Thursday, November 26, 2009

James 5 - Defrauding the Poor?

After reading James 5:1-6 I am left wondering, am I the rich in this passage? Back in the day this was written one would only have their immediate context to compare themselves with others and figure out if they were the rich or the poor.

Here is the passage from James 5:

1Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. 2Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

Today I have many contexts I can view myself from and based on the context I might be the rich or the poor. In my community of Westown I am rich. Within the city of Grand Rapids I am neither rich or poor. In the community I grew up in I would be considered poor. In much of the world I would be considered very rich.

God is listening to the cries of the people who are being defrauded. The very wages are crying out! I don't know exactly what that means but based on the rest of the passage the rich people are fattening themselves up on their luxuries awaiting the day of slaughter.

We now live in the information age and can see how people are living all over the globe. Should that be our context for identifying ourselves as either rich or poor? If we are the rich, how can we guard against not being like the rich in this passage? The rich in this passage were hoarding and defrauding.

Am I hoarding or defrauding? I'm pretty sure I don't hoard but could I be guilty of indirectly defrauding in the things that I consume? What kind of a responsibility do I have if I end up identifying myself as "rich"?

I am glad I am in Servants community where we can wrestle through these hard issues together.


  1. Have you had some good responses on this blog from Servants' Community, to help you wrestle through the hard issues? Can the social dynamics of Servants possibly provide you with help different than a church in a wealthy area (assuming you got help there)?

  2. Good points, Karen. There's no doubt in my mind that we all qualify as rich by the world's overall standard of living.

    I'm convinced that Jesus was actually against the accumulation of any wealth whatsoever. A few people throughout history (e.g., Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi) have taken that teaching seriously. But outside Catholicism, whose doctrines otherwise don't track with the NT very well, the number who have embraced poverty is tiny -- almost nonexistent.