A preacher friend of mine and I were discussing this verse. He told me James was not talking about sins, just “faults” (lapses in judgment, car wrecks, forgetting to pay your phone bill, and other benign things like that). That’s the safe approach, but that’s not what the word fault means. Well, it does mean that, but it goes much deeper ... and darker.
First, what is a "fault"? The definition is simple: a side-slip (lapse or deviation), (unintentional) error or (wilful) transgression: – fall, fault, offense, sin, trespass. The word fault means any error or deviation, whether it’s innocuous or grossly wicked. Robertson, the linguistic master, simply translated it “sins”. Faults are sins according to every Greek lexicon in the world (or at least the dozens I’ve studied).
I love how the Amplified Version renders this verse:
James 5:16 Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].
James 5:16 tells us there is healing in confession. The opportunity to admit to another human that you have sinned and then have that person pray for you–not destroy you with that information–is priceless. It is deeply therapeutic. My question is: Who do you confess your sins to? Who can you trust? Who can you sit down with and say:
“I have failed miserably. I’ve done the unspeakable. I need help. Will you pray for me?”
There are men that are drowning in pornography addiction. They want out, but are now enslaved by it. Sure. I know. All they have to do is repent and God will help them. That sounds great! But it’s not always that easy. Every vile image they’ve viewed has been etched into their memory. The affects of pornography are powerful and lingering. Some of these men would be healed if they could share their issue with another man, be held accountable, and then have that other man pray for and with them. There’s a reason James 5:16 was given to us. It means exactly what it says: there is healing in confession and prayer.
The Church should be the one place we can speak openly of our issues. Christians should be humble and reflective of where God has brought them from. Some professing Christians seem to forget they were once sinners. They can be judgmental and hypocritical. Gossip is their second language and they speak it fluently. Deadly poison is in their tongues. This should never be.
We have to change this, but how?
1. START TAKING ABOUT IT. Discuss this subject in Bible studies. Start talking about why we don’t or won’t confess our sins to each other. Talk about the danger of gossip. Talk about being trustworthy. Put this issue on the table for discussion.
2. BECOME THE SOLUTION. Be faithful. Be trustworthy. Stop gossiping. Stop listening to gossip. Pray for those that are in trouble. Make yourself available. Stop using other people’s faults to make yourself look better. Chopping other people down only gives you the illusion of rising. You’re not. You’re only destroying your neighbor and making yourself look like a fool in the meantime. Try to remember where God has brought you from and where you would be if He left you.
3. FIND SOMEONE YOU CAN TRUST. Find someone that’s proven themselves to you and ask them if they will be your accountability partner. Ask them if you can talk to them about the hard things. Ask them if they will pray for you and not use your confession against you. Try it out, little by little. Let them gain your trust. Do the same for them.