Thursday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

James 5:1-6

Warning to the Rich

James again begins with a “Come now,” only this time not as if with laughter and a smirk but with all the fire of a prophet filled with righteous indignation: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.”  His graphic descriptions of their certain destinies make one shudder: the corrosion of their gold and silver eating their flesh like fire and their self-indulgence fattening their hearts for the slaughter.  James minces no words.

But to whom is James speaking?  I want to be careful here because we do not want to water-down God’s word just where it renders awful judgments.  The kind of rich businessmen James condemns are those who cheat their employees and defraud them of their wages.  Apparently, this was a commonplace in Galilee and surrounding areas of that time, and the poor had no defense.  We should be grateful that we live in a country where such offenses can meet with a justice system.

But we must be careful that we do not say that just because a wealthy employer cannot begrudge someone his paycheck today means this passage does not apply to wealthy employers.  There are other ways of being dishonest; there are plenty of ways of defrauding workers.  How much is the business owner making compared to his employees?  Does the businessman seek their best interest as well or does he seek his own?  Is the purpose of his business solely to make a dollar?  I understand that a business must make a profit, but is that all that matters?  And don’t say, “No, the customer matters, too.”  In that case, “customer” is just another word for “profit.”  No.  James speaks here of the employee, the worker, the one from the sweat of whose brow the businessman makes his profit.  I do not say that the businessman and his employee should make the same pay; it is the businessman who takes the risk and provides the job.  Still, there must be a way to see that wages are fairly assigned at the end of the day.  I am not ready to say what that is…nor did James. 

I sense the answer lies in the businessman’s view of his employees.  Are they cattle or persons created in God’s image?  Do their families matter?  A businessman who employed only one other man once said to me, “I’m not just feeding my family, I’m feeding his as well.”  That is a Christian attitude.  Businesses run on Christian principles will look after their employees and see that the profit margin is not the only bottom line.  People matter.  Families matter.  So make us proud, Christian businessman!

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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