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Ministering to the weak and the wanderer              James 5:13-20

There were medicines available in the 1st century based on combining oils – but mostly for those who were richer. What would you do if you or a family member was just an ordinary churchgoer who was weakened by an illness?

You would reach out to your church leaders, who had been entrusted with resources by the congregation so that they could meet urgent needs!

Acts 4:32-37

James letter, probably the first book of the N. T., written in the AD 40’s, should not be overlooked for its important information about “how to do” church.


The weak are to call for the church leaders to help them                                       V. 13-18

The word translated sick in verse 14 is the Greek word astheneo, which primarily refers to weakness. In all but 3 of its other appearances in the N.T., it refers to physical weakness.

Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.  -Rom. 14:1

For this reason (SIN) many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.      -I Cor. 11:30

Psalm 32

The Bible speaks of both ceremonial and medicinal purposes for oil. James seems to combine the uses here.

Psalm 23:5                 

Exodus 40:9

Unfortunately, the Roman Catholic church took this passage and turned it into a passage supporting confession to a priest as an intermediary and the sacrament of extreme unction. The text doesn’t support either!

The best modern application may be for church leaders to address spiritual needs with the person, then pray over them and advise them to follow medical instructions. It was Christians who cared about the whole person who built the first hospitals!

The word translated sick in verse 15 is different than the one in verse 14. It is the rare Greek word Kamnonta, which never means sick and would be better translated weary, as it is in Hebrews 12:3!

The overall aim here is to help people face what they are facing with God’s peace, whether he chooses to heal now or in eternity.                    Philippians 4:6-7

“Sin drives Christians apart and produces a hellish individualism – a deadening independence. Sin withdraws us from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive the power of sin over him. But confession to a fellow brother or sister destroys this deadly autonomy. It pulls down the barrier of hypocrisy and allows the free flow of grace in the community.”     -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“There are many things outside the power of ordinary Christian people…but the humblest and least significant Christian can pray, and as ‘prayer moves the ‘Hand’ that moves the world,’ perhaps the greatest power we can exert is that which comes through prayer.” -Griffith Thomas

“The saint who advances on his knees never retreats.”        -Jim Elliott


The church is to go to the wanderer without being called to help!                         V. 19-20