Read James 5:7–12
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
New International Version (NIV)
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“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming” (Jas. 5:7). Share with God the pressing concerns on your mind—then place them one by one into an imaginary box and put the box to one side.
Few of us outgrow our childhood impatience. We’d rather have the short than the long haul, a frame of mind encouraged by the “I want it and I want it now” culture in which we live. James here returns to his earlier concerns, patient perseverance and control of what we say, jumping abruptly from one to the other. Why? Because they’re closely related: When I’m impatient and stressed, I sometimes say things that I later regret.
From a positive point of view, James gives examples of patience. First, he cites the farmer, who cannot hurry the process of crop growth (7). Second, he references the Old Testament prophets (and Job) whose stories of patience would be known in detail by his Jewish Christian audience (10,11). And always, when patience is sustained, there is confirmation of the end in sight: the harvest for the farmer, and its parallel, God’s work throughout history and finally, the coming of the Lord in glory (7,8).
From a practical point of view, James tackles the words we fall into using when stressed and impatient. Don’t grumble (easily done when we are displeased) and don’t swear. Grumbling affects our perceptions of one another and undermines our relationships, a key concern for James. It is uncertain whether “swearing” (12) here means making false promises, light use of God’s name, or taking an oath in court. What matters is that we should practice integrity and clarity in everything we say: “yes” means “yes” and “no” means “no” (cf. 12). As James emphasizes in 3:1–12, the human tongue requires careful control. Uncontrolled, it can cause great damage. There’s another good reason for guarding our speech: Jesus, when he returns, will come both as Lord and as Judge—and his return is always imminent (9b)!
Run through yesterday’s conversations. Is there anything you regret saying (or not saying)? Ask God for the opportunity to do something to remedy the situation.