James 5:7 – 11
We understood from last week’s write-up, how bad it was to oppress those who have-nots, especially in the church. We understood that the labourer or our employees should be properly and promptly paid for the work rendered. We also understood that God isn’t pleased when we mistreat people especially those who work for us because they equally have a family to cater for – they have bills to pay, wives to feed and children to cater for.
James had laid the judgment of God on such employers, their selfishness and the much oppression suffered by the people they employed.
We are reminded that James was writing to his fellow Jews in diaspora who were going through one form of tribulation or the other. He had encouraged them to count it all joy as they went through the many tribulations and sufferings. One would have thought that James would have encouraged the unscrupulous employers to have a change of heart and attitude towards the ones employed, rather he had a message for the people suffering and those oppressed.
Before we delve into what he told the oppressed, it would be sufficient to further explain the premise upon which James spoke. We have come to understand that James wrote at a time when the New Testament doctrines were not yet written; the Epistle of James was written before any Epistle of Paul was written and therefore, James wrote from the perspective of the Old Testament and to the Jews who, according to the teachings of Jesus thought they were going to end up in tribulation before they meet Jesus again in the new Kingdom.
James couldn’t have written better than what he knew and understood from the customs, doctrine and the traditions of the Old Testament, which was more of works than any other thing, i.e. what you do can make you go to Heaven or Hell.
When we read about the rumors of war, the two people washing at a place and one would be taken away and the other left behind, the parable of the ten virgins and the many more parables which Jesus spoke about, one would be drawn to the end of the Jewish race and what will befall them. In other words, looking through the book of James, nothing about the Gentiles, the ministry of the Holy Spirit was mentioned (even Jesus was only mentioned twice) but little did James know that God, because of the death, burial, resurrection and the ascension of Jesus had planned to interject the dispensation of the Law with the dispensation of Grace.
The dispensation of Grace would eventually conclude with the rapture of the Church (combination of the Jews and Gentiles who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior) after which the period of tribulation would begin, then the second coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. James had thought that the Lord would come back during their time and it’s for this reason, he said and gave the message to the people who were being oppressed.
What did he say to the oppressed?
He admonished them to be patient knowing the Lord would come soon. He likened the coming of the Lord to farmers who plant their seeds and then wait patiently for the rains in the fall and in the spring and subsequently, wait for the most important time of harvest. The farmers have no choice but to wait and so the people would, like these farmers endure the oppression because Jesus would be coming soon.
The oppressed were not even allowed to murmur or lodge complains about how they are been oppressed or have been oppressed, otherwise a greater judgment awaited them as they land in the presence of God. In other words, in the midst of their pain, they were not allowed to grumble lest they be judged and find themselves in Hades. He assured his audience that the coming of the Lord was nearer than they could imagine.
He concluded this part of the letter thinking he was encouraging his audience when he mentioned the Prophets of Old who went through and endured many afflictions as a result of their belief in God. He also did not fail to mention the many tribulations that Job went through and how it all ended (God had mercy on him, for it is written that the latter part of Job’s life was greater than the early part of his life).
James’ idea was for the oppressed to look to the coming of the Lord irrespective of the sufferings, pains and the many afflictions they were faced with. They also had to be careful how they act (even though they were being oppressed) so that they don’t get judged.
If we dive into the New Testament, Apostle Paul advised Timothy to tell his audience that, according to scriptures, one must not muzzle an Ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain because those who work deserve their pay. The idea is to make sure people follow this principle and should cohabit with one another based on the love of God.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was spot on when he said, “If you don’t pay your men, they pay themselves, or else they shirk their work. The Lord’s people should be considerate of those who are in their employment. The recollection of their own bondage should make them tender and kind to those who are in subservience to them, and never should a Christian man be ungenerous, illiberal, severe, and churlish with his servants or with any who are dependent upon him”.