Monday, February 15, 2010

Rich Take it on the Cheek

James 5:1-6 (ESV)
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. [2] Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. [3] Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. [4] Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. [5] You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. [6] You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

You know I just can’t. I can’t read James without wondering if it is apostolic or not. I try to let it just speak to me, but it is law, and I don’t see gospel in here. And I’m always wondering too, why the vehemence. It is as if the guy is just lashing out, lashing out at the rich. The rich take it on the cheek in James. Reading James you would be afraid to have a dollar left in your pocket. Paul thanks the rich for their support. James chastises them for being dishonest, as if that was the only way a guy could become rich. The Christians of Jerusalem were poor. When they became Christians many lost jobs, had land confiscated etc. Families abandoned them. It was tough. Paul spent a good deal of time collecting money on their behalf. One wonders if the animosity toward the rich expressed in this letter stemmed from that.
By the way, if you are reading this, you probably fall into the category of rich. That is unless you are reading it at the public library or something. We today live in opulence that would have made kings of the past blush. And we don’t even know what to do without running out and buying the latest gadgets. Most of us don’t come close to comprehending poverty.
And that is the hard part. We are rich, and I think often we put a lot of trust and faith in our wealth. We hold onto it with tight little hands. Greed we have nourished within ourselves from the very days we cried in terror for our mothers to suckle us. And here James’ rant should hit home. How many do we condemn? How many do we murder with our fists wrapped tight on our wallets?


Steve Martin said...

"Harder for a rich man, than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle."

Somebody BIG once said that.

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Anonymous said...

Hey Bror, isn't that why Luther had it on his list of the antilegomena? Because there was no Good News of Jesus Christ who died for your sin. In addition, to the uncertainty of the apostolic authorship of the book.

As for the "rich man" you bet he cannot get to heaven on his own, but then neither can a poor man. Rich or poor is not the problem. Sin is the problem. Only, the believer in the Triune God, be he rich or poor, can he be saved. Not by his own work, but the Salvatory work of Christ on the Cross, given to him in his Baptism, et cetera.

My 2¢ for today,

Bror Erickson said...

Yes Steve, and probably one of the most misunderstood statements he ever made. The disciples figured it out though. It was impossible for anyone, but with God all things are possible. Rich man has the same chance as the poor man. Often they are guilty of the very same sins.

Bror Erickson said...

Yep. Thanks for your two cents.