James 5:1-5 NASB
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
My thoughts -
What here will last? I have a pretty nice car. Well, I guess it was a pretty nice car when it was new. It's got 10 years and 130,000 miles on it now. I wouldn't say that it's falling apart but it has definitely seen better days.
How much upkeep do our homes need just to not be overtaken by nature? How long do you think they'll be here after we're gone? 10 years? Twenty? How many houses do you see that are over 100 years old? Have you ever seen ruins? If there's anything left of our homes and offices down the road they will be like ruins. I think I'll try to imagine that while I'm at work today.
We used to spend a pretty good amount of money on clothes back when both my wife and I worked outside the home. We had more disposable income back then and we disposed of a good chunk of it at the mall. Just a few years later now I don't know how much of that we still have and wear. Not a lot. I can't keep a pair of pants longer than a year before I wear through the knees at the very least. They just don't last.
In fact, if I think about everything we've bought for ourselves over the years, all of the TVs, computers, bikes, guitars, game systems, toys, baseball gear, grills, coffee grinders; all of the stuff that we've acquired, none of it really lasts. They wear out. They break down. They disappear. We spend so much time, energy, and money getting this stuff and then we have to turn around and do it again because it doesn't satisfy and it doesn't last. Nothing in this world lasts.
We don't like to think of ourselves as rich. No one really does. Of course we have some trappings, we have these things, but we're not rich. There's always someone who has more. That person is rich. We're just getting by. We're just trying to make it and doing the best we can with what we've got, right?
But what we've got is an awful lot of stuff. Stuff we've spent an awful lot of money to get. Stuff that insulates us from the world and makes us feel safe, secure, entertained, protected, and just plain better. We have shiny junk that we use as pacifiers, so we don't hear the cries of the hungry and naked all around us. We're insulated by cable news and reality shows on our big screen, wide screen, flat screen, high definition televisions.
We drown out the noise of the poor starving at home and abroad by cranking up the stereos and revving up the engines in our new cars. We distract ourselves with our beach vacations and our ski vacations and our spas and resorts. We spend our time and money distancing ourselves from the problems of others at the movies and the ballgames and the opera houses. We spend all of our time and all of our money investing in all of these things and none of them last. None of them. They are here today and gone tomorrow.
When Jesus said that the poor would always be with us, did he mean that as a good thing? Or did Jesus know that this was a problem we wouldn't be able to solve because we humans have always been more interested in ourselves than others?
So James is calling out the rich here. He's saying, as ought to be clear to us by now, that their riches won't last. He's saying they haven't cared for the poor. He's saying they have abused their workers. And we're certain that what he's saying couldn't possibly be about us, right?
The next time we're out buying shiny junk made in a sweat shop somewhere and sold for a price that couldn't possibly bring a profit if everyone involved in the production and sale were making a living wage, we should ask ourselves how James could not be talking about us. Sure, our involvement may be more indirect. Sure, we may not think of ourselves as rich or exploitative, but no one else does either. There's always someone with more. There's always someone who is worse. We don't abuse and exploit workers. We just create the demand for cheap shiny junk. And cheaper, shinier junk.
And none of it lasts. Our insulation will go away. The trappings of class and culture will be pealed away. And we will be left standing before our maker explaining ourselves.
Do we really think we haven't been fattening ourselves? Do we really think we haven't lived for our own pleasure? Do we really think this isn't about us? Do we really think it doesn't apply to us?
Do we really want to have to tell that to our judge, who made the people our lifestyle and its demands for cheaper, shinier junk exploits, in His image? Do we want to tell God that we have abused, exploited, and killed his children because we just had to have the shiny junk and we had to have a deal on it, too?