Read James 5:1-11
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.
7Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. 9Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
10Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (NIV)
James is near the end of his letter. The fifth chapter is a collection of warnings and encouragements. James begins with a warning to those who are rich or who seek to look at material things in this world to save them. The Bible is very consistent when it speaks to wealth. With wealth comes a higher standard of living and I am not talking about the luxury we live in. The higher standard is how did one acquire that wealth and what does one do with that wealth. The bible never condemns simple wealth. When we look at Jesus, he was equally comfortable talking with the wealthy as with the poor. It is what we do with our wealth that is important.
And one of the problems we have is most of us do not see ourselves as wealthy. John Wesley gave this thought to who was wealthy. He said if you had food to eat, a roof over your head and a horse to ride, you were wealthy. When I was an engineer in Naples, Florida, I helped design a water treatment structure for a village in Guatemala as part of a mission project. When one of the engineers visited Guatemala, the people found out he was from Naples. They said, “we have rich family members that live in Naples.” They were referring to the migrant farm workers in Naples who would send money back home to the family. Most people in Naples would not consider the migrant farm workers as rich, but their families back home did.
What we do to help is so important in all our life. It is part of loving neighbor. Scripture over and over confronts us with what are we doing with our lives and the blessings we have been given to help others.
I think that this first part of chapter is connected to the next discussion about being patient. Sometimes it is hard to be patient when one is suffering from the actions of others. By James bringing up that God will deal with those who withhold the laborers’ wages, those who are dealing with this can know that their situation has been seen. One of the common thoughts in the New Testament was that Christ would be returning soon. Therefore, we can endure whatever we are dealing with. But James added that our attitude goes a long way to being patient. He says to not grumble with one another. What I have seen in many communities where most of the people are on the lower end of the economic spectrum is that they find ways to be joyful through community and through sharing what they have. I believe this is the greatest power of the Christian life, community, sharing and love. I have met with many people in the last days of their lives and the biggest regrets are all relationships lost or never nurtured. Wealth rarely comes up. Patience is best done in community.
As you think about this passage, what do you consider the most important aspect of the way one lives a life devoted to Christ? What does it mean to use your blessings for good?
Blessings and Peace