Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on James 4:11-5:12

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Do not Slander - James 4:11

James concludes his comments about the desires and practices which cause conflict in the community by returning to the subject of speech (see notes on 3:1-12). His warning against slander is rooted in God’s Law (cf. Ex 20:16), which rules out “bearing false witness against your neighbor.” The one who speaks against his fellow church member or neighbor judges them and God’s Law (cf. Prov. 10:18; 11:13; 20:19; Matt. 15:19; Eph. 4:31) by picking which portion of the law shows them in a more favorable light in contrast to their neighbor. This harmful speech violates James’ warnings about boasting (3:15) and jealousy (4:14, 16) as well as his summary of “the royal law” in 2:8.

Judge your neighbor? - James 4:12

James warns those who are speaking against neighbors or even other members of the congregation, there is one lawgiver and judge. Only God can establish what is right (Lawgiver) and, then, evaluate fairly (Judge) how well His standards are being met. By judging their neighbors, members of the community are not only violating the command to love their neighbor, they also mimic our first parents’ fall into sin by violating the first commandment.

Wisdom and the Future. - James 4:13-5:12

In three different sections, James deals with issues related to how to make wise plans for the future. We do not know what tomorrow holds. Our resources and ability to control outcomes are much more limited than we realize. We cannot assume that any of our plans will turn out the way we want. James does not say, “it is futile to make plans.” Rather, he counsels the Christian community to submit their plans to God (4:13-17), to share their material resources (5:1-6), and to expect challenges that require patient endurance in faith (5:7-12).

Make Plans According to God’s Will - James 4:13-17

Grabbing the attention of merchants in the Christian community, James offers an example from business planning that serves as a principle of planning for all Christians. Make plans, but plan with humility in submission to God’s will for we have very limited ability to control outcomes.

James warns the wealthy against presumption - James 4:13-15

James reminds the merchants who are planning to travel to another city, set up a business and make a profit, that they do not know what tomorrow will bring. In much the same way that Jesus warned the rich in his parables, James warns the wealthy against presumption. Those who plan from the perspective of heavenly wisdom (see notes on 1:5; 3;15), consider their limitations, that their life is a mist. Accordingly, they submit their plans in humility to God’s wishes. This posture of planning not only acknowledges God’s sovereignty, it recalls the wisdom of God’s law which requires righteousness in our business dealings, and generosity in our use of material goods. If the Lord wills reminds us of our limitations and the provisional nature of our plans. Ultimately, God sets the limits on what our plans achieve (cf. Prov. 16:1, 3; 19:21; 1 Cor 3:5-8). See WCF 3.1-2; WLC 12-14; BC 13.

Boast - James 4:16-17

As he had in 4:6, James warns against boasting and making arrogant plans that disregard the Lord’s will. While the wise person seeks that which is good, the foolish person knows to do good, but does not do it. This clearly echoes 1:22-25 and 2:14-19 (see notes), and situates “doing good” in relation to what merchants will do with their profits to assist their neighbors. Merchants and artisans usually were not landowners, neither were they poor. In the community of faith, however, all are called to share the gifts and goods that they have with those who need life’s necessities, whether spiritual or material.

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