Living for the King
Lord, today lift from my heart the discouragement, cynicism and distrust of others that destroys my faith in people.
Read James 5:1-11
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. …You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts” (Amos 5:11,12).
It is heart-breaking to hear of people being defrauded out of their life savings by the greed of others. It is easy to understand such folk who “weep and wail for the miseries” that have come upon them (1). In the light of such a happening does James address me in this text? Does the mirror of his letter (1:23-25) really reflect back someone Pharaoh-like, cynical and ruthless, with all the repellent characteristics that James lists (1-6)? Alternatively, can I legitimately see myself among the scattered believers whom James encourages and affirms in their suffering, and who more resemble the powerless slave community in Egypt (7-11)?
Richard Bauckham urges us to read biblical texts about wealth and poverty, power and powerlessness with special care: “It is vital to ask ourselves, not only, ‘Is it I/we about whom the text is speaking?’ but also, ‘In whose interests is my/our reading of this text?’” He warns how easy it is to identify with the poor and powerless “as though mere talk of the poor … could be a means of adopting their perspective.” We might also add how easy it is not to identify with the “rich people” about whom Scripture so often speaks. If we thought of the world as a village of 100 people the statistics might make us reconsider. Of the wealth in this village, six people own 59 per cent, 74 people own 39 per cent, and 20 people share the remaining 2 per cent. If we have money in the bank and our wallet and spare change somewhere around the house, then we are among the richest eight people. That’s reason to be thankful to God –and prayerful in handling our wealth, too.
“Endurance…is…courageous resistance in living by the values of God’s counter-cultural rule until it comes in power” (Richard Bauckham). How are you living in such “endurance” and “resistance”? Are any changes needed?
God, forgive me when I isolate myself from the pain of others, particularly society’s marginalized. Create in me a new heart, I pray.
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