Warning to the Rich.* 1Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.a 2Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten,b 3your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days.c 4Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.d 5You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.e 6You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one;f he offers you no resistance.*
Patience and Oaths. 7* Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.* 8You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.g 9Do not complain, brothers, about one another, that you may not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates. 10Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Indeed we call blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of the perseverance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, because “the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”h
IV. The Power of Prayer
Anointing of the Sick. 13Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. 14Is anyone among you sick?* He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord,j 15and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.*
Confession and Intercession. 16Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. 17Elijah was a human being like us; yet he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain upon the land.k 18Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the earth produced its fruit.l
Conversion of Sinners. 19m My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, 20n he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.*
* [5:1–6] Continuing with the theme of the transitory character of life on earth, the author points out the impending ruin of the godless. He denounces the unjust rich, whose victims cry to heaven for judgment on their exploiters (Jas 5:4–6). The decay and corrosion of the costly garments and metals, which symbolize wealth, prove them worthless and portend the destruction of their possessors (Jas 5:2–3).
* [5:6] The author does not have in mind any specific crime in his readers’ communities but rather echoes the Old Testament theme of the harsh oppression of the righteous poor (see Prv 1:11; Wis 2:10, 12, 20).
* [5:7–11] Those oppressed by the unjust rich are reminded of the need for patience, both in bearing the sufferings of human life (Jas 5:9) and in their expectation of the coming of the Lord. It is then that they will receive their reward (Jas 5:7–8, 10–11; cf. Heb 10:25; 1 Jn 2:18).
* [5:12] This is the threat of condemnation for the abuse of swearing oaths (cf. Mt 5:33–37). By heaven or by earth: these words were substitutes for the original form of an oath, to circumvent its binding force and to avoid pronouncing the holy name of God (see Ex 22:10).
* [5:14] In case of sickness a Christian should ask for the presbyters of the church, i.e., those who have authority in the church (cf. Acts 15:2, 22–23; 1 Tm 5:17; Ti 1:5). They are to pray over the person and anoint with oil; oil was used for medicinal purposes in the ancient world (see Is 1:6; Lk 10:34). In Mk 6:13, the Twelve anoint the sick with oil on their missionary journey. In the name of the Lord: by the power of Jesus Christ.
* [5:15] The results of the prayer and anointing are physical health and forgiveness of sins. The Roman Catholic Church (Council of Trent, Session 14) declared that this anointing of the sick is a sacrament “instituted by Christ and promulgated by blessed James the apostle.”
* [5:20] When a Christian is instrumental in the conversion of a sinner, the result is forgiveness of sins and a reinstatement of the sinner to the life of grace.