Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


A Brother’s Wisdom 78

posted by Scot McKnight

The words of James 5:1-6 are strong words, some of the strongest criticism of the rich in the entire Bible, and they are addressed at the rich for their oppression of the poor.

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. Look! The
wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying
out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of
the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

Romancoin.jpgOne of James’ themes is the brevity of riches and possessions. He brings it up in James 1:10-11: “But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For
the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom
falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will
fade away even while he goes about his business.”
And he brings it up again in 4:13-17. A powerful way to critique oppression and indulgence and a life dedicated to money and possessions is to gain a powerful vision of the brevity of life and wealth.



The images James uses are images of destruction — wealth has rotted, clothing has been destroyed by moths, and your coins have corroded.

Again, in light of what James says about the wealthy in James 1 and James 2 and James 4–5, we are probably not to see here a warning to the wealthy follower of Jesus to recognize the brevity of life but of a powerful indictment against the oppressive wealthy whom James warns of impending judgment — his message is not a warning but an indictment.



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RJS

posted June 30, 2009 at 1:21 pm


Scot,
I think that this is a critique – but couldn’t it be both critique and warning? I don’t mean to rich within the messianic community – I mean to everyone.
I think that the NT witness is quite clear
To those who show mercy, mercy will be shown
Those who forgive will be forgiven
Those who love know God, those who do not love do not know God
In essence, those who oppress others will face judgment.
James isn’t telling an oppressed people they will be vindicated – he is telling a people (who do happen to be oppressed at the time) that the kingdom of God overturns an ethos of power and wealth – brings justice and equality – and those who follow and wait are to behave in a kingdom fashion.



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MatthewS

posted June 30, 2009 at 1:54 pm


“You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.”
I don’t quite understand how this one statement fits. Is it possible for this to be an oblique reference to Naboth, thus Ahab, Jezebel, and corrupt leaders in general?



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ChristSpeak

posted June 30, 2009 at 4:38 pm


MatthewS – Perhaps it is referring to the workmen mentioned earlier in the passage (who would then stand for anyone under the rich’s authority or influence)?
An interesting subpoint of the whole riches debate is how much charity is needed to be “good.” Solomon lived extremely well with his riches, even with his work to the Temple – was this a sin?
A friend of mine once said that he thought it was perfectly good to purchase a $10,000 guitar if you will use it to spread the Gospel — but would it be better to buy a $3,000 guitar (still really good) and give $7,000 to charity (or a church, missionary, etc.)?
Good post :)



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David

posted June 30, 2009 at 8:30 pm


hi Scot
I really feel that many will be disappointed when God points out how badly we handled the abundant wealth he has provided. Especially those of us who by His will were born into this great country. I did, however, read in an article of yours concerning the 5 streams of the emerging church that you tend to lean toward the left politically because you thought it was the government’s job to care for and feed the poor. I think the Jesus directs that responsibility to us. If we all (I include myself) did more of caring for the poor and the widows because we were trying to live as Christ directed us there would be much less need for the government have these responsibilities. We might even see a change in the entitlement mentality of many of the recipients. Changing our hearts through seeing people as Jesus sees them and the missional approach to doing church has a great promise in helping us to be more Christ like and might even see lower taxes. :-)



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