Now, listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 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. Listen, the wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the days of slaughter. (James 5)
May I be so bold as to ask what the voice inside your head what saying to yourself as you read that passage? Because if it was something along the lines of "Yeah! You tell those fat old rich sinners, Jimmy!", I propose that your attitude is part of the problem with our country.
I remember conversations I had with a black friend and co-worker during the O.J. Simpson trial which were a very rude awakening. I was blessed to be raised in a home where racism was unthinkable. It was a huge shock to me to find that there were black people who would look at me on the streets, without knowing me or anything about me, and immediately assume I was racist just because I was white.
Similarly, I was stunned at the "classist" comments I got from even dear friends during the health care reform debate. Apparently, there are those who would look at my home and neighborhood, without knowing me or anything about me, and immediately assume that I'm a privileged, selfish, self-indulgent brat who wants poor people to die and disappear. Maybe I shouldn't be stunned by that, but I am. I'm even more stunned -- and justifiable so, I think -- at friends who seem to think that about me.
Many of you have read already posts about my discomfort I have sometimes with my current economic status. I've been studying James a lot lately, and he has some very harsh words for "the rich", which I've been trying to come to terms with. Seeing how wealth and prosperity was something God promised to his people as rewards and blessing, I don't believe scripture could be saying that the state of being rich is sinful. So, what is the problem James has with these rich people? Well, aside from the oppression that these particular wealthy people were inflicting on believers at the time (as described in other parts of James), he seems to take issue with three things:
1) Their wealth is sitting unused and unproductive, not helping anyone. (How else would it rot and corrode?)
2) They cheated people out of rightly earned pay.
3) They used their money to fill their lives with unnecessary luxuries.
I have liberal friends who would tell me that, even if I don't commit these three crimes directly and personally, our society and government is allowing me to do it indirectly, and that that is a wrong that must be corrected.
Something I will explore in my next post . . .