PAGE BY PAGE THROUGH THE BOOK OF JAMES: CHAPTER 5
A Word on Greed and Prayer
James concludes with words of distress for the greedy rich. They are to weep and howl for without repentance… misery is coming on them. He states this as a fact that is actively coming to them as a proclamation against their ill-gotten lifestyle. This is true for all who reject God’s offer of the New Covenant through Christ Jesus.
So, it is for us a warning to flee from worldly (selfish) contentment because it is better to be patient in suffering than rich without God.
James says we should always be about prayer. If we are cheerful, we should sing. The followers of Christ are to be patient in suffering because such testing reveals faith and brings forth the character that overcomes the world’s ungodly selfish ways. I have been taught and echo it here that complaining and victimhood are not Christ’s way. Jesus was a victim of wickedness and His response was to embrace all our sufferings and trials as a human being and overcome them by prayer and faithfulness. Thus, we must do the same. We must turn from grumbling (as James states) and pray instead. Our faith should be placed in the faithfulness of Christ. He will intervene and/or see us through.
James says the sick should ask for help. His words seem to point to the spiritually sick. It would also include those sick in body and mind. We are to ask for the Elders’ help. The sick are to be anointed with oil and prayed for in the Name of the Lord. To call on the Elders is to submit to the orderly exercise of authority. I don’t think this means others can’t pray, but leaders are to lead in looking to Christ Himself (not men) in trying times.
God can heal spiritual apathy.
God can heal a broken heart.
God can heal cancer.
God can heal depression, emotional distress, and grief.
God can change greed and selfishness.
God can change hatred and unforgiveness.
God can change injustice to justice.
God can change a loveless marriage into a love-filled marriage.
God can bless us with material wealth.
God can bless us with healthy parents and supportive siblings.
God can bless us with quiet times to rest.
God can bless us with spiritual support in the worst of times.
James also says that the prayer of faith will bring healing to a person. By saying, “prayer of faith will save him,” James seems to have an understanding of a “whole person” being a “soul.” This makes the idea of physical healing and the deeper soul healing for salvation confusing to our modern western mind. Is James talking about the body being healed? Spiritual healing? Both? I ask these questions because of how James speaks to the need of confessing sins one to another. He also speaks of leading people back to faith who have wandered from the faith. He says this will “save their soul from death.”
A LONG NOTE: A bit more about “saving the soul from death.” Soul and death are topics from the opening pages of Genesis. This is the result of sin. Hopefully, you have heard the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). James has this in mind as he states, “will save that person’s soul [breath of life (spirit), animating force] from death. The death of souls comes by God alone (Matthew 10:28). Thus, this is total destruction unless you take the death of the soul to mean separation of body and soul… leaving the person disembodied without God in miseries that arise from their sins. Death does not mean disembodied misery since that idea would strip death of its absolute meaning. You must bring the assumption the soul cannot die to the text for that to make sense. James says the outcome (death) should be escaped (be saved from). Understand the word transliterated psoo-khay (breath or spirit) is stated to be saved from death. Let me note Matthew 10:28 where Jesus uses the same word and states that only God can destroy the psoo-kay (breath, breath of life, animating force or spirit) soul. Moreover, Jesus includes the body in the destruction only God can render. Jesus also calls this destruction the second death in Revelation 2:11 which is something Jesus said would take place at His coming (see Matthew 25:31-46). Also, in Matthew 16:26, Jesus states, “For what does it benefit a person if he gains the whole world by forfeits his life.” That same Greek word is used here for “life” is the same word that James uses for “soul.” All the examples I have given are to take place on Judgment Day. Again, the same Greek word for life/soul is used. In connection with the words/terms death, eternal fire, cast into the lake of fire/second death, destroyed… all happen at the same time… Judgment Day.
When all these words are harmonized with historical context and grammar, it means James plainly spoke about the death of the soul. We should note that even the translators of the NIV use the word “them”/”him” when translating psoo-khay to denote “the whole person.” I think this is what James manes by writing “will be saved from death.” We should be careful not to assume James’ perspective is our own. I urge you to think about his words for yourself thoroughly.