Day 07 Devotional & Discussion – February 25, 2015

James 5:1-6 

How have these landowner/employers abused their power? How is their wealth evidence of their abuse? How is God involved in this labor dispute? Currently, corporate CEO’s make 774 times more than minimum wage workers. To put that into perspective, it would take 774 years for a minimum wage worker to make what the average CEO makes in one year.  Do you think God has an opinion about income inequality in America?  If so, try to put God’s opinion into a statement.

5 comments

  1. As I was reading the passage from James, I was struck by how James uses similar language to Matthew 6:19-21. “Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Obviously, these landowner/employers’ hearts were set on profit and accumulation of wealth, and their means to profit and accumulation was defrauding their employees of their wages. Sometimes we have this perception that increased profits appear magically out of nowhere and no one is adversely affected by pursuit of wealth. James would call that naive. James’ perspective is that profit and wealth accumulation are deeply moral (or immoral) issues. When one gains, someone else has lost. When one lives luxuriously, someone else is subjected to abject poverty. When one pursues profits, someone else pays the cost. No wonder he compares the fraudulent practices of landowners to murder of the just. And once again, we see God taking sides. Judgment day is coming. BTW, the paraphrases of James 5:1-6 from the Living Bible and The Message are pretty powerful. These versions can be accessed at the Bible Gateway site online.

    1. I have a confession to make. I’ve never read any of the Books of the Apocrypha. They were not in my Bible, therefore, I didn’t think they were worthy of perusal. However, today, I happened by chance to see a reference to Sirach 34:25-27 that provided an answer to one of my longstanding questions–“Why does James make a reference to murder in this passage when it is about accumulation of wealth and unjust wages?” Here’s the wisdom of Sirach. “The bread of the needy is the life of the poor; whoever deprives them of it is a murderer. To take away a neighbor’s living is to commit murder; to deprive an employee of wages is to shed blood.” Exploitation of workers equals murder. Period. That changes the whole conversation for me. When we see exorbitant salaries of CEO’s in the face of poverty level wages for employees, it is not only immoral or disgraceful–it’s murder.

  2. I agree with you, Bruce, about the similarity between the book of James and the Sermon on the Mount. Lots of parallels. It seems that there is something here about the transformation of the heart, such that a person who is a Christ-follower, Spirit-filled, experiencing the transformation of the heart, would want, would eagerly desire fair treatment of workers. Because of that Christian employers should be leading the way, it seems to me, in radical equalization of wages. The descriptions of the early church in Acts 2, 4, and 6 point to this. I wonder if there are any examples of this, of Christian employers practicing something like this in contemporary America.

    1. Unfortunately, there are too many examples of employers who claim to be Christians that do not apply this teaching to their employment practices. We live a dualism in our faith and our economic beliefs and practices. The two seldom intersect. And in large part I blame the church–and pastors in particular. We do not preach the intersection of discipleship and economics–unless it is about stewardship and tithes (and even that is weak).

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