Thursday of Pentecost 18 – James 5:1-20
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
I used to teach a Monday morning Bible study in my former parish. The usual cast of characters showed up to this study, primarily retirees, particularly a group of widows. It was a delightful group and I really enjoyed spending time in God’s word with them. We were looking at this passage when I said that they were rich. I remember Billie, Mabel, Pat, and the other Pat in the group looking at me with large round eyes. These women scrimped and sacrificed to make the money last to end of the month. They lived in very modest homes and drove sensible little cars. How could I call them rich?
I reminded them that most of the world does not have a refrigerator or a car. They often lived in multigenerational families in one or two rooms. They might not have indoor plumbing. By the standards of much of the world, they were rich indeed. We might be tempted to think that James is talking about Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos or some other ultra-wealthy person, but he actually has folks just like us in mind when he rails against the rich. But James is not a socialist, not really. He is not even against the rich, but against the behavior of the rich. His problem with the rich is that they trust their wealth. And in trusting wealth for their security, they are willing to take advantage of their neighbor to get a little more security, a little more money.
James offers us three things to do instead.
- Practice patience. Be like a farmer who must wait for the rains from heaven. God sends them in his own time.
- Do not try to force things. Do not use the verbal violence of an oath. Simply say yes or no as situations dictate.
- He then admonishes us to pray. God hears our prayers and answers them. Bring to him the worries and concerns which you have.
Lastly, he tells us to watch out for each other. I remember the tight little community of those women who came to the Bible study. They cared for one another and were fiercely loyal to one another. But this also meant that when one of them had erred, they stood ready to correct and loving to help the wandering sister back to health and her place in the community. When I am old, I pray I have a group of friends who are like that, who are patient with me, do not force things on me, but who pray for and with me. They really were rich in more ways than one.