How should we respond to trials of oppression and condemnation? Should we fight fire with fire? James tells us that this is not the Christian way to do things. In the epistle of James chapter 5, the author who is our Lord’s brother James, deals with two populations of people – the rich oppressors and those who patiently endure their oppression.
In verses 1 through 6, James calls on the oppressors to weep and wail over the tribulations that are coming to them because of their win. He begins by using the same phrase that he used in chapter 4 verse 13, “Come now” to grab their attention. In 4:13 James was addressing the believer,but here in chapter 5 he calls the attention of the rich unbelieving oppressors to warn them that their demise is coming. These verses (1-6) speak of their judgment in similar terms as the Old Testament prophets. It is a harsh condemnation of those who oppress and hold on to their riches, storing them up. In verse 3 James writes, “Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire”. James continues by describing the exploitation of their workers, whose cries have been heard by the Lord of hosts. He closes this sharp rebuke of the rich in verses 5 and 6; in verse 5 describing their lives of pleasure and luxury, which only lead to their demise; as verses 6 declares “you condemned you murdered the just, righteous man who does not resist you.”
The question is, are these rich oppressors in the church? Or does James speak of the unbelieving rich, in general? In keeping with the epistle, James is writing to those claiming to be Christians; so even though James doesn’t call them to repentance here his rebuke is a sharp wake up call to professing Christians to repent!
James continues in verses 7 through 11 with what should be the Christian response to oppression and condemnation. This instruction is applicable to all persecution, whether coming from so-called Christians or from the world, wherein the believer is oppressed in any way. Christians should respond with patience. In verses 7-9 James says the reason is, “the Lord’s coming is near.” He uses the illustration of the farmer patiently waiting for the rains, and so you must also wait patiently because the Lord is near. James closes in verses 10-11 as he looks back to the prophets of old and their patient endurance though they suffered greatly at times. Verse 11 ends wonderfully with a look to Job and the purpose of the Lord, who is compassionate and merciful.
In various places throughout the world Christians are oppressed more than in other parts. While there are places and times we are persecuted here in the US there will come a day, perhaps soon, where all true Christians will be oppressed and condemned. James gives us much wisdom in our text, “Be patient for your redemption draws near.” Every day that goes by you are one day closer to our Lord’s return. The great judge of the just and unjust will return as surely as He said He would. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Maranatha!