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First 5 is a daily bible study app brought to you by Proverbs 31 Ministries. First 5 was specifically designed to greet you with a short teaching in God’s Word each day, before you get distracted by social media and everything else screaming for your attention. It will equip you to better study and know the Word of God.


Our Current Study

Am I Doing This Right? How To Live Out Your Faith Through the Wisdom Found in James

A seven-week study starting April 8 in the free First 5 mobile app

You don’t have to carry the weight of doing everything perfectly.

Whether it’s a relational hardship, a financial decision, or simply wanting to know if our actions are honoring God, sometimes we just need affirmation that we are on the right path. Thankfully, the book of James is filled with practical daily directions that show us how to live a godly life without the pressure of feeling like everything depends on us.

If you find yourself growing weary in doing good works, wondering if your prayers are just hitting the ceiling, or sometimes questioning if living out your faith in Jesus is really worth it … this study is for you!

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Can I be Honest? Study Guide

Today’s Teaching

Mercy and Justice in the Face of Oppression

Kellye Schiffner Carver

Day: 30 | Plan: James 2024

Start Here: James 5:4-6

Key Verses: James 5:4 (ESV) "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."

Major Moment: James assured that rich oppressors will face judgment.

Throughout history, the rich and poor have often lived in very different worlds. Whether it's the property values of the neighborhood, the size or quality of housing, or the services available in a given area, we don't have to look far to see discrepancies. And perhaps even more so than today, there was a sizable gap between the rich and the poor in biblical times. Though some exploited this gap for "self-indulgence" (James 5:5), James spoke out for godly justice in today's scriptures.

According to the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, the Jews fell on hard times under Herod the Great and the Roman general Pompey. They were subjected to high taxes, and many lost land and farms. Most Jewish peasants in James' time lived and worked on large estates outside of cities, where they could run their own farms on a landowner's property, giving the owner a share of their crops. Landowners could also hire day laborers or servants, though James called out corrupt landowners for not paying employees fairly. James said withheld wages were "crying out against" (James 5:4) those who "murdered the righteous" (James 5:6), similar to how God said in Genesis 4:10 that "blood [was] crying to [Him] from the ground" after the world's first murder was committed.

In James' day, work could be seasonal and hard to come by, so every coin mattered for feeding one's family or paying rent. Those who couldn't find work in agriculture could end up as day laborers in the city, where they lived in very poor conditions. If they couldn't pay rent, landlords simply replaced them. These harsh circumstances often led to social unrest and even violence. However, James reminded unjustly treated workers that they could instead cry out to God, who helps the oppressed and righteously judges oppressors (Deuteronomy 24:14-15; James 5:4).

As an illustration of God's judgment, James 5:5 described landowners feasting on the day of slaughter, which had a double meaning:

1. The poor could only afford meat for special occasions, like a harvest or festival. The rich, however, could slaughter fattened livestock whenever they liked, whether for themselves or guests. To eat this way in front of exploited or disadvantaged workers was inappropriate and cruel.

2. Ironically, James also compared the rich themselves to fattened livestock (James 5:5), suggesting their mismanagement would come back upon them. Herein lies a lesson for every age: God defends the poor and vulnerable (Malachi 3:5).

Unfortunately, oppression still plagues our world today, but as Christians, we are called to live mercifully and justly. Scripture directs us to care for our neighbors and treat others fairly (1 Peter 4:10-11; Acts 20:35; Galatians 5:13-14; Philippians 2:1-11). Perhaps that means paying an honest wage, supporting organizations that serve our communities, volunteering our time, or taking action in some other way. We can be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around us, showing our neighbors God's love and justice and working toward a world without oppression (John 13:34-35; Matthew 5:16; Isaiah 9:7).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank You that You are a God who defends the widow, the orphan, the poor and the oppressed. When I face injustice in my own life, help me remember that You will defend me. Please also help me be the hands and feet of Your beloved Son, Jesus; when I see injustice in my life or others', help me shine Your light to stop it. In Jesus' name, amen.

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First 5 Study guides


Do you have 15 minutes instead of 5 minutes for your quiet time? Study Guides are the First 5 app companion to take your daily bible study a little deeper. They include daily questions for each passage of Scripture, including reflection that applies to your life. Historical background and context to the culture are also included, with so much more.

Make it Count:

A Study of the Book of Deuteronomy

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The Hard and the Holy:

What the Book of Leviticus Means for Today

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How To Wrestle Well When You’re Worn Out in the Waiting

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How Then Can We Be Friends?

A Philippians Study Guide

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