November 30, 2005

James 5: Grow Your Faith

Toward the close of his Letter, James reminds believers to be steadfast in their faith.

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

James 5:7-9

What stuck out there as I read it in the ESV was ‘establish your hearts’ in just about every other translation I’ve seen before (NASB, NIV, NLT) this is rendered ‘strengthen, stand firm, or take courage.’ However, I do think this is perhaps a more literal rendering of the Greek ‘sterizo’ --- of course it’s hard to ignore our English word ‘steroid’ that I’m sure we derive from this root.

I think what James has in mind here is an extension of his farming analogy, perhaps even an illusion to the ‘parable of the sower.’ He’s not just saying we should be patient and strengthen our faith but that we should ‘grow’ strong and deep roots for our seed of faith. We should take care to know that we will receive an early strengthening (rain) but in between we must take good care of our hearts so that we will endure until the later ‘rains’ of strength. The word ‘rain’ does not appear in the Greek here (however it is implied,) literally the verse reads:
‘Behold the farmer awaits the precious fruit of the earth, longsuffering over it until he receives early and latter.’
There are also parallels with the ‘fruit of the believer’, and the parable of the house built on the rock, however not as directly.

Luke has Jesus using this same term the night before his betrayal:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Luke 22:31-32

In this instance Peter and the other disciples have received the early nourishing ‘rain’ of Jesus, but soon be will without his presence. Jesus prays that Peter will be well grounded and a source of strength for the others.

So take care to keep your hearts well fertilized, watered, and exposed to the light!

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