Wednesday, April 9, 2014

James 5:8-12 -- On Patience and Swearing Not

"Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation."
James 5:8-12

This is a good lesson in patience.  We shouldn't hold grudges, we should be willing to suffer some affliction and have patience rather than lashing out.  Enduring some affliction doesn't make us doormats... in the end, it makes us happy.  Happier than we would be if we took it out on someone, or lost control of our emotions.  Like he did for Job, God will reward patient endurance.
I think it is interesting that it says "above all things" that we should swear not.  This is one of those things that God asks that we probably take way too lightly... because how often can we get through a day without listening to swearing, or doing it ourselves in some way?  Right now I live in New York City and I ride the subway, so perhaps my experience is skewed a little bit.  But it isn't just on the street.  It is on television, online, and so often in person, or we even find it in our own minds or coming from our own mouths.  God asks us to let our yea be yea and our nay nay... and so often our agreements and denials become interspersed with expletives.  We throw drama into everything rather than just expressing yes or no.  I think, like the verses that precede it, this last verse is also about patience.  If we could be patient and calm, then we wouldn't swear.  We wouldn't risk offending people... even when we are calling the complaint line.  Those people just work there.  They haven't wronged us.
I think we have a skewed view of our own suffering.  We always paint it bigger than it is.  We call it overwhelming and unendurable and we get histrionic about how we've suffered for so long, and God shouldn't expect this of us, and we might as well give up... and sometimes we do.  But our sufferings are all things that are common to man.  They are not unendurable... they are just painful.  Christ suffered for us so that they *wouldn't* be beyond our capacity.  God offers to make our burdens light.  He offers to helps us find the happiness in even the darkest moments.  He stands between our painful experiences and the point where they would break us permanently and offers help.  And although some of our suffering can be intense, temporarily, in the end he heals all of our pain... spiritually and physically.
Today, let's step back from being drama queens and complaining and swearing about all of our problems.  Let's take our verbal expressions down a notch, and let our yes just be yes, and our no simply no.  Let's remember what the prophets, and Christ, and so many other people have suffered, and not rate our suffering as somehow more or think that somehow God has singled us out of the universe for specific and unusual torture.  When things get bad, let's turn to God and ask for help, rather than cursing him.  As it says in the next verse, "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray."  Prayer before swear. :)  Let's remember.

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