Monday, August 29, 2011

The Bible's Warning to the Rich- And to All of Us

I read the Epistle passage from James this morning, and I was struck by how James characterizes the rich in general: "Do not the rich oppress you, and themselves drag you before the judgment-seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme the honourable name by the which ye are called?"- James 2.6b-7.

In Chapter 5 of this same Epistle, James warns the rich of their impending judgment;  and of course, our Lord warned that it is "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." - Mark 10.25.

These are momentous times, and the rich are often the protagonists in the world wide economic drama that is unfolding. Banks get bail outs to cover the debts of the rich; meanwhile social services across the globe are being considered for the chopping block, as nations consider austerity measures to help mitigate debts.

The witness of the Bible is not content to extol the virtues of almsgiving and charity; it shines a burning light on issues of justice, and the rich, in the passage above, are identified as the oppressors.

This is not Karl Marx; this is Jesus Christ; this is St. James, Jesus' brother; this is the Holy Bible.

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Recent clips of Fox News Commentators, shown on the Jon Stewart show, feature the talking heads condemning the poor and those using social services as "parasites," "animals," and the "moocher class." Similar language was used by Hitler to speak of the Jews. The folks at Fox News, and those who listen to them, need to hear the word of God: "Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamity shall not be unpunished."- Proverbs 17.5, English Revised Version.

The Bible shows which side of the class struggle we should side with.

Jesus assures the rich, and all of us, that salvation is possible with God. But repentance must take place. The Bible calls on the rich, and all of us, to be generous with those in need, but also, to do justice, to work to change unjust structures, to relieve oppression.

Will we hear the word of God in this current world crisis?


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But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

- Mark 10.24,25, English Revised Version



1 My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing; 3 and ye have regard to him that weareth the fine clothing, and say, Sit thou here in a good place; and ye say to the poor man, Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool; 4 are ye not divided in your own mind, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Hearken, my beloved brethren; did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have dishonoured the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you, and themselves drag you before the judgment-seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme the honourable name by the which ye are called?
8 Howbeit if ye fulfill the royal law, according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 but if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou dost not commit adultery, but killest, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to him that hath shewed no mercy: mercy glorieth against judgment.

- James 2.1-13, English Revised Version

Go to now, ye rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and your silver are rusted; and their rust shall be for a testimony against you, and shall eat your flesh as fire. Ye have laid up your treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who mowed your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth out: and the cries of them that reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5 Ye have lived delicately on the earth, and taken your pleasure; ye have nourished your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 Ye have condemned, ye have killed the righteous one; he doth not resist you.

- James 5.1-6, English Revised Version


2 comments:

  1. Zechariah had something to say along those lines:

    Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgements, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.

    But they refused to listen, and turned a stubborn shoulder, and stopped their ears in order not to hear. They made their hearts adamant in order not to hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.

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  2. One cannot look at society today without seeing the hypocrisy of the rich. They claim that, due to a crisis brought about totally by themselves, the poorest/most vulnerable in society should pay by succumbing to a package of austerity. Then, to crown their overwhelming hypocrisy, they have the effrontery to declare that "we're all in this together". This is a diabolical lie.

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