Come now, you rich! Weep and cry aloud over the miseries that are coming on you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your clothing has become moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have rusted and their rust will be a witness against you. It will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have hoarded treasure! 4 Look, the pay you have held back from the workers who mowed your fields cries out against you, and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived indulgently and luxuriously on the earth. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person, although he does not resist you. James 5:1-6 (NET)
Just like in James’ day, we tend to honor those with wealth more than we honor the poor. It’s an age-old problem, and that is, I think, why James brings it up so frequently. He calls the wealthy to humility (James 1:9-11); tells the people at a meeting for worship that if they favor the wealthy worshiper over the poor worshiper, they discriminate and become judges with evil thoughts; and James points out that the poor do no harm, but it is the wealthy who use the law to oppress (James 2:1-7).
When we get to James 5, we read a direct condemnation of the rich: James says that the wages they didn’t pay are calling out against them. James says they have hoarded wealth. James says, “You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter” (5:5). These are strong words.
Some have read James as a revolutionary text, but I think James is trying to get people to recognize one fact that should be common sense: the powerless are not to blame for society’s problems; they cannot be because they have no power.
Jesus taught us that the way we treat those who society casts away is the way we treat Jesus himself. “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in” (Matthew 25:35). This is why the New Testament again and again calls us to view each other with God’s eyes of love. We must allow the Holy Spirit to break down the barriers between us.
Prayer suggestion: Jesus, make my heart sensitive to the needs of people. Teach me to see people with your eyes of love.
Published in Fall 2018 edition of Fruit of the Vine