But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? James 2, verses 6-7.
Hello, friends. I’ve been away for awhile. Last time we chatted was the week before a book signing in southern Indiana. My family and I took a whirlwind trip, met hundreds of wonderful people, sold a few books, and, hopefully, got to share Jesus with a few folks we hadn’t known before. Our writing business is brand new for my wife and I; this is our first book. Like any business, we hope to make a lot of money and do some extraordinary things. Here at the start, though, it’s good to ask a gut-check question:
Are we dishonoring the poor? Are we exploiting anyone?
You see, you could interpret this verse in the obvious monetary way. We could go all class-conscious and, if we’re careful to avoid class-envy, surmise that James is saying rich people oppress poor people. That those who do such things are blaspheming the name of the Jesus who died to save them. There’s truth in this.
I think we could also talk about those who are cannier than the rest of us. For a long time, I was one of those snarky know-it-all’s who seemed to lord things over other people. It’s an ugly trait, and I’m guilty of having lived it. The verse could have been talking about me when it implied that I dishonored Jesus by snarking over those who I didn’t think were very bright, or very good. When you boil it down, it’s really a kind of bullying.
There could be truth in that too.
It could be talking about the politicians, elitists, dilettantes, intellectuals, or celebrities who seem to exude superiority over those of us who, it would seem (to them), don’t quite measure up. There’s truth in this as well.
James could be talking about the folks in church, good Christians all of us, who seem to play “I’ve Got a Secret” with the Gospel that was never meant to be hidden behind false fronts or opaque traditions. No wonder so many people feel uncomfortable with practicing faith when we, who are entrusted with growing it, fail to be Jesus to them.
Yet, perhaps, James is talking about all these things. It’s why I go back to my original question. With all those new people I met last week, was I Jesus’ ambassador or was I the rich person oppressing the poor man, or the snarky know it all, or the elitist, or the hypocrite in a choir robe? James’ verses hold up a mirror. Who do you see in it?
Lord, help me to always represent you with faith and trust, not agendas, secrets, or sarcasm. Forgive me when I fail; strengthen me to do Your will.
Who are you to people: a person of faith or just some person?
Have you ever oppressed someone? If so, what did you do to change?
What’s your story of how Jesus pulled you out of that?