Read James 5:12-20
12Above all, my brothers, do not swear — not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned.
13Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
17Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (NIV)
Verse 12 is one of those passages that helps us understand the commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain. To swear by the Lord’s name was a way to verbally seal a contract or agreement between two parties. For the Jews, the idea was the God was now part of the covenant or agreement between the two people. Thus, to take the Lord’s name in vain was to swear to do something in which you brought God in as a partner and then not do it. I teach this to couples who want to get married in a church ceremony. In our marriage ceremony, you are swearing to God the covenant you are making. I will then share that this is what the commandant is about, not cussing. What James is saying, do not swear this kind of oath. Instead live a life that is so consistent that your yes is always yes and your no is always no. I think we all want to be seen as a person of our word.
Verse 13 through 18 is a final remark of James about prayer. He begins with whether our life is having problems or being really good at the moment, we need to take that to God. He says, “If trouble – pray, if happy – praise God.” This is an attitude of always speaking to God, not just when things are bad, but that we are constantly communicating to God our joy and our needs.
James moves to anointing the sick. One of the things we see from writings in the first, second and third century is that the church was truly a healing church. Some of the writers pointed out that countless number of people had been healed by anointing with oil who had exhausted all other means to be healed.
And the church down through the ages has been integral in the ministry of caring for the sick. A paper written in 2016 for one of the medical journals notes about how the church influenced the need for healing. The paper says: “The earliest hospitals in the West were founded by the major Abrahamic traditions, hundreds of years ago. Note today how many medical centers are branded as Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Adventist, Jewish, and so on.” Healing is not just an appendix of what the church is about, it at the very heart of the Christian faith and life.
James moves from the thought of healing to confessing. There is a connection to healing often times begins with confession. We see this in alcohol and drug abuse. The confession that I have a problem is the first step toward healing.
Finally, James points out the wonder and joy of keeping someone in the faith. Over life, I think we all have times of doubt. It is in doubt that we grow as we ask questions. But some when doubting will walk away. But when a believer helps that one work through their struggles to once again see the truth of God and his promises, the great gift that is given that person, the gift of life.
I hope you have enjoyed reading James and thinking about some of the mechanics of our faith. How we live is a reflection of what we believe. Do you see areas where you can grow in?
Any Questions or Comments?
Blessings and Peace
I did enjoy this study. As I mentioned before, I like the simple clarity and direct approach of James, and I know I will refer back to this book many times in the future. Each week touched on something relevant in my life right now, that always amazes me with scripture.
Susan: I am happy you found the book good. Thank you for your comments over the course of the study. Blessings and Peace, PH