Wednesday, 3 July 2019
But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? James 2:6
James has just spoken of those God has chosen, meaning “the poor of this world.” He went on to say that they are “rich in faith.” However, he now says to his audience, “But you have dishonored the poor man.”
The “you” is plural. He is making a general statement about the conduct of those even within the faith. In giving the example of the well-dressed man in contrast to the man in filthy clothes, he is calling out the conduct of those in the gathering. In essence, “God has chosen this person because he is rich in faith, and yet you have humiliated him by treating him as a less-than-equal.” In this, he who should be most highly honored has been dishonored.
He then adds in, “Do not the rich oppress you…?” The idea here is that the rich lord their status over others. In the streets, the poor would be made to get out of the way of the rich being carried on his palanquin. When buying food at the store, the rich would tell the store owner to take him first so that he wouldn’t have to stand in the heat. Things such as this, which were surely as common then as they are now, were to alert the congregation that in showing preference to the rich man in the congregation, they were only feeding this type of attitude in a place where it should be completely starved.
And more, James continues with the fact that it is the rich who, “drag you into the courts?” They had the money to hire lawyers, they had the wealth to bribe judges, and they had the social position to convince those who stood in judgment that they were in the right – even when they were in the wrong. The rich were not the friends of his addressees, rather they were the ones who persecuted them. And so why should a rich man be given preference in a congregation of saints where those of the greatest faith (as a general rule) were those who were the poor of the world?
Life application: Even though it is the meek, the lowly, the humble, and the poor who will inherit the kingdom, these are the very same people we insult by our inappropriate judgments. We look down on others who have less than us and exalt those who have more than us.
But James says that the very people we look up to are the ones who are fighting against us as we live our lives. And the opposite is usually true of the poor. They will normally open their door for others, remain non-judgmental about things they disagree on, and generally live life in more contentment than the wealthy who simply strive to become more wealthy and more “superior” to those around them.
Nothing has changed in these 2000 years since James wrote his words, and it is a warning to each of us every day. We need to keep away from insulting the poor and exalting the rich simply because of their station in life.
Heavenly Father, help us to see each man for his inner qualities and not his external riches. May we be fair judges of those around us so that we might not sin against You. Help our hearts to not show favoritism or partiality towards those we can benefit from. This we ask through Jesus who looked with favor upon us, even in our time of greatest poverty. Amen.