Attacks, Faith, Wisdom : James 5.13-20
Anyone in trouble/afflicted: These words are speaking about misfortune, not an illness. It is a personal situation that causes distress. The antidote to this is not a complaint or even bearing the affliction in quiet resignation. Rather, one should pray to God and trust in him to redress the wrong and correct the evil. It is not a time to indulge in self-pity. It is time to pray.
Anyone happy: One should not forget God when the going is smooth, and attacks are not prevalent. One should learn to sing and praise God. James wants God remembered in all situations, good as well as bad. God is not just an errand boy to help human need, but one who deserves worship and praise at all times. The good news is that we may relate to him no matter what the circumstances are.
Anyone sick: The person who is sick should call the elders of the ecclesia to pray and anoint him. James use of the word “elders” means “men and women” of gravity and soundness in the faith. The word does not carry the idea that is often forced upon it as being a “pastor” or “members of a church board.” It is not a church position. It means folks in an ecclesia who are older in the faith.
The prayer offered in faith will save the sick person. Sickness and sin are often connected. Because of the possibility, Jesus followers are to confess their sins to one another. This is an open and public acknowledgment of guilt. Wow! Wouldn’t that be a significant change in the life of an ecclesia!
The subject of the prayer of faith often brings more heat than light. The context of this passage centers around the ministering of Jesus followers one to another. In regard to sickness, James does not conceive of sickness and suffering being of the same substance. He offers different remedies in verses 13 and 14 (see RSV for more clarity). The Good News Bible gives the most accurate translation of these verses when it says, …This prayer made in faith will heal the sick person; the Lord will restore him to health, and the sins he has committed will be forgiven. So then confess your sins to one another, so that you will be healed. One must note that the confession of sins is important in the process of healing. There is nothing in this passage, which implies that if one only has a sufficient degree of faith, then one can receive healing. Rather, the passages draw attention to what is emphasized—there is no circumstance of life where faith is impossible. Therefore, there is no situation in which one cannot resort to prayer.
The prayer of Elijah serves as an illustration of the effectiveness of prayer.
James closes his letter by encouraging his readers to turn those in error back to the truth, i.e., that our justification is demonstrated to each other by the works of God in which we participate.
For Further Study
The following articles and books would be useful for a more thorough study of James.
- Douglas, J.D. ed. 1982 New Bible Dictionary, Third Edition. Wheaton: InterVarsity
- Motyer, Alec. 1985. The Message Of James. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press.
Adamson, James. 1976. The Epistle Of James. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
- Peter Davids 1982 The Epistle of James. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; 1st edition (New International Greek Testament Commentary.
The following articles are from Holman Bible Dictionary. Butler, Trent C. Editor. 1991 StudyLight.org
- James. James E. Glaze
- James, the Letter. Paige Patterson
- Poor, Orphan, Widow. Gary V. Smith
- Tongue. Jeff Cranford
- Wealth And Materialism. D. Glenn Saul
- Wisdom And Wise Men. Harry Hun
There are some interesting comparisons between James and Proverbs and James and Matthew. Here are some of them:
Comparison of James and Proverbs
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Comparison of James and Matthew
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