Woe to the Rich.[a] 1 Come now, you who are rich. Lament and weep over the miseries that will soon overwhelm you. 2 Your riches have rotted. Your clothes are all moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded. Their corrosion will serve as a witness against you and consume your flesh like a fire. You have hoarded wealth for the last days.
4 Behold, the wages you fraudulently withheld from the laborers who harvested your fields are crying out, and the cries of those harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have gorged yourselves as on the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned the righteous man and murdered him, even though he offered you no resistance.
Patience, for the Lord’s Coming Is Near.[b] 7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Think of how patiently a farmer awaits the precious crop from his fields until they have received the early and the late rains. 8 You too must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.[c]
9 Brethren, do not raise complaints against one another lest you yourselves be brought to judgment. Behold, the Judge is standing at the gates.
10 As an example of patience in enduring hardship, brethren, consider the Prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Indeed, those who had perseverance are the ones we call blessed. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and have come to understand the Lord’s purpose in this respect, because the Lord is merciful and compassionate.
12 Do Not Swear. Above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth, or use any oaths at all. Let your “Yes” mean “Yes” and your “No” mean “No.” Otherwise you may be condemned.[d]
13 Anointing of the Sick.[e]Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? He should send for the presbyters of the Church so that they may pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.
16 Confession and Intercession. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a man like us. Yet when he prayed fervently that it might not rain for three and a half years, it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heavens gave forth rain, and the earth once again brought forth its harvest.
19 The Peace of Fraternal Love.[f] My brethren, if one of you should stray from the truth and another succeeds in bringing him back, 20 remember this: A person who brings back a sinner from erring ways will rescue his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
- James 5:1 Here, we hear again the cries of the Prophets denouncing the injustice and inhumanity of riches (see Isa 5:8-10; Jer 5:26-30; Am 8:4-8); we also hear the voice of Christ placing us on guard against the danger of riches (see Lk 6:24; 18:24-27). The Bible has always seen the accumulation of goods as tarnished by some injustice. It instinctively feels how riches give birth to a type of person whose sense of his own human condition becomes warped and who loses sight of the proper relationship of fraternity and justice in regard to others.
- James 5:7 For the Old Testament as well as for the New, the life of believers tends toward the final encounter with the Lord. The future of human beings does not rest in any terrestrial value in an absolute manner. It rests in God.
- James 5:8 The expectation of the Lord’s Second Coming (see 1 Cor 15:23) is the ultimate basis for Christian patience (see Jas 1:2—4:12; 1 Thes 3:13; 1 Pet 4:7; 5:10).
- James 5:12 The Sermon on the Mount gives us the same recommendation in the same terms (see Mt 5:34-37).
- James 5:13 The Church was to pay special attention to the sick. Catholic tradition sees in this passage a testimony to the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. It was with an appeal to it that Pope Innocent I (in his Letter of March 19, 416, to Decentius, Bishop of Gubbio) justified the rite used in the Church and declared it to be a “Sacrament”; this doctrine was later solemnly defined by the Council of Trent despite the opposition of the Protestants (Session 14, November 25, 1551).
The reference to prayer ends with the example of Elijah. The Jewish tradition was familiar with several examples of Prophets who had interceded for the people (see Gen 18:22-32; Ex 32:11-14, 30-32). Elijah was a very popular figure both in Jewish tradition and in the early Christian tradition (which identified the coming Elijah with John the Baptist).
- James 5:19 James regards the return of a straying brother to the truth as a real rescue from death (see Mt 18:12-13; 1 Jn 5:16). It would seem that the sins “covered,” i.e., forgiven, are those of the brother who had gone astray (see 1 Pet 4:8) rather than those of the brother who brings him back to the truth (see Ezek 3:20-21; 1 Tim 4:16). In speaking of a “multitude of sins” James is perhaps including the sins of both (see Jas 2:13).