Tuesday, 3 September 2019
You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you. James 5:6
James is still speaking to the rich of verse 1. He has rightfully pointed out the failings which the rich are commonly guilty of. What he says is a general commentary on the state of those who are rich and who use their wealth without taking their position before God into consideration. As has been seen, such people go from bad to worse in their actions, and in their treatment of others. He now goes so far as to say, “You have condemned.”
The Greek of these words is a single compound verb which signifies, “to pass sentence upon.” It is an aorist verb, signifying something like, “You are accustomed to condemning the just.” It is as if the rich were a judge who had judged the poor. What is understood is that the judgment is based upon his wealth alone. There is no true basis for the condemnation except an exalted feeling of personal worth.
From there, James continues with, “you have murdered the just.” Here, “the just” is in the singular. It is speaking of an individual. It is debated who is being referred to. Some think he is referring to the crucifixion of Christ. As it is the highest example of one who is just being murdered, it is the example which can be applied universally to all such cases. In essence, “You (whoever ‘you’ might be) have murdered Christ through your actions.”
Others suppose that it is speaking of any just man who is improperly condemned and murdered. The singular standing for the whole.
Or, it could specifically be referring to the laborers of verse 4. The rich man condemned him, as if in a trial and in withholding his wages, he has murdered him. If so, the singular again stands for the whole. Any rich man who has so condemned and murdered his laborers is being referred to.
No matter which, the principle is clearly understood. There is the guilt of blood because the rich has unlawfully sat as a judge, pronounced sentence, and deprived a just man of his life. And this is all the more poignant because, says James, “he does not resist you.”
The very fact that the man is termed “just” shows that he has a legitimate right to resist his treatment, and yet he does not. Christ did not resist His accusers, though he was without fault. The just laborer who has earned his pay may ask for it, but when he doesn’t receive it, he doesn’t come after the rich with murderous intent. Instead, he cries out in his misery (verse 4). There is no resistance. Likewise, there is no fear on the part of the rich, and yet they take action to silence the man who has done rightly so that they can continue to oppress whoever stands in the way of their obtaining more.
Life application: It is easy for us to look at the oppressors of the world and judge them for their actions, but in the end, don’t the words of James’ also point back to us? Each of us has participated in the crucifixion of Christ. It is our sin, our greed, and our wayward lives which necessitated His cross.
In the movie The Passion of the Christ, there is a short clip of a Roman soldier’s hand bringing the hammer down on the nail which was piercing Jesus’ hand. During the shooting of the film, Mel Gibson came forward, grabbed the hammer, and the shot was filmed with his hand being portrayed as the Roman soldier’s hand. He said that his life made him a participant in the death of Jesus. This was his way of acknowledging that. As troubling as it may seem, we have condemned and murdered the just and innocent One – Jesus our Lord.
We should contemplate the sin in our lives which brought about such a terrible demonstration of its penalty. Likewise, we should look with gratitude to our Heavenly Father who loved us enough to offer His Son in our place. Jesus took our stripes, our mocking, and our cross. And after the turmoil of His soul, He saw the light of life – having prevailed over death. It is with grateful hearts that we can anticipate freedom from the bonds of death as well. The murdered innocent One has prevailed.
Lord God, what are we that You saw it fit to send Christ Jesus to die for us? How can such love exist? Thank You for Christ Jesus our Lord who has brought us back to You. Amen.