Weep And Howl

(system) #1

James 5:1-6 is the third frontal attack on the rich in the book, and this one the most brutal. Here the oppressive rich are the wealthy landowners who abuse their workers. In short, they have kept back the wages of their workers (5:4).

The attacks against the rich represent different groups within society. In 3:6 the offending ones are the bankers who drag the poor into court; in 4:13-17 the offenders are the traveling merchants; in 5:1-6 the offenders are the wealthy landowners.

Questions for Discussion:

1. Are there any righteous rich? James roundly condemns the oppressive rich, and to the point where he seems to leave no room for the righteous rich. Where would one go in Scripture to show that there are wealthy righteous people? Abraham, Job, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Zacchaeus? What justifies James for giving such a one-sided perspective?

2. The charge against the rich. Of the three categories of evil rich people – financiers, merchants, landowners – James 5:1-6 seems to direct James’ strongest critique against the wealthy landowners. The charges are sobering: Withholding the wages of their workers (5:4), condemning and murdering the righteous (5:6). Why are these charges the most serious of all? Where in Scripture does one find wealthy people who do care for their workers and do not defraud?

3. Wealthy wicked, envious righteous. The official study guides cites Psalm 73 as an example of the envy of the righteous toward the arrogant, cruel, and wealthy wicked: “My feet had nearly slipped,” admits the Psalmist (73:2) 3. What is the proper attitude of God’s people toward those who prosper in their wickedness? Does James help us answer that question?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6460

(Thomas J Zwemer) #2

if anyone reading this has the opportunity to visit Notra Dame, Visit the Basketball arena and Hockey rink. As you enter you will see large bronze plaques with the names of the doners. A checkon their history they were in the junk metal business that was largely control by the mafia. as benefactors of a major university owned and operated but a dominate religion organization, they were given a clear pass through the main pearly Gate.

of course then there was Davenport. Tom Z

(Andreas Bochmann) #3

The questions Alden Thompson asks, are pertinent questions. Yet they do have a flavour of longing for some justification - at least for some of the rich and wealthy. Obviously the Bible does not condemn wealth as such. But even Jesus himself denounces a theology that equates wealth with God’s favour (Mk. 10:25). I am wondering whether the text passage isn’t more radical than we can bear. It sounds like a trade union manifesto, a threat … certainly not very “Adventist”.
Oh, and by the way, what exactly constitutes “rich” in the original context and in a global village, where we wonder what car, what cell phone, what ipad we want to get for next year, while others wonder “what shall I eat tomorrow”?

(Sirje) #4

I find it interesting that while passages like the ones quoted above demonize the rich, mostly because of the means by which those riches are obtained, there is quite a bit of baiting through riches going on in the Christian call and promise; and the Bible in general. The “gates of pearl” and “streets of gold”, as well as “mansions in heaven”, all feed into the idea that riches are to be sought; and finally attained by the poor. The church uses some form of avarice in the form of “blessings” for a faithful tithe; and, my least favorite, dedicating shriveling fruit trees, and whatnot, as projects to make money for the church.

Of course, the rich have always been associated with abuse of power, and treading on the less powerful to make those riches. Yet, the under-girding of the OT is that obedience brings blessings in the form of land, health, and riches; while dis-obedience results in “curses” of disease, and loss of riches and power - (a la Job’s comforters). Juxtaposed on this, is Jesus who was homeless and poor.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #5

the rich are gaining power in Washington at the level of 1928. for example minimum wage is not equal to the rate of inflation. only the wealthy can afford to seek election. The story of the welfare mom driving to get her food stamps in a Caddie does complete the story that the car was 14 years old, I have seen them parked at Bi Lo’s . Tom Z

(Sirje) #6

The rich have always been in power in Washington, even though Hillary claimed to have been broke when they left the White house, scrambling to find money for mortgages on their houses etc. You have to be rich to come up with money to even run for office - or at least, know a bunch of people who are…

(Margaret Ernst) #7

Thank you for the thought-provoking questions, Dr. Thompson. It is challenging to think about how exploiting the poor / keeping back workers’ wages plays out as we participate in a global economy.

I’m tackling number 3: What is the proper attitude of God’s people toward those who prosper in their wickedness? Does James help us answer that question?

James has exactly the same answer the psalmist did: those who prosper in their wickedness are going to be very, very sorry.

When I have felt envious, or when I have been bothered by how money is spent under church auspices, I find it helpful to pray, “God, it’s not my money. It’s not __________'s money. It’s your money. If you don’t like how ______'s using / hording / spending it, then please feel free to let _______ know (or do something about it yourself)!”

(Yoyo7th) #8

“Are there any righteous rich?”

“Where in Scripture does one find wealthy people who do care for their workers and do not defraud?”

“What is the proper attitude of God’s people toward those who prosper in their wickedness? Does James help us answer that question?”

Wow, Is Alden very uncomfortable with this portion of James that is inspired by the Holy Spirit? Do many readers react the same way?

First I notice how brief the article is compared to Alden’s previous Sabbath school articles.

Then I detect digressions from in depth analysis to counter an apparent broad brush attack on the rich by James, which gives a flavor of sympathy,

The whole article seems to minimize, and palliate the portion of James’ input.

Is it because The western world has such a high standard of living flooded with creature comforts, immersed in a culture of debt, conditioned to coveting and gluttony that this passage is so offensive?

There are usually exceptions to broad brush criticisms, yet do Adventists have to remain in a rut of gainsaying? Does anyone else notice that anytime there is discussion in church about bible passages that challenge the rich that people always bring up the rare exceptions like Job and Abraham to counter?

Check out the parking lot of many SDA churches in USA.

The love of money is the root of all, many evils"
You can’t follow God & mammon.

(Sirje) #9

Western culture is the antitheses of the first century Christian community. There just isn’t any comparison. Does that mean Christians must not aspire to success defined by our culture … probably - if we were to take Jesus’ words literally - “take up you cross and follow me”. We make feeble attempts at dismissing the lure of riches; or at least the appearance of riches - modest cars; smaller homes; smaller RVs; shorter vacations. Compared to the entire world, the poorest of people in the western culture are rich.

There is another issue, however. What about the church as a whole… Do we need the degree of ostentation we see there? The reason is always, to be appealing to the “outside world” with our churches and establishments. The Amish seem able to maintain at least the appearance of humility; but there, too, the temptations take over and they use the surrounding culture to help them out on occasion - in the form of Amish tourist traps.

The big question is - do we need to go outside of our culture and adopt one less ostentatious in order to live the Christian life? The Catholics have their monasteries etc. Is that what this is about - or are there other levels of humility and simplicity that are more important?

(Yoyo7th) #10

James 5:1-6 is the third frontal attack on the rich in the book, and this one the most brutal.

Was it lovingly brutal.? Was James inspired by the loving Holy Spirit of God to write this or was he being mean?

(Fred Eastman) #11

If you believe that all money/talents etc. are from God then you can get to the real question which is: what do we do with our God given money/talents? The answer is really a question of the heart. Does our heart lead us to exercise our money/talents wisely (selflessly) or selfishly? God alone can read the heart and make that call for a given individual. The “church” (locally, conference, union, GC etc.) are responsible to handle the funds responsibly and God will ask for an accounting someday. Openness and transparency should be the “norm” within the church. Is that what we see?? I can’t say that I see that level of openness or responsibility.