I mentioned three possible responses to suffering yesterday but there is probably at least one more: turning against one another under stress. So James 5:9-11:
Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As
you know, we consider 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.
It surprises a bit to hear James speak about grumbling because his focus has been on the rich farmers and the oppressed, unpaid laborers. But anyone who has pastored (or coached a sports team) knows that stress can lead to turning against one another, and we see that clearly also in James 4:1-6.
The turn toward inner dissension reminds me of Jesus’ words to his disciples who sought the status of MVP (Mark 10:35-45) and to the many early Christian exhortations for the churches to avoid dissension (see Galatians 5). Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is for unity.
Such dissension, James says in 3:13-18, is from the evil one. It is also friendship with the world (4:1-6). And James’ wisdom is to be humble and God will do the exalting (4:7-11). In other words, James 5:9-11 is of a piece with other stuff in James and not out of nowhere. Stress precipitates dissension.
In fact, James promises God’s mercy — just as he did in 2:12-13. Oddly, James appeals to patience and then offers God’s mercy — to those who are tempted to anger, violence and dissension in 5:11: “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord
finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
In the end, God will be merciful and will exalt those who have been oppressed. The messianists are to stand firm and wait for God to act.