Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for October 9

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By Rony Kozman, Ph. D.
Assistant professor of Biblical Studies, Samford University

FAITH ON DISPLAY IN YOUR PRIORITIES

James 4:13–17, 5:7–11

Subject your plans to God’s will. (4:13–17)

James turns now to address those who are rich. He has two complaints against them. First, James addresses those whose plans include pursuing the production of wealth. James’ problem is not simply with business ventures in and of themselves, but with the arrogant attitude that underlies those who acquire wealth for themselves. James denounces the idea of the self-made person.

To people who claim they are self-made, that they did it all on their own or that they picked themselves up by their bootstraps, James says, “You boast in your arrogance.”

For James, there is no self-made individual. Any time we have to earn money and any skills we use to acquire financial gain are all gifts from God, and they depend on God’s will.

But James’ criticism of the wealthy continues: “Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.” What is this right thing that the rich know but do not do?

Perhaps what they know is spelled out in the verses that follow, where the rich have defrauded and murdered the poor.

James continues his address of “you rich people” and chastises them with a critique that mimics the voice of Israel’s prophets: “Weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you.”

James charges the rich with defrauding and murdering their poor workers while they themselves live in luxury.

While the wealthy landowners live in opulence and enjoy their wealth, they have kept back the wages their workers need to purchase the necessities of life.

By keeping back the wages due to their poor workers who depend on those wages to live, the rich are stealing from the poor and are (in a sense) murdering them, because the rich are robbing them of their means of life.

The poor are described as “the righteous,” since this description resonates with Jesus Christ. The poor are aligned with Jesus, the righteous One, who did not resist or rebel against those who condemned and murdered Him.

The very wealth the rich have held back will testify against the wealthy, and it will become the means of God’s judgment against them.

Focus on the Lord’s return. (5:7–9)

While James has castigated the wealthy, he aligns his audience with the poor who are being oppressed by them.

He encourages the poor to persevere through their suffering and unjust oppression.

They can take courage that when Jesus returns, God will judge their oppressors, and they will be rescued from their oppression.

Just as farmers patiently wait for the rain to water their crops, James tells the poor they should patiently wait for Jesus’ return.

In the meantime, they must not grumble lest they also fall under God’s judgment.

Stay the course. (10–11)

The members of James’ audience, who in James’ economic world are the poor oppressed by the rich, should endure just as Job endured his great suffering.

Job persevered. And God restored Job’s fortune even beyond what he initially had (Job 42:10–17).

So also the poor and oppressed followers of Jesus can expect that when they endure, God who is merciful and compassionate hears their cry.

God will rescue them (when Jesus returns) from their suffering and oppression, and they will receive a bountiful reward that exceeds their expectations.