BACKGROUND: Three times James reminds us of the coming
of the Lord (James 5:7-9). This is the blessed hope of the
Christian (Titus 2:13). We do not expect to have
everything easy and comfortable in this present life (John
16:33; Acts 14:22). We must patiently endure hardships and
heartaches until Jesus returns.
Life is marked by pressure and problems that the
outlook in the present is not very bright for many of
God’s children. The social problem arising out of conflict
between capital and labor, employer and employee, of which
James has just written, is but a sample of the causes of
hardship the Christian must
face. Should believers
seek a cure for the world’s social ills apart from Christ?
We all desire the part of the world where we live to be
influenced for good. However, there is no cure-all for the
mounting multiplicity of problems before the personal
return of Jesus Christ. Until the Lord’s coming, James
gives instructions on how to approach life.
James makes it very clear what kind of world we live
in. It's a big, bad world with a dog-eat-dog
philosophy. Those who are climbing up the ladder of riches
are stepping on the fingers of others as they go up.
Should Christians join some organization and go all out
for good government? Certainly we ought to be interested
in trying to elect the best men. However, we cannot change
this world, my friend. What, then, can we do? Listen to
God; He is speaking now to His own children in James
JAMES 5:7 a: In this chapter, James employs two
different Greek words that are sometimes translated
patience: (1) makroyumew (makrothumeo)
which means “to be of a long spirit, not to lose heart”
(James 5:7-8); and (2) upomonh (hupomone),
which denotes perseverance, steadfastness, constancy,
endurance (James 1:3-4, 12; 5:10-11). Many Greek scholars
think that “long-suffering” refers to patience with
respect to persons, while “endurance” refers to patience
with respect to conditions or situations.
Webster’s definition of patience is “the power or
capacity to endure without complaint something difficult
or disagreeable.” Christ was an example of patience and we
are to be like Him.
Among the words for "patience" that occur in the NT,
the one in this command, "Be patient, then, brethren,"
stresses non-retaliation—to be long-tempered instead of
short-tempered. It means to hold one's spirit in check.
"Restrain your temper" is the idea. The believer is not to
allow mistreatment and oppression to drive him to hatred,
bitterness, or despair. Such feelings might be directed
against the persons causing the pressure, or against God,
who was allowing it to happen.
This non-retaliatory acceptance must be the response
"until the coming of the Lord." James was referring to the
return of Christ, which he thought might occur at any
time. That understanding of Christ's promise was correct
and should be the attitude of every Christian. His
attitude was not mistaken. Although James set no dates, he
recognized that Jesus had commanded His followers to
maintain a spirit of watchfulness, and he was conveying
that to his readers. Until Jesus comes and rights all
wrongs, the Christian's obligation is to leave vengeance
with Him and meanwhile maintain a patient spirit (cf.
JAMES 5:7 b: The illustration of the farmer is drawn
from Palestinian agriculture, with which James and most of
his first readers were very familiar. He described the
farmer as sowing seed on ground that experienced no rain
at all during much of the year. The fields were brown and
the soil was dry. Modern irrigation techniques were
unknown, and dependence upon the rains was the only
resource. Therefore, he must accept that factor and plan
The phrase "early and late rains" refers to the fall
rains in October and November, which soften the ground
after the blistering heat of summer, and to the spring
showers of April and May, which enable the grain to ripen.
This reference to well-known features of Palestinian
climate (Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24; Joel 2:23)
takes no notice of the heavy winter rains, which also fall
on that land. The subject of the verb "gets," or
"receives," is probably "it," referring to "the earth" (tes
ges), rather than to the fruit (which does not exist when
the early rains fall). The subject could also be "he,"
referring to the farmer.
Why does the farmer wait many weeks for his seed to
produce fruit? The fruit is “precious” or
“valuable”—worth waiting for! Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us
not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we
will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Jesus taught:
“All by itself the soil produces corn—first the stalk,
then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. As soon as
the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the
harvest has come.” (Mark 4:28-29).
James pictured the Christian as a “spiritual farmer”
looking for a spiritual harvest. Our hearts are the soil,
and the “seed is the Word of God” (Luke 8:11). There are
seasons to the spiritual life just as there seasons to the
soil. Sometimes, our hearts become cold and “wintry,” and
the Lord has to “plow them up” before He can plant the
seed (Jeremiah 4:1-4). What is the harvest God is
producing in our life? (Isaiah 5:1-7; Hosea 10:12;
Ephesians 5:9; Philippians 1:9-11; Galatians 5:22-23).
Next Section - You also be Patient