Friday, November 21, 2014

NOVEMBER 21 "CLASS WARFARE IS UGLY"

There’s no denying, James is not that fond of “rich people”.  If it was only this reference in Chapter 5, that would be bad enough, but James has taken jabs at the rich in other chapters as well. No doubt, James did not grow up with affluence of any kind. We know from the Gospels that Joseph and Mary (James’ parents) were poor. Historians believe that Joseph died at an early age, as he is not mentioned in the Gospels; except in the early stages of Jesus’ life. Now with Joseph dead, James & Jesus (step brothers) probably had to work that much harder to make ends meet at home. Jesus himself takes a jab at rich people saying, “it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of an needle than for a rich person to get into heaven”.  I’m sure in the Church of Jerusalem where James was an elder, there were not many affluent people in that congregation. However we cannot deny that it was Joseph of Arimathea, an affluent man, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin that God used to purchase the burial place for Jesus. Mathew calls Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man. The tomb Joseph purchased was so large that a huge boulder had to be rolled in front of the entry and guards placed at the door to prevent anyone from stealing Jesus’ body. This was by no means, a poor burial. The rich young ruler Jesus did try to call to follow him, failed. However, Zacchaeus was also wealthy (though it was gained unrighteously) and he did follow Jesus.  Interesting though, that although most that followed Jesus were poor, they were not lazy non working men, they were all working men. Jesus never called one disciple to follow him that was not a “working man”. If you were to categorize my income by any economic census, I would be considered poor.  But yet I have always worked a job, as long as I can remember. Christians tend to think that if they go into an impoverished area of town, where everyone is on welfare; and preach the Gospel “to the poor”, that there is going to be an overwhelming response.  You may have a response, but it will not be for Jesus, it will be for handouts. It would be good for us to understand that being poor is not an automatic ticket into Heaven.  And we would do well to also understand, that neither is being rich an automatic refusal into Heaven.  I could write, as James wrote, just as many ugly comments about my experience in working with  “the poor” over the years, as James writes about his experience with  “the rich.”  Some of the poor people I’ve worked with used me, drained me of my money, my time, my vehicles, everything I had, they drained me and the church for all that it was worth and the one time they were ever told “no” that was their marching orders to move on to the next welfare program. All I was to them was another welfare program and because I was a Christian it was my duty to help them. All the while they never gave a dime to the church, never helped in anyway; they took, took, took, and never gave and then left. It is true that affluent, rich people, are hard to reach and are often very arrogant about their success and often do mock the Gospel and accuse Christians of just needing “a crutch”.
I have worked around people (because of my profession) like this for many, many years.  I don’t know how a rich Christian is to respond to James’ epistle, as he/she sits down to read his epistle. He/she might take offense to it. He or she might feel that James is being unfair or resents rich people. Is there anyone wealthy and/or rich that is reading this today? I think the best we can try to do is not categorize people and/or allow people do create social class wars. I have been equally blessed by well to do family’s in the church, in times of financial need, as I have been placed by middle class or poor, by their Fellowship and strong faith. Are the rich hard to reach? Yes, but so are the poor. God will bring the poor and the rich into the church and encourage them to live in harmony and not allow social classes and prejudice to divide. Each social class has their own unique (and sometimes not so unique) characteristic flaws that they must overcome, now that they have been called into the body of Christ. Don’t’ hate the rich because they are rich and don’t’ look down on the poor because they are poor. It is our duty to be no respecter of persons and not give preferential treatment to one or the other. Am I saying that James is wrong, about what he writes in his Epistle? Of course not, all scripture is God breathed and inspired by the Holy Spirit. All I'm trying to do is bring a balance, that if you were to just open your bible up to James Chapter 5, you might not get. God's not trying to get us to "hate the rich', that's class warfare and it's ugly, He is simply trying to give us perspective, which I hope you got today!