Sermon: Retaliation or Rescue? - James 5

When we are wronged the Scriptures encourage us to respond with patient endurance instead of sinful retaliation.

Sermon series: Pressure Points

  1. When You Suffer - James 1
  2. The Lure of Sin - James 1
  3. Performance or Mercy? - James 2
  4. The Power of Words - James 3
  5. Why We Fight - James 4
  6. Retaliation or Rescue? - James 5

To be used with: Session Six. The Pressure of Retaliation
Alternate title: Wait for the Lord's Rescue
Scriptures: James 5:1-11

Connection to unit theme

It is natural to want justice. It is even natural to desire retaliation. Yet we know that God is going to make all things right. He will bring justice. This truth shapes the way we respond to injustice. When we are wronged the Scriptures encourage us to respond with patient endurance instead of sinful retaliation.

Introduction

This song, God Will Lift Up Your Head, by Jars of Clay would have been welcome to the ears of those that James writes to. Perhaps they are welcome to our ears as well:

In times of great distress we can be tempted to pursue our own retaliation. Yet the truth that God is going to set all things right charts for us a different course. There are three implications from this truth that James outlines in this text. First, because God is making all things right we must be sure that we are not on the wrong side of His bringing of justice. Secondly, we must trust in His coming rescue and not our own feeble attempts at retaliation. Lastly, in the midst of suffering we must strengthen our hearts.

I. Be on the right side of God's rescue (5:1-6)

In 5:1-6 James address the rich. He likely is not actually speaking to the wealthy but about them for the benefit of the oppressed believers that are present. It serves as a warning not to be on the wrong side of God's rescue.

A. Those who trust in riches will suffer the same fate as their fading treasures (5:1-3)

  • Ruined & moth-eaten
  • Corroded

B. Mere wealth isn't the problem here, extortion is (5:4-6)

  • Unfair wages
  • Living in luxury in a day of slaughter
  • Condemnation and murder of the righteous

For God to bring justice it means that oppressors and wrongdoers will be condemned. Such a truth urges us to turn to Christ in repentance and belief.

II. Trust in God's rescue (5:7-8a)

Those that are presently oppressing the believers in James' day will eventually come to justice. In light of this truth we are to trust in God's rescue and not pursue our own means of retaliation.

A. Be patient because the Lord is coming (5:7)

As seen in the farmer

B. His rescue will be precious (5:7)

  • As the precious fruit that the farmer so patiently waits for
  • This also implies working as we wait

III. Strengthen our hearts as we wait for God's rescue (5:8b-11)

Not only must we wait but we also must actively strengthen our hearts.

A. The coming of the Lord is at hand (5:8b)

This implies that we must be ready for His coming and not found sleeping and inactive

B. Not complaining (5:9)

  • We are tempted to complain as we wait for rescue
  • Such complaining puts us on the wrong side of God's rescue

C. Consider examples (5:10-11)

  • Consider the prophets (5:10)
  • Consider Job (5:11)
  • Consider the Lord's character (5:11)

Conclusion

When we pursue our own retaliation it reveals a heart that does not trust in the Lord's ultimate rescue. The same is true if we find ourselves in bitter despair when we experience oppression. The Lord Jesus faced a great injustice than we ever will. During this time He absolutely trusted in the Lord. By doing this He secured our rescue. May we continue to trust Him and His rescue instead of fighting for our perceived "rights"!

Mike Leake is the husband of Nikki, father of Isaiah and Hannah, as well as the associate pastor at First Baptist Church, Jasper, Indiana. He frequently writes at SBC Voices and his personal blog, mikeleake.net. He is also slowly working toward completing his Master's of Divinity degree at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.