James: The Rich and the Ailing

Only five chapters long, yet every time I read James, I latch onto something new.

I’ve never really thought of James as a book about love, but as Alan finished the series about James on Sunday, I felt very loved by God. So for the final blog post in this series, I hope I can pass that along.

In the first six verses of chapter five, James speaks pretty harshly towards rich people. He speaks of hard times to come, of their nice clothes being rags and their money having no value. He says their treasures are evidence against them, tells them to listen to the workers they’ve mistreated and cheated, and even says they’ve killed innocent people.

Pretty bad, right? Not really scripture that makes you want to become a CEO or have nice things. However, I don’t believe that’s James goal or purpose here. In fact, I don’t think James has any real issue with money itself.

Something else that struck me about James in this series is how often his thoughts or language mirrors those of Jesus. Call it being brothers or him being a devout follower or them being on the same spiritual page. Whatever reasoning you choose, it makes for deeper, cohesive reading.

This particular section of James reminds me of Jesus and the rich man in Luke 18:18-24. Jesus says in verse 24 (NLT) that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.” I highly doubt there’s a sign on the pearly gates that reads, “No rich people allowed,” so what is Jesus getting at? What is James getting at?

Jesus and James are identifying money as an idol. They aren’t saying making so much money a year or owning a certain kind of car or having particular hobbies excludes you from heaven and qualifies you for a specific set of spiritual hardships. They are saying that someone who has a lot of money is prone to depending on it and loving it more than God. We all have our vices and idols; money happens to be a popular one.

Idols keep us from God and His blessings because God wants all of us, not whatever leftover energy and heart we want to give Him. With God, it’s all or nothing, and James is warning us.

James goes on to write in 5:13-16 (NLT), “Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

We could all use a little healing, couldn’t we? Not much may be clear about this world, but that much is.

James talks about a physical healing, but I believe what he says is just as applicable to other forms of healing as well.

Several years ago, I went through a difficult time emotionally and spiritually. I was repeatedly hurt by a group of people, and it left me sort of confused and frustrated in my walk with God. He and I had a lot of stuff to sort through in the wake of it, which was hard but therapeutic. But what was most therapeutic was talking it over (and over and over again) with my best friends who were believers and going through the very same thing as me. I couldn’t have asked to be surrounded by more supportive people, and the way we talked and vented and loved each other helped us heal together, and I firmly believe that God could’ve done that Himself but chose to use them.

There’s an Irish proverb that says, “It is in the shelter of each other that people live.”

William P. Young said, “I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing.”

God wants to use us to heal people, to show love and compassion instead of judgment and disdain. He wants us to pray for each other, to confide in and confess to people we trust to aid in our healing and not our hurting.

James doesn’t write this because it sounds nice and church-y. He writes it because it’s practical.

And as much as I believe in people healing people, I know our relationships can become idols if our first and foremost relationship isn’t with God. Without Him, we’re lucky if we ever heal. With Him, our pain has purpose and our healing is inevitable. Just as He is love, mercy, and kindness, He is also healing. Without Him, it’s all imitation.

By Carrie Prevette

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