Summary: We will be faced with situations of oppression in life. Rather than respond with retaliation we are called to be patient.
I’ve been very intrigued by the “Occupy Movement” who feel they have been hard done by. If you look at the statistics you might agree.
Wealth is unfairly distributed. In America 1% of the population owns 35% of the wealth. 80% of the population owns 15% of the wealth.
In Australia 60% of the population owns 18% of the wealth.
You can see why people get upset can’t you. It all seems so unfair – there is a basic inequality in this world. No wonder you get people walking around with signs 99%
But now let us get an even clearer picture that might really make you upset. In 2005 in our world
5.15 billion people lived on $10 a day or less.
1.31 billion people lived on $10 a day or more.
I don’t think there are many Americans, or Australians, or Europeans living on less than $10. The 99% actually have it very well considering the global picture. So much oppression.
And this is only one situation of oppression in the world. We can mention so many more:-
… on a global scale.
… on a national scale.
… on a local scale.
… on a personal scale.
As we think about these issues the question becomes, what do we do when we face oppression?
Let’s have a look at the answer James gives us.
James 5:1-12 (read)
What is the situation of oppression which James has in mind here?
Oppressive Rich Land Owners
Let’s understand that these land owners are not believers. They are not in the church. They have not submitted to the authority of God. Yet, because many of the early Christians were poor, the actions of the land owners were impacting the church members.
Here we have a man who is poor. He lives in a culture where paying workers on a day by day basis was the lawful and socially acceptable practise. Literally the money he earns today puts food on the table tomorrow – or even tonight. Day labourers in Palestine lived on the very verge of starvation all the time. It was impossible for him to save anything; and if the wage was withheld from him, even for a day, he and his family simply could not eat.
One day one of these wealthy landowner calls them over and says, "Work in my field all day and I will give you such-and-such a wage". It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing. So all day under the hot sun this man laboured longing for the evening to come when he’d take his wage home to his wife and children and buy some food that they might live. But at the end of the day the landowner turned up with some of his bully boys and said he didn’t have the money right now, and "to come back tomorrow". The land owner goes home to his luxurious house with all the provisions he will ever need, the poor man goes home to with nothing to nothing.
It is oppression beyond description.
And notice the response of James to this situation.
Notice that nowhere in these first six verses do we find James call them to repentance, or encouraging them to change, or reasoning with them to think about their attitudes.
It is just judgement all the way.
Weep and wail … misery is coming.
You think that you have made your money just so that you can sit in your expensive homes and avoid the realities of life. You use your riches to be pampered and make your life so much easier than everyone else. You are happy and content and think you are in control. But you will not avoid the reality forever. You are going to discover a greater hardship – the hardship of God’s judgement.