Wealth and Waiting
Lord Jesus, may this be a good day, with things done well. I ask for poise and peace of mind.
Read James 5:1-12
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“When riches hold the dominion of the heart, God has lost his authority” (John Calvin). That truth ought to jolt us.
James writes with the raw ferocity of an Old Testament prophet (1-6). We can sometimes think of the wealthy as respectable; here they are just deaf! So James shrieks his warning, not about global recession but about future judgment (1). Jesus knew what he was saying when he said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24).
The misuse of riches is the focus of the warnings. Here wealth has become a treasure that will have no value in the last day and is already rotting now (2,3), but Jesus’ warning that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21) has been ignored. Calvin said, “God has not appointed gold for rust or garments for moths, but, on the contrary he has designed them as aids and helps to human life.” Here wealth amassed and luxuries stockpiled beside the pathetic pay slips offered to laborers are all the evidence needed to convict of grotesque injustice (4,5). It is not wealth creation so much as ruthless exploitation that is exposed here (6).
In verses 7-12, we find a mood swing from the blazing anger at the searing injustice captured in 1-6 to this tender, arm-around-the-shoulder warmth. The facts haven’t changed; exploitation, oppression and the Lord’s coming still form the backdrop to what James writes. The second coming of Jesus changes everything. James is very clear that the present is not the end of the story. This is a word of hope, not despair. “The Judge is standing at the door” (9). If yesterday that was an ominous warning, today it is designed to put a smile on the face of the suffering: vindication is just around the corner. These brothers and sisters will know that and more.
James also reminds his readers to watch their language (9,12). Under pressure our tongue can get carried away, but it is the Judge who will bring about the revolution (11), not our swearing and cursing!
Time to check our treasures and our generosity. Where does the evidence of our lifestyle point?
Lord, I pray for a patient, trusting heart. I ask also for opportunities to work for justice in my place of influence.
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