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A Brother’s Wisdom 83

JesusJames*.jpgI 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.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Rick

    I guess these days we could replace the messianists with fans of the Cubs (yes- I saw your tweet that claimed the Braves caught “a break”. Spare me.). Rather than looking to Job they can look to the Red Sox. ;^)
    Seriously speaking though, “The messianists are to stand firm and wait for God to act.” That is so very hard, especially in times of stress.
    “Oddly, James appeals to patience and then offers God’s mercy — to those who are tempted to anger, violence and dissension in 5:11″.
    Would you say then that what MLK Jr or Rosa Parks did were wrong, since they were involved in acts of dissension?

  • http://www.everybrokenthing.net/Waterboard_Jesus.html Lance

    “Would you say then that what MLK Jr or Rosa Parks did were wrong, since they were involved in acts of dissension?”
    No more than Peter walking out of chains and away from the jail when he had the chance. (Think of the number of jailers who were killed that next day.)
    And that time the tables went flying outside the temple…

  • Scot McKnight

    Their acts were not acts of dissension but protests of justice. The issues here always revolve around doing what is right — and doing right is justice and doing wrong is dissension.


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