James 5:14 “Is anyone among you ill? He should summon*~ the elders of the church, and they should pray*~ for him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.”
Christians have generated many beliefs and practices because of misunderstanding, but few have been as misunderstood as this concept. Some want to promise all believers that they will always be healed, but sometimes God keeps us weak and dependent.
The word ill or sick (Gk., astheneo) means “weak, feeble, without strength or powerless.” It is used when discussing Christ being “crucified in weakness” (2 Cor 13:4), which is not a disease. Paul, describing his endurance in the ministry, said, “We are weak and you are made strong” (13:9).
The word is also used for physical sickness or debilitation (Matt 25:39; Jn 4:46; 11:1–-3, 6; Phil 2:26–-27; and 2 Tim 4:20). Which is the meaning in this context?
An indicator is the parallel word in James 5:15: “The prayer of faith will save the sick.” Here the same word means “to be weary, fatigued, even tired of living.” In Hebrews 12:3, we are exhorted to “consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” The usage of this word indicates that “weak” would be a better translation than “sick.”
The early church lived under threats and persecution; many believers were afflicted, beaten, tortured, or harassed. The leaders were instructed to “encourage the timid” and “help the weak” (1 Thes 5:14).
In James 5:14, the reader is commanded to “urgently summon” the elders or church leaders in the Jewish Christian community to his home to be “anoint[ed] with oil,” a Jewish custom used to alleviate pain or sickness.
Whatever the medicinal effect, the objective was to communicate that the church cared for hurting individuals enough to go to them, help them in their pain, pray to encourage them, and show solidarity to the hurting, defeated member. The body of Christ is one body; we embrace each other in need. Pray for one another.
“Dear God, You have given us instructios for every eventuality of life, even for when we are ill. I praise You for church leaders who willingly pray for those in need of Your healing touch, whether the need is physical or spiritual.”