The Test of Patient Endurance

by Mike Ratliff

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14 ESV)

One of the marketing themes of the Democratic Party’s attempt to take control of the White House and both houses of Congress along with Governor of many states in this election year (2008) is a an attempt to cast their opponent’s voting record and their past performance as supporting the wealthy while taking money from honest, hard working Americans. An analysis of what is being said by these demanding change for sake of change reveal promise after promise to take profit from those whose businesses do well and spread that money around to those who are relatively poor. While this may appear attractive to those who would see themselves as benefiting from this, this is nothing new.

I was in the 7th grade when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Therefore, I witnessed the two terms of Lyndon Johnson who was a New Deal Democrat. He tried to have Congress implement a plan called The Great Society. This was a plan to increase Government spending paid for by increasing taxes on the ‘wealthy’ and corporations. This spending was meant to go to programs designed to help the poor live better, et cetera. From this came increased Welfare and other programs where the US Government became responsible for supporting the poor with programs that ensured that most of them remained dependent and poor.

As Christians should we be at enmity with the ‘Rich’ and powerful? Should we be looking to the Government to be our ‘Big Brother’ to ensure that justice gets done? Of course, this justice would be based on arbitrary values; not necessarily Christian or Biblical values. What does God Word say about this?

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. (James 5:1-6 ESV)

The ‘rich’ in this passage are those with more than they need to live. Does James condemn them for being rich? No! He condemns them for misusing their wealth. These James refers to here profess to be Christians, but their real god is their money. James tells them that because of their ‘wickedness’ they are inciting judgment from God. Notice that they hoard their wealth and do not pay those who work for them. They worked within the legal system to maintain their wicked lifestyles. Again, please notice that these people are not guilty because they are successful, but because of their wicked misuse of God’s provision. What is James counsel to all Christians in how they are to respond to this?

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. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:7-11 ESV)

The Greek word James used here that we read as ‘be patient’ is μακροθυμέω or makrothumeō. This is the same word used throughout the New Testament that speaks of patience with people instead of trials and circumstances. James is using it here to refer to Christians being patient with the wicked rich he spoke of in vv1-6. He commands us to be longsuffering with them until when? When our Lord Jesus Christ returns, He will right all wrongs. This is a trust in the promises of God. We are not to take these matters into our own hands. Instead, we are to establish our hearts. This is a call for resolute, firm courage and commitment to not avenge ourselves on those who oppress us. Our hope is in the second coming of our Lord, not in the courts or elected officials. I see that some are looking to Barak Obama as the “messiah” who is going to right all of these wrongs and bring justice in the form of transferring the wealth of some to those who have been neglected.

My brethren, our hope is not in any man. Instead, it must be in the Judge who is standing at the door. We are to emulate the prophets of old who stood firm as examples of suffering and patience. This is our calling my brethren, not the active pursuit of man-made justice. This principle also applies to all of our personal relationships. We are called to patiently endure, not strike back, or seek their punishment. No, we are to pray for them and actually love them. God’s justice will prevail. In whom do we trust? In whom is our faith grounded?

Soli Deo Gloria!

11 thoughts on “The Test of Patient Endurance

  1. Pingback: The Test of Patient Endurance - Reformata

  2. Amen Mike! We’ll be glad when the election is over. Are you tired of hearing all the commercials and etc? We sure are. Who ever is elected, it is Gods will. We think they are both a bad choice, but in spite of both of them, the Lords will will be done. I’m SO at peace with Him being in charge.

  3. The visible Church badly needs to return to the grass roots gospel preached by JESUS of Nazareth. His teachings are the fountain and wellspring of LIFE, unto eternity.

  4. I have a question rather than a comment – What are we, as Christians, to do when it comes to an evil government? I know the verses about submission and prayer for your leaders, but what do you do when you know about evil happening that is sanctioned and carried out by those in authority? Our country was founded by Christians who took a stand. I am sincere in my asking – I am very perplexed after hearing my Pastor’s sermon yesterday.
    In advance, thank you for your help!!
    Beth

  5. Beth,

    From what I have studied in scripture I see that we must obey the government over us when doing so is not in conflict with what we are commanded to do and not do as Christians by God. We obey Him. We withstand evil governments when they command that we disobey God. If it became illegal to be a Christian here then we must disobey the government. I will never dilute the scriptures, but that too could become illegal because God’s word indicts sinful men and some claim that is Hate. Do you see what I am saying?

    I have a friend who goes into Muslim countries as a missionary. It is illegal there to do what he does, but he does it anyway. We are commanded to do this by God.

    Now, if the US government caves in to the liberal and islamic pressures to view our faith as just another religion and, therefore, cannot speak against islam or hinduism or same sex marriage, etc. then we must disobey it even if that means going underground.

    However, does it mean that we rise up and overthrow governments? I don’t see that as an option in Scripture for us. Instead, we are to await the return of our Lord Jesus Christ who will make all things right.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. The whole idea that we should tax the rich more and the poor less is a form of socialism. There should be a fair tax which does not penalize people for success and hard work. Under socialism, lazy people are rewarded while the rich have less money for increasing the wages of their own employees. If you place a tax on goods and services only, then you don’t penalize people for working. Our current govt. is moving towards a “Nanny state,” which is a kind of socialism. True capitalism exists when the govt. does not try to control the markets. It baffles me when I hear people say that we have a capitalist society. Free markets have very little govt. intervention where recessions happen because it is the nature of the market. Man tries to play God when he prints paper out of thin air, seeks to manipulate the market, and/or wreak havoc on the honest. In today’s market, we see that fiat currency is the cause of the derivative crisis. Credit default swaps and predatory lending are another cause……. all because of man’s ability to create easy money out of nothing. Fiat currency has no real accountability and is morally unjust.

  7. If anyone is interested in understanding the economics thing from a Christian perspective, go to http://www.mcalvany.com and listen to their weekly commentary. Just click on the little speaker when the correct commentary comes up. These commentaries are done in such a way that someone who does not understand economics can actually understand. All of these terms that I have been hearing on talk shows made no sense to me until I did a little bit of research. It doesn’t hurt to educate ourselves in the midst of a crisis. Knowledge is power.

  8. Beth’s question is interesting, and I too have wondered along those lines. From everything that I have studied in the scriptures (which is nowhere near your expertise Mike :-)), I can find no real justification for the American revolution. We should have just stayed law abiding English citizens, and only disobeyed insofar as English law was in direct opposition to Biblical mandates. Yet, this country prides itself on its Christian heritage.

    What am I missing on this one..?

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