James on Justice (An Appeal for Classless Christianity) James 5:1-6

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Here we are finally in the last chapter of James making a slow descent toward the runway to land this thing. We’ll be taking just the first half of chapter 5 today and finishing up next time.

As I’ve been saying all along, James’ letter addresses and undresses classism, the idea and lifestyle that one human is better than another based on external factors, like economics and social standing. You can’t be the kind of Christian that James, to say nothing of his half-brother Jesus, approve of, and at the same time, judge the relative worth of other humans based on their socioeconomic success or race or any external factor.

As in previous posts, I’ll be whetting your appetite with some hors d’oeuvres from my podcast on these verses from James 5. Please listen to the brief-ish audio and share it with someone you love!

A final word to you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You’ll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment.” The Message Bible

“Making a killing” to describe a good financial deal in stock market or real estate market is an interesting colloquialism, don’t you think? Who or what is being “killed” and who benefitted from the killing?

Remember the poor man James described earlier, who came to the church and was treated unfairly? The needed more than a good seat in the service, he had “physical needs…” You can’t send him away with a pat on the back and a “be warmed and filled” platitude”…

If God entrusts wealth to us, we have a fearful responsibility to use it in God-honoring ways and not to pile it up and then compare our pile with everyone else’s pile!

Justice has as much to do with the just acquisition of wealth as the just distribution of it.

Our idea of holiness has a “hole” it. Have you noticed that we’re more apt to rail against certain private morality issues and conveniently overlook a lot of our social sins. We talk to the worker but not to the employer about their sins. We tell people in our churches to repent of their lusts and addictions, but not their selfish misuse of privilege.

Of course, not every wealthy person gets their wealth on the backs of the poor. Many choose to practice capitalism with a conscience. They never rise by putting others down…

“Your houses are filled with things stolen from the poor. How dare you crush my people, grinding the faces of the poor into the dust?” (Isaiah 3:14)

“Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” Wendell Berry

Money buys clout. A wealthy student athlete gets away with raping a fellow student with a slap on the wrist. A rich and famous football star gets away with murdering his wife. A CEO is fired for robbing the company and goes to white-collar resort jail for two years and comes out with a $47 million bonus!

The majority culture in any country has the power to bless or oppress those in the minority. Threaten their majority status and it’s game on!

“Left to ourselves, the majority will always protect the powerful, and forget the weak. That’s especially true when the weak at issue are not only powerless but invisible.” Russell Moore

“The strong must disadvantage themselves for the weak, the majority for the minority, or the community frays and the fabric breaks.” Timothy Keller

“When human systems distribute God-given resources in a way that places a small fraction of humanity in luxury while a billion people live – or die – on less than a dollar a day, can that be anything other than sin?” Craig Greenfield

These are not the rantings of a lefty liberal activist against corporate America. It’s James, the half-brother of Jesus. Even John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley preached about the wicked practices of the rich over the poor laborers.

He’s a God who says there are no “classes” among us, no caste system in his system. No one is greater than anyone else. And He listens to the cries of the poor and victimized, certainly more than the prayers of the victimizers…

Can we hear the cries of the God who hears the cries of the oppressed?

“I believe that God is using the cries of our friends who suffer in poverty today to call the church out of its soundproof sanctuaries.” Christopher Heuertz

Listen to the audio podcast here

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. Amen

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