By Randy Dillon
James 5:7-12 “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and later rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy that endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.”
As James nears the end of his epistle, he turns to the matter of patience as a Christian virtue. This is not simply a matter of temporary restraint in the face of adversity, but rather a call for continuous living a patient life until the second coming of Christ. The example provided is that of a “husbandman” or farmer who plants and then awaits the two cycles of rainfall which mark the Mediterranean climate of the Holy Land. The early rain comes in October-November while the later rain comes in April-May. After the fall planting, it is important for the farmer to acknowledge that the rain, when it comes will not immediately bring forth a harvest. Instead, the farmer must wait for 5-6 months until the second rain comes to bring plants to maturity and ready them for harvest. Likewise, Christians must be patient in their faithfulness to the Lord and not expect the harvest before God has fulfilled his work in each one. If one is oppressed or submitted to injustice that person may protest yet they are also expected to bear such calamity patiently relying upon God’s good work.
A second thought in this passage regards our patience with other believers. The type of “grudge” is not specifically mentioned. It could be a matter of coveting. It could be a matter of hurt feelings. It could be any such matter that provides a platform for holding an evil attitude against another Christian. Holding such a matter against another believer condemns the one holding the grudge. More importantly, it is stated that the judge (God) is prepared to condemn such attitudes and emotions as he literally stands at the door ready to enter with a guilty verdict.
A third idea results when one studies the patience of the many prophets in the Old Testament. Speaking as God gave utterance, they were burdened with many sufferings, both mental and physical. Many were slain for the messages that they brought to a rebellious nation, yet they did not waver in their faithful recitation of God’s word. Alongside the prophets is the example of Job. Those who endure trials and tribulations and trouble are often said to have “the patience of Job.” Perhaps a better attribute for Job might be his faithfulness instead of his patience because the result of his faithfulness was God’s blessings in restoring all that he had lost during his trial.
Finally, as a fourth example of patience James instructs Christians not to swear upon created objects, but rather to let a yes or no response be all that is necessary. Jesus provided a corresponding admonition in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:33-37.) At issue here is not profanity, but the need to bolster a yes or no response by citing a powerful agency or person to substantiate a response. If our conduct accords with that of scripture, we have not need to swear by heaven, or earth, or angels, or eternal objects, or sun, moon and stars. It requires patience to not attempt to underlay a response with some strong figure or object. But for the patient believer this is not necessary. An honest man will be known for his patient adherence to the truth in all matters.