JAMES 5: SHARED WEALTH
Each December, I enjoy getting out the bag of Christmas DVDs that have been stored in the loft all year. I then slowly work my way through them all throughout the Christmas season. The other night, I chose The Man who Invented Christmas – the story of Charles Dickins when he wrote his internationally acclaimed book A Christmas Carol ….apparently, in 6 weeks! The movie shows how Dickins wrote what he saw and, most especially, the prevailing attitudes at that time of the rich toward the poor.
At the end of the movie it was said that this story changed Christmas forever. At a time when William Wilberforce was fighting for the abolishment of the slave trade, Dickins apparently affected the way Westerners, in the wealthy nations, view Christmas and our charitable concerns especially at this season. The concept of shared wealth, linked to Christmas, came as a direct impact from this story being told in such a world-changing century.
In some ways, my early childhood could have been set in a Dickins novel. It wasn’t the easiest, nor wealthiest. I wrote briefly about this in my second book Mysterious… Expect the unexpected... Five decades later, however, I’ve been to more than 80 countries, I live in a lovely house, I’ve just returned from Brazil (working on our ship for 5 weeks) and Seattle (visiting our family). And, yesterday was spent buying some gifts for various family members at the Edinburgh Christmas markets. So, as Christmas approaches, I marvel again at how Father God picked me out of where I’d been, to give me an incredibly different life that I now live. Still, as wonderful as that is, our present “lucky life” is firmly anchored to a very serious warning. Jesus said that, in the Kingdom of God, many who are now first will be last, and many who are last here will be first there.[a]
With that in mind, James finishes this 1st Century letter with three parting thoughts: a warning to rich oppressors; patience in suffering; and a prayer of Faith. The strongest of which is not to hoard wealth. For one thing, history has proven that wealth is like shifting sand, or water through our fingers. [v1-3] In his day, James was addressing people who didn’t pay their staff [v4], and people who lived in luxury and self-indulgence. [v5]
However, while we shake our heads in agreement at such ideas, how many of us – in one way or another – put to death the Word of God so that its message against our behaviour would be silenced. [v6] Father God’s word shows that I can’t even grumble over the intangible blessings that I see in other people’s lives – as if my blessings aren’t enough. I still seemed to grumble at the way He shared His wealth, whenever I looked around at “the lucky breaks” that someone else seemed to get.
In time, I’ve come to notice that my complaints seemed to relate to my strengths – my strengths had become my weaknesses. My Maker had blessed me, when He hand-crafted me and knitted me together in my mother’s womb.[c] However, I had dropped into comparisons and have looked at how, for example, other people are picked for significant roles in our organisation, while I’m apparently overlooked. I swiftly lose track of my blessings when I see how lucky men appear to be compared to women or, how lucky the young are to be chosen these days, instead of the middle-aged. James reminds me again today of how petty I am in my grumblings, when so many people out there are really suffering.
“Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” [v9]
For those left wanting, and still waiting for “springtime” [v7], James encourages them to stand firm and wait patiently for divine intervention. [v8] With this, I notice two things: first is the imminence of my Maker’s presence. For all I know, I could be standing before my Maker tomorrow and all my grumblings about today (in light of all the things I was given yesterday), will be judged. In a list of things to close his letter, James is heading off the grumblings within the family of God. Alternative actions, instead of grumbling, avoids trouble in relationships, helps to alleviate hardship, and shares the wealth of Father God’s Grace.
So then, as I begin this Christmas season with the idea today of shared wealth, I could implement some of what James suggests here. I could…
- Give my word and stand by it – do what I say. [v12]
- Pray in hard times and Praise in good times. [v13]
- Rely on God’s family for prayer when I’m sick, or ensnared. [v14-15]
- Keep an open account and clean slate – after all, my Maker hears me and He’s faithful in every good thing. [v16-18]
- Keep together and keep accountable. Don’t give up or give in. Stick to Father God and the wealth of grace that He’s provided in His people. [v19-20]
CLICK to return to today’s “Daily Breadcrumbs”
[a] Matthew 19:28-20:16 (See also Mark 10:31 and Luke 13:30)
[c] Psalm 139:13