This week we will are gathering to conclude our discussion of James. As you read through James 5 this week, note how often James quotes Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount (vv.2-3=Matt 6:19-21; v.9=Matt. 7:1; v.10=Matt