesus' return at any moment. They had seen or heard about both Jesus' life, and the day of Pentecost, as recent occurrences. It's no wonder that they were expecting something to happen soon, and James' analogy of the farmer waiting for rain fits well for those readers. But 2,000 years later, we can be forgiven for wondering if all this waiting isn't a bit unnecessary. After all, the farmer doesn't know exactly when rain will fall, but science, geography and past experience can confirm it for them. Our waiting has not only become a vague thought that it might happen, but a realisation that (because the waiting will probably be fruitless) we might be forgiven for not really considering Christ's return a imminent possibility.

But is this a dangerous thing to acknowledge? Does it make us complacent in our actions and preparations? Well, maybe it does, but there are added benefits too. These early Christians who have read James' words will certainly factor in a Second Coming into their thinking, theology and ethical choices. They were sensible to do so, given all that had changed in the past 60 or so years, but we (thanks to the shifting of probably timeframes) are freed up to consider other things: perhaps the legacy of the Church, or the state that we might leave the universe in when we die, or whether we're truly sharing Jesus' good news properly with the world. Obviously, those who followed James did excellent work, but we can build on that in new and different ways, assuming that we are here for longer. I fully acknowledge James' previous chapter which lambasts those who plan, but I also hope that I can use the good sense God has given me to make bold decisions!

To Ponder

  • The metaphor of waiting for rain helps our patience. When might you need patience when speaking of God?
  • What do you hope the church will look like after your time has ended? What could be done to help sustain that vision?

Bible notes author

Jon Curtis

Jon Curtis is a Venture FX pioneer minister in Exeter, Devon. He lives with his exceptional wife Beth, and beautiful baby Freddie.