In James 5:7, James gives us some specific instructions concerning being patient. It is said as a response to those whose patience was being inflamed by the sinful actions of those in James 5:1-6. In just a few words, James has some pretty exhaustive instruction.
He addresses the who—“Be patient brethren.” There’s an ethic and morality expected of those in God’s family that is more than for everyone else. Almost every use of the word “brethren” in the New Testament is addressed to Christians. As light-shiners and salt-spreaders, we must exhibit patience with others and especially other Christians.
He addresses the when—This command has a duration (an expiration date)—“Until the coming of the Lord.” How long are we to remember Christ in the Lord’s Supper? 1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “Until He comes.” How long was Thyatira to hold onto what they had? Revelation 2:25 says, “Until Jesus would come.” How long was Corinth to refrain from unrighteously judging one another? 1 Corinthians 4:5 says, “Until the Lord comes.“ You don’t encounter this phrase very often, but every time it regards a matter of significance. There will not come a point in time when you can cease being patient—it’s as long as you live or until Christ comes again, whichever comes first.
He addresses the how—You’ve got to strengthen your heart (be inwardly committed, cause to be more firm in attitude or belief). James is saying, “Steel yourself because this is going to get hard sometimes.” When I think of people who have fallen away from the Lord, I think of conversations with people who say they gave up on the church or the elders or the preacher. They weren’t responsive enough, caring enough, or too nosy or not what they needed when they needed it. But ultimately this means these fallen ones weren’t firm and unchanging within.
He addresses the why—“The coming of the Lord is near.” Don’t focus on a time element here, but on the need to endure for as long as the time is. It’s constantly drawing nearer, not in a chronological sense, but an expectation and assurance that we expect it any time. I don’t want to be caught living in a state of impatience with my brethren. If I am, it means I’ve lost focus on Christ’s second coming!
I need to be convicted that impatience is not “no big deal.” James ties it to spiritual harmony, divine superintendence, and eternal safety. We can’t chalk up failure in this area as just our makeup, personality, and temperament. We must be obedient to the heavenly injunction and “be patient”!
Without wading into the waters of political correctness or questioning motives, Donald Sterling can blame his temper as much as his girlfriend’s surreptitious audio recording. He joins an infinitely long line of those whose unrestrained anger has cost them much more than they anticipated. While most people will not pay the earthly price Sterling appears destined to pay, so many have permanently damaged relationships and paid with their souls for failing to conquer temper and tongue.
James clearly sets forth God’s view on the matter. “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity” (3:6). “It defiles the whole body” (3:6). “It is set on fire by hell” (3:6). “It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (3:8). It can reveal hypocrisy at a disgusting level (3:9-12). James’ words are so convicting, yet, having privy to them, we still stumble with our speech.
I have seen the untamed tongue, so often fueled by anger and even rage, tear churches apart. But, what has it done in the lives of individual members of those congregations? Certainly, we think of it as characteristic of those outside the body of Christ, but so often it ignites deadly fires in Christians’ lives.
If I am honest with myself, I should be more concerned with the spiritual impact my tongue has on my soul than other deeds of the flesh. There are so many ways for me to stumble over my tongue—gossip, lying, outbursts of anger, wrath, deception, filthy or suggestive speech, greed, and just about every outlet of sin seems to intersect with the misuse of the tongue!
James speaks to our hearts when he says, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (3:10). Can I comprehend the impact that has on my soul, not just yours? Rather than counting up ways you offend me with your tongue, may I have the humility and honesty to examine my use of my tongue and see how it might be hurting you and, even more importantly, hurting Almighty God! Lord, help us see the power of the tongue.
A seat in coach may look fine until you see the people in first class with their seats that lay flat, who get chef-catered meals, and the like. That cell phone is adequate, but then you see the newest, smartest one on the market. It can be the difference between the GM beater and that brand new Gallardo. Most people, given the choice and especially if changing is advantageous, would choose the new over the old. Spiritually, that is definitely the choice to make–old man to new man (Eph. 4:22-24). But have you made the upgrade? Here are five tests to take to determine this.
Your Talk (Eph 4:25). Lay aside falsehood and speak truth to your neighbor because you care about him or her. How is your speech–deceptive, half-true, distorted, manipulative? Or are you transparent and truthful?
Your Temper (Eph 4:26). This does not mean free of anger, but it does mean a self-control that keeps anger from becoming sinful and wrathful. How is your temper–short, hot? Or are you calm and patient?
Your Tempter (Eph 4:27). Everyone has the same tempter. He is prowling and waiting for a way into our lives. Are you giving him opportunity or preventing such?
Your Trustworthiness (Eph 4:28). The contrast here is between stealing and honest labor, not taking but finding a way to give to the one in need. Do you earn or destroy trust?
Your Tastefulness (Eph 4:29). Paul has already addressed speech, but this is not about honesty or dishonesty. This is about wholesome words and strengthening speech, that which is timely, uplifting, and gracious. Are we savory salt or “poison” (Js. 3:8)?
Whatever you get, buy, or are given in this world, make sure you get that upgrade! Throw out the old! Pursue the new!