Looking at Biblical historical considerations and Inductive and Deductive examination of James 5: 1-6
Stewardship Research Part VII
This discussion section centers on an inductive analyses of the passage and a deductive analyses of key words and precepts in their historical and contextual context.
James 5: 1-6 "Do you have an Oppressors Heart?"
General idea: The question in stewardship is do we use our resources for power and manipulation or to glorify the Kingdom? James tells the rich in his congregation and to the rich Jewish oppressors who may listen in, to listen up. This denotes to pay heed to my words (1:9-11, 19, 26; 2:1-13; 3:1-12; 4:1-11), in the style of Isaiah, Jeremiah and the OT (Deut. 32:35; Prov. 20:22). The point is, this is imperative and if you do not listen trouble will not only knock, it will barge in upon you! If we just live to acquire material positions we will end up with nothing of real consequence. Our lives will become empty, lonely and bitter because what we have been chasing gives us nothing back. What we end up doing when we chase wealth is we rob ourselves from the greater riches that God has to give us. James tells his people not to fool yourself or listen to the nonsense that wealth is "the" sign of God's blessings.
James is lecturing as in scolding people of wealth who received their wealth from "serfs" who are sharecroppers (In the Middle Ages this was called feudalism.). Over 90% of people in the Roman providences then lived on rural family farms or were serfs while less than 10% were in urban cities. These people ran the farm and fields for the owner and did all the work, then were being cheated and not paid. The owners rationalized that this is OK because others do this, thus, they were caving in to the worldly pressure of financial success over all else. James is also condemning the oppressing of the poor for which a strong reckoning by God awaits. Remember, both the poor and the oppressors were a part of James' congregation. James denounces wealth when it gets in the way of our relationships and call from God and when we use it to bring harm to others.
Vs. 1-3: What we chase is temporary and will rot, why would we place our trust in it? Even what we think is important usually is not! People who place their trust in wealth, accomplishments, education, their self or… are headed for trouble as it takes them away from God as does chasing the devil, both lead to the same ends-separation from God for earth and entity of if their person does become saved in Christ a life of waste and no return of what is important. It will be the evidence to convict us of our sins and leave us earthly and eternally dejected of hope and meaning.
· Come now, an exhortation and a "wail," to weep was a graphic way to present your case; here it shows the veracity of the situation (Joel 1:8; Mica. 1:8).
· Rich, here refers to a social class of aristocracy. Wealth in of itself is not condemned here or any other place in the Bible. Wealth can be a blessing from God if we use it as a tool and not as a devotion (Prov. 10:22). The condemnation James gives it implies the abuse of money to oppress the poor. This is a manner of the heart, as our checkbook will show where our loyalty, commitment and interest lay!
· Garments, clothes were the most expensive possession then, sometimes greater than even a home. They were also the primary symbol of being wealthy (Acts 20:33). Serfs often had only one homemade garment that was more like burlap, while the rich had fine cotton and silk.
· Corrupted…Rust, is a general term that refers to anything that can, and will corrode and decay, by rust, mildew, bugs, weather, wood rot, and anything destroyed by fire. All matter no mater how valuable is in a state of decay. In the end it is worthless and meaningless (Matt. 6:19-20). The devotion to wreath needs our selfish motivations and this selfishness is what will be used to judge us (Acts 2:17; 1Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1; Heb. 1:2; 1Jn 2:18).
· The Christians and Jewish aristocracy who were oppressing the poor were all killed heinously by the Romans after the revolt of 66AD, the Judgment came for them personally and totally! To seek wealth over God and His call, you will rob yourself of His precious opportunities and the substance of Himself. You will be robbing yourself of a great treasure for a miniscule lust (1 Tim. 6:6-10; 17-19).
Do you worry? Consider that we have a God who loves and provides, He fulfills us with Himself, beyond our expectancy, He will meet your deepest needs, you can trust in Him! If you are a worrier, the call is to worship in place of our worry (Matt. 6:19-34)!
Vs. 4: The poor will not be ignored by God, their cries reach Him and our responsibility to care for them must be heeded! There is never an excuse to cheat or take advantage of another person. As a Christian it is diametrically opposed to all Who Christ is and has done for us! Their cry and the fact of the evidence is testimony and evidence against such an evil person (Gen. 4:10).
· Wages, refers to being paid. To not pay someone was considered evil and violated the Law of God. People needed their daily wages to purchase food for that day for their families. Thus no moony and they go hungry after a hard days work and living with a disappointed family (Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:14-15; Prov. 11:24; Jer, 22:13; Mal. 3:5)!
· Fraud, the earnings of the poor was a meager fraction of that of the owners. And the workers when paid were not paid sufficiently to care for themselves and family. Sometimes not even able to "glean" the land they just worked (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut. 24:19).
· Lord of the Sabaoth/ The Lord Almighty, a name of God refers to "JEHOVAH-SABAOTH," means "The Lord of Hosts," the commander of the angelic host and the armies of God (Gen. 17:1; Isa. 1:24, Psalm 46:7, 11; 1 Sam. 1:3; 2 Kings 3:9-12, Jer. 11:20, Rom. 9:29; Rev. 19: 11-16).The Jewish reason here is, it is a bad idea to offend a pubic official, how much more than the God of the universe! The point here is our misdeeds greatly offend our God who is all powerful and all caring! This is the passage that insulated and infuriated the rich high priest to martyr James!
The theme in this verse is covetousness (Rom. 1:29), to make oneself prosperous by the manipulation of another may seem good business model and makes sense in the ways of the world, but it is evil in God's eyes. Covetousness in the Greek signifies taking advantage of a situation is the motive for evil's sake. It can be going too far in bargaining in a market to having more than what is just in any dealings with others. This is common from rich to poor, taking advantage, not seeking to get a good deal. Taken too far, it hurts and takes advantage of the weaker, less fortunate person.
