What does James 5:8 mean?
ESV: You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
NIV: You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.
NASB: You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.
CSB: You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord's coming is near.
NLT: You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.
KJV: Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
In this passage, James is urging his oppressed Christian readers to be patient as they wait for the coming of the Lord. In the previous verse, he pointed to the example of farmers. These hardworking people wait through the long, arduous growing seasons for the crop to finally become ready to harvest.
Be like those farmers, James writes. The harvest is close. The coming of the Lord is near. James tells his readers to strengthen or establish their hearts. His instruction for them is not to waver, when they're so close to receiving God's promise.
We cannot control the timing of the day of the Lord. However, James's instruction here makes it clear that we can control how we respond to the waiting. The reality of God's promise—His pledge to rescue us and make things right—gives us the ability to stand strong, even when our circumstances have not yet changed.
James 5:7–12 shifts focus from the condemnation of the rich oppressors, back to encouragement of the Christians these abusers were hurting. James urges believers to remain patient and strong in their faith. The day of the Lord is coming. They must not turn on each other, but they should be challenged and encouraged by the examples of the Old Testament prophets and Job who remained faithful to God through great suffering.
What was causing fights and quarrels among the Christians to whom James was writing? They were living by the world's wisdom. This false perspective says human beings should do whatever it takes to get what they want in this life, even if it hurts other people. James says that to live that way is adultery, but God gives grace. Christians should repent and move close to God again. We should trust Him to provide, to be the Judge, and to lift us up in His time. In humility, we must acknowledge that all of our plans are dependent on Him, and He can change them at any moment.
Prior chapters in this letter focused on the relationship between beliefs and actions, and how to practically apply the concepts of Christianity. In chapter 4, James called his Christian readers to repent of their worldliness and turn back to closeness with God. Now in the last chapter of his letter, James addresses three things: He pronounces to the rich oppressors of the Christians that their judgment is coming on the day of the Lord. He urges those suffering under that oppression to remain patient, strong in their faith, as they wait for the day of the Lord. And he encourages all Christians to show their faith in God by praying in response to every circumstance.
The book of James is about specifically understanding what saving faith looks like. How does faith in Christ reveal itself in a believer's life? What choices does real trust in God lead us to make? Those are the questions James answers. Most scholars believe the writer was Jesus' half-brother, a son born to Joseph and Mary after Jesus' birth. James may not have come to believe Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection. Eventually, though, he became one of the leaders of the Christian church in Jerusalem. This is possibly the earliest-written of all the New Testament books, around AD 40–50. James addresses his letter to Jewish Christians scattered around the known world.
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