Letter of James 11

Chapter 5.2
m. Encouragements to the oppressed (5:7–11)
The quality most needed is patience, and this is enjoined by reference to the Lord’s coming. The farmer awaiting the harvest illustrates the quality, while the prophets and the patriarch Job show how to be patient in the midst of suffering. But its real basis is the compassion of the Lord.

In the previous sections we have seen that James does not use the term brethren to address his readers. But that changes at 5:7-11 [vv. 7.9.10]. By using this term James makes it clear that he is addressing them as believers and that he wants to focus on the attitudes that they as such must adopt in light of the biblical perspective on this world and the coming judgment. James has no doubt what the basic attitude should be: 'patience' and 'perseverance'. The expression 'be patient' appears in verse 7 [twice] and in verse 8; 'patience' in verse 10; perseverance and perseverance in verse 11. In the light of Christ's soon return as judge and deliverer [vv. 7.8.9], believers should imitate the farmer [7] and the prophets [10] in their patience in the midst of their situation and imitate Job, who persevered in the midst of really hard circumstances [v. 11].

In Psalm 37 we can find an antecedent of this passage of Santiago. It is a song of encouragement to the justly persecuted. They are poor and needy [v. 14], and the wicked persecute and afflict them [vv. 12-15; 32-33]. They are tempted to envy the prosperity of the wicked and to follow their way [vv. 1.7] and to not wait patiently for the judgment of the wicked. The psalmist's counsel to the righteous is the same counsel that James gives to believers; be patient, for the coming of the Lord when the wicked will be judged and the righteous delivered is at hand. Because they know the fate of the wicked, the believers who suffer for the action of the 'rich' must have patience until the coming of the Lord. Simply put, we have to be patient with people and persevere in the midst of difficulties. The combination of patience and perseverance can be found in some other apocryphal texts such as the Testament of Joseph [2:7] also in the New Testament, Colossians 2:11.

James invites the believers to follow the example given by the prophets; this certainly implies that we must persevere like them; waiting patiently for the day when the Lord will come again as judge. But, also, that we have the duty, like the prophets, to denounce evil. In all this passage you can find extraordinarily strong resonances from the Book of the Maccabees. One of them is in verse 11, when James tells us that "we count them blessed who have persevered”. In 4 Maccabees [1,10] we can read: “On this anniversary it is fitting for me to praise for their virtues those who, with their mother, died for the sake of nobility and goodness, but I would also call them blessed for the honor in which they are held.” Of course, and even more important, behind this verse are also the words of Jesus [Matthew 5:11-12]: “Blessed [morally courageous and spiritually alive with life-joy in God’s goodness] are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of [your association with] Me. 12 Be glad and exceedingly joyful, for your reward in heaven is great [absolutely inexhaustible]; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Finally, James encourages believers to imitate the example of perseverance of Job, who in the midst of all the trials and difficulties he went through, including the misunderstanding and recriminations of his friends, remained faithful to God and maintained his trust in Him. He passionately believed that God would stand up for his cause and he would end up being vindicated. God's defense of Job would also serve as an encouragement to believers. It would serve to say, your suffering is not the end of the story, God is going to transform that situation, there will be a final moment, when Christ comes, in which you will be vindicated and your sufferings will end for good.

Questions to think about
Patience and perseverance often appear together in the same sentence in the Bible. Reflect on what they mean to the Christian and think about how they manifest themselves in your daily life? To what extent are they part of your character?
Do you believe that the coming of Christ is nowadays a reason for joy and happiness for the Church? and for you? What does the day of judgment mean to you?
What difference do you see between being blessed and being happy?


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