Vs. 5-6: Luxury and seeking satisfaction is an illusion that brings only a temporary relief and no real substance. Fun for now, but the lose and pay latter plan is not worth it! Remember the Christian life has liberty and grace, but never forget your responsibility and call. If your store up treasure is on earth, your heart will be besieged by disappointments, and the storms of life will overwhelm you. The real treasure is living in Christ, sharing Him with others and what waits in eternity (Matt. 7:24-27; 19: 16-26; Luke 12:33-34; 1 Tim. 6:17-19; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; 1 Tim. 6:9-10; Heb. 10:32-39)!
· Pleasure and Luxury refers to self-indulgence (Luke 16:19-31). From eating a pound of chocolate at once or partying your way to oblivion. Too much excess will leave you empty and alone, it will at best cause us to gain a lot of weight and lose your friends and at worst lose your life and miss out on our heavenly reward! Self-indulgence seeks what is fleeting when we as a Christian are made for eternity(Gen. 3:1-7; Nub. 20:7-12; II Sam. 13:1-19; I Kings 21:1-7).
· Fattened your hearts, the image here is animas being slaughtered and the rich are the animals who are not aware or do not care. The question here is, are we doing this to ourselves? Our desires that are contrary to God's call and precepts will lead us to destruction. Not necessary because God is there waiting with an ax; rather He is there with His loving arms open, we are ignoring Him and destroying ourselves from what He has warned us that will happen. A god who does not warn is a god who does not love!
· Day of slaughter refers to a feast of eating meat that occurred after the sheep sheering season or harvest (1 Sam. 25:4, 36). This was a rare treat that the rich did daily and used it to be condescending and showing no benevolence to those who have not. The poor only ate meat at public feast days and festivals.
· Leaving a lavish lifestyle while others who work for you starve. Or who are able too and called to care for (Jesus says all Christians are to care for the poor (Matt. 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 7:22; 12:33; 14:13,21; 18:22; 19:8; 21:2; 21:3; Acts 9:36; 10:4; 10:31; 24:17; Rom. 15:26; Gal. 2:10; James 2:23-6). The theme here is the rich in their condescension are just fating themselves up for the slaughter of Judgment. Thus, they are fattening up themselves for the slaughter from themselves brought about by their own deeds and words (Jer. 12:3; Amos 4:1-3; 6:4-7)!
· Condemned…murdered, in this context it is not actual murder, but setting up events that lead to it. The abuse of power will cause the loss of life because the rich were taking food away from the people, not providing wages so they starved while they worked and took their coats away in extortion so they froze to death too! The image is the oppression of the poor, as the wicked were scheming against the righteous. In this context James warns them to repent, thus this is not the condemnation of judgment pertaining to a Christian, because we are saved by grace. It is condemnation to a non Christian as a real Christian would never do this. The audience for this passage is aristocrat Jews and pretenders who say they are a Christian but their fruit clearly shows otherwise (Isa. 13-23; Jer. 46-51; Eze. 25-32; Am 1:3-2:16; Zep. 2:4-15).
Wealth is not sinful or even harmful as long as it is seen as a tool. It does become a problem and distraction when it becomes our focus and then God is pushed out of the picture. Remember, when we draw near to the world, God is pushed away! The warning is two fold, one we are not to oppress the poor and needy. There is never a reason or call to do that; rather we arte to help and provide, educate and motivate. Second, by seeking wealth we are the oppressors to ourselves, we are seeking what only God is to fulfill (Matt. 6: 33).
The question is do we listen up to what God is saying to us? Do we ask ourselves (and of course God Himself), what does God want from me? Because if we do not our focus in life becomes skewed! To focus upon what the world says is success is to miss out on things that are much greater for the here and now and for the entity to come. A person whose pursuits are in wealth, it becomes a weed that chokes off the soul to God and to others. One of the hardest things to do is be a Christian with worldly wealth because it most always leads to worldly interests that leads to worldly activities. It can be done and be done for greatness, but most if not all of the time all it does is bring darkness to light and burry the Christian soul in the desires of the world. This leaves the person emptied from lost opportunities and destitute of important relationships, and Christ as Lord. If all we do is live for this world, then there maybe nothing for the next!
The questions we need to be asking today is, how do you see wealth, with favor, with suspension or…? Do you believe it is good or wrong, or is there a balanced view? Is wealth "the" sign of God's blessings? Why or why not? Have you ever considered that when we just chase wealth, possessions or power all we end up doing is robbing ourselves from the greater riches that God has to give us? How and why is this worthless and meaningless? People in James time rationalized that it is OK to cheat others because others do this? They were caving in to the worldly pressure of financial success! How have things changed in two thousand years? How is what we chase become temporary and will rot? Have you considered that what we think is important usually is not such as trust in wealth, accomplishments, education, their self or…? Why would we place our trust in this stuff and not in the One who Loves us? How does the abuse of money to oppress the poor dishonor our Lord? Do you believe that stewardship is a manner of the heart? Take a look at our checkbook, it will show where our loyalty, commitment and interest lay! How do our desires become contrary to God's call and precepts? Why will they lead us to destruction? What can you do about it? Do you worry? What can meet your deepest needs? How can the worship of our Lord replace your worry? What can you do to get in a state of worship when worry comes your way? What can you do to be a better steward of caring for the poor?
The answer to these questions will put you on the right track to the percepts Jesus is communicating!
© Research from 2001- 2004, revised 2007 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/