James 5:14 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

James 5:14, NIV: "Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord."

James 5:14, ESV: "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."

James 5:14, KJV: "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:"

James 5:14, NASB: "Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;"

James 5:14, NLT: "Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord."

James 5:14, CSB: "Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."

What does James 5:14 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Verse 14 and 15 have been the source of controversy among Christians. The question James is asking is how should believers respond when we are "sick," and what result should we expect when we take action. Most translations render the Greek word asthenei here as "sick," and many Bible scholars agree that James has in mind a physical illness. Some scholars, however, suggest that James is referring to a spiritual weakness or lack of faith. The Greek word is sometimes translated in that or a similar sense (e.g., Romans 5:6). The word carries mostly a sense of weakness, or being feeble.

If James has spiritual weakness in mind, his instruction is directed at someone who does not feel firm in his faith. This might be because of ongoing suffering or some other cause. Such a person should to call for the elders—the spiritual leaders—of the church to pray for him. This instruction comes with the promise that the Lord will reestablish his faith. And, that any sin responsible for his spiritual weakness will be forgiven.

The other possibility is that James simply means for someone with a physical illness to do the same, with the promise of eventual physical healing and the assurance of forgiveness of sins. Whatever the case, the elders are called to anoint this unwell person with oil in the name of the Lord.

To anoint someone with oil in the culture of the time meant to pour oil over them for one of four possible purposes. Oil was sometimes used in the ancient world as a general medicinal cure. At other times, it was used to express concern, as a physical demonstration of emotional care for a person. Or it's possible that James meant for the oil to be part of a sacrament of healing or a physical symbol that someone was being set apart for God's purposes.

Whatever the specific answers are to these questions, we can all agree on several things from this verse: First, God doesn't intend for Christians to suffer alone. Nor does He want them to pray for themselves in private without ever revealing their problems. Second, God does intend for the spiritual leaders of local churches to be ready and willing to pray together for the struggling people in their congregations.

James continues to explore this idea in verse 15.