As James begins to wrap up his letter, he circles back to the subject of endurance he started with; in chapter one, James spoke about the necessity of enduring trials and how we grow through them. In chapter five, he talks about enduring harsh treatment and persecution. In the Church today, there is much emphasis on the blessing of God and very little about enduring hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, as Paul wrote to Timothy. Patience and endurance are repeated subjects throughout the Old and New Testaments, and James also takes up the theme.
James 5:7-12 ESV “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. 12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”
The word patience in verse seven is the Greek word makrothumeo, which means to be long-tempered and to endure difficult people patiently. For how long, we ask? Till the coming of the Lord. That reminds me of when Peter asked the Lord if he should forgive his enemy seven times. He probably thought he was generous by saying seven times, but Jesus responded, no, seventy times seven. The number wasn’t Jesus’s point; His point was that we should walk in an attitude of forgiveness. And just as we forgive people, we should endure difficult people; still being kind to them, being thoughtful, and holding our tongue, which takes back to the lesson on the tongue from chapter three.
James tells us to endure, to wait for the Lord’s coming, which should remind us that our trials won’t last forever. Romans 8:18 says the sufferings of this present time are not worth being compared to the glory which shall be. No matter what trials we face here, be they circumstances or people, they are but light afflictions, things that fortify us and prepare us for eternity. Just as the farmer patiently waits for his seeds to become harvested, we need to allow trials and tests to produce patience in us. When people get on our nerves, we need to allow the Christlike character to be seen and develop further in us. We don’t grumble against irritating people because we anticipate the Lord’s coming, and we remember that we will give an account for every idle word we speak (Matthew 12:36).
When I was a kid, I got so tired of hearing preachers talk about the coming of the Lord; ironically, I enjoyed watching all the Cloud Ten Productions end-times movies. As a kid, I just thought, He hasn’t come yet; you people have been talking about this forever. But now that I have some years behind me, I understand all the “hype”; they were anticipating the Lord’s coming and looking forward to the day He split the eastern sky (insert other dramatic lines in a preacher’s voice). Some people said it was an escapism mentality, and for some, it might have been, but Thessalonians tells us to encourage each other with talk of the coming of the Lord. It’s the coming of the Lord that is our hope; the appearing of the Lord is what will take us home; after all, we are only pilgrims in a strange land. So when we think of the coming of the Lord, it reminds us that this isn’t our home, and that should help us keep things in perspective.
We read in Hebrews eleven of all those who held on to the promise of the coming Messiah who never saw it, I may not see the coming of the Lord, but I have an assurance that Heaven will be my home. James encourages us to take our Old Testament as heroes and examples of patience and perseverance; we should do just that, in all, we go through, we should be mindful of the coming of the Lord.
But above all, James says, our yes should be yes, and our no should be no. The first few times I read that, I was confused; that seemed to come out of nowhere. But in reality, our speech is another theme throughout the letter. James reiterated Jesus’s words about forbidding oaths from the Sermon on the Mount. The Jews of that day would swear by Heaven, the altar, and anything but God’s name because they intended to break their oath when they did that. As Christians, people should be able to count on our words. As Christians, we should be honest people, and we should endure difficult people because we anticipate the coming of the Lord and are prepared to receive our rewards.