Read James 5.
We live in a free society. Freedom makes it possible to make a living and even become wealthy through innovation, making quality products and/or delivering quality service. A business owner usually will employ other people but he or she must pay them wages that both the owner and the worker have agreed are fair. If a business owner refuses to pay wages in our society, employees have several ways to seek justice.
When James was writing this chapter, however, workers were much more vulnerable to exploitation. Owners could enslave others or cheat workers out of their wages. James 5:1-6 condemns the wealthy who made their wealth by cheating others.
Notice, though, that James speaks as if the judgment of these wealthy people has already happened. Verse 1 says they should “weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you.” Verse 2 says, “Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.” This description of coming judgment continued in the rest of the verses in the present tense, as if it were already happening.
But verse 7 reveals to us that the judgment described in verses 1-6 hadn’t happened yet but would happen when Jesus returns. Verse 7 says, “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.” The implication is that if these believers were being exploited by others, they should look to God in faith because he will settle in justice at the coming of Christ. The patience James counsels us to have is compared in the rest of verse 7 to the kind of paticence a farmer must have while he waits for his crops to grow. The point is that we must trust God–and keep trusting him–until he returns just like a farmer keeps trusting that the crops will grow and ripen.
Are you discouraged because someone has wronged you? The Bible repeatedly tells us not to seek revenge but to trust the Lord to make things right. Sometimes he uses repentance and restoration to make things right (see verse 19-20). But in many cases, we have to wait for the judgment day for justice to come.
Whether we are rich or poor, owner or worker, we need to remember that at the end of this age we will stand before Christ in judgment. If we’re in Christ by faith we will escape the eternal judgment of hell by his grace and through his death on the cross for us.
But all of us will answer to God for everything we do, think, and say. Because we love God we want God to be pleased with our lives. The coming judgment of God should motivate us to make godly, righteous choices while in this life so that we will be rewarded in the next life.
Do you have any unreconciled relationships? Any sins you should confess to someone you’ve wronged (v. 20)? You and I will answer to God for everything we’ve done with our lives. Isn’t it best to do the righteous thing in this life now, even if it is hard and wounds our pride?
Let the coming interview you will have with the Lord guide what you do today, what you say today, and how you treat others today. Let the coming of Christ guide you toward a righteous life for his glory.