(Part 9)



February 27, 2014
Today’s reading: James 5:1-6

God created a bountiful world, and there is more than enough for everybody, even as world population has grown tremendously. There is more than enough land, food, fuel and other resources for even double the current population of the world.

Why then is there massive poverty? It is due to selfishness, inequitable distribution of the world’s goods, and social injustice. The rich (both individuals and nations) keep getting richer while the poor keep getting poorer. The rich not only do not share with the poor, but even hoard goods and commodities. Employers give a pittance to their helpless workers. Rich nations impose onerous conditions on poor nations for economic assistance that benefit the rich nations themselves. Such injustices cry out to heaven. “Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” (v.4).

Many of the rich and powerful do not care about the misery of the greater majority of the peoples of the world, so long as their coffers are full. They live in luxury and profligate spending. “You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure” (v.5a). They toss crumbs to the poor, if at all. As such they have consigned the poor to continuing misery in abject poverty. “You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.” (v.6). From the times of the Old Testament to today, the harsh oppression of the righteous poor continues.

While the poor are powerless to resist, they have God on their side. God loves the poor. He hears their cries. He sees the injustice. He sees the bad stewardship of those entrusted with the world’s goods. He will punish such selfishness and injustice. “Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your (designer) clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded” (v.1-3a). Those who rejoice now will weep. Those who depend on wealth and power will lose it all. And it will not only be about this life, but life hereafter. As “that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days.” (v.3b). The rich enter into the last days wallowing in their treasures, proof of their greed and selfishness plain for all to see. They will be devoured by an all-consuming fire. The rich rejoiced in their hearts. Eat, drink and be merry. But tomorrow you die. “You have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.” (v.5b).

Are the rich doomed to condemnation? No, not necessarily. But they need to be good stewards of the world’s goods. They need to practice social justice. They need to share with those in need, so that just like the first Christian community established on Pentecost, even though there were many poor people, there was no one in need.

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