Summary: Masters and Servants
RICH PEOPLE, RIGHT TREATMENT (JAMES 5:1-6)
Here are some of the wiser quotes on the rich and the poor on the Internet:
The rich get richer and the poor get children. John Brunner
No matter how rich or poor you are, all life will come to an halt with two types of destinations; Heaven and Hell. Callum Illman
History is written by the rich, and so the poor get blamed for everything. Jeffrey D. Sachs
If you are born poor it’s not your mistake, But if you die poor it’s your mistake. Bill Gates
Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor. Sholom Aleichem
Rich people have small TVs and big libraries, and poor people have small libraries and big TVs. Zig Ziglar
A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money.
The poor walk miles to get food, and the rich walk miles to digest food.
Without love, the rich and poor live in the same house.
You are not poor because someone else is wealthy.
Hong Kong, where I live, has the highest income gap between the rich and the poor of any developed economy in the world. The top 10 percent earn 29 times more than that of the poorest 10 percent. Oxfam reports, “In other words, the latter has to work two years and five months in order to earn what the top 10 percent earns in a single month. In Hong Kong, the poverty line is set at HK$3,275 (US$420) per month — 50 percent of the median income. Following this standard, one in five people live in poverty.
What kind of responsibility does the Lord expect from those with power and privilege? How can owners make a difference with their riches and resources? What can the downtrodden and the deprived do in their despair?
Find the Appropriate Feelings
1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you.
When the unpopular Henry III (an oppressing prince) sent a load of clothing material to the friar minors to clothe them, they returned the same with this message, that he ought not to give alms of what he had rent from the poor, neither would they accept of that abominable gift. Trapp, John.
There is no consensus to the “rich” that James targeted in this chapter: rich Jewish unbelievers, Gentiles, or unbelieving and wicked men (Schaff) in general.
The Bible is not against having riches, but against trusting in wealth, boasting in the multitude of riches (Ps 49:6), trusting in the abundance of one’s riches (Ps 52:7), obtaining riches not unjustly (Jer 17:11). Five times the Bible warned against trusting in riches (Ps 52:7, Prov 11:28, Mark 10:24, 1 Tim 6:17). Proverbs says, “The rich and poor meet together: the Lord is the maker of them all.” (Prov 22:2). Oxfam claims that in 2016 the richest 62 people own half of the world's wealth. Yet in 2017 I heard that 10% of the congregation in our church bear 45% of the offering.
Verse 1 begins with two imperatives – listen and weep. The rich (missing in older manuscripts) in the Bible are not softly challenged, counseled, countered and corrected but strongly cautioned, criticized, chided and confronted, because the verb “listen/go” is an imperative, a command or a charge. The verb means going, leading, and heading. James asked the rich, What’s the future? What’s to follow? What is forthcoming?
The second imperative is weep. It is translated also as “bewail” (Rev 18:9). It is to weep and wail, to cry out rather than cry, with heart-breaking, gut-wrenching and tear-jerking distress, rather than sobbing, sniffing and straining. It warns of haunting, horrific and harmful passion and pain.
The noun “misery” occurs only twice in the Bible but, unlike the other instance in Rom 3:16, which is singular, this misery is plural. It does not mean moderate but much wretchedness, woefulness and weightiness. The noun literally spells of heaviness rather than heartache, encumbrance rather than emotion, a balance and a bulk rather than the blues.
The verb “coming” is in the present tense, not the future. The tribulations, trappings and tears are a present, permanent and prominent reality, not a just projected, proposed or promised. The cost, consequences and condemnation would be greater than the power, profit and prosperity acquired by the rich by depriving, defrauding and destroying the poor.
Fix the Atrocious Flaw
2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your 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.
There was a king whose officers, in the midst of battle, decided to go and take food that was desperately needed from some homes in the area. When they came back with it, the king asked, “Did you pay them for what you took?” They said, “No, the king doesn't have to pay.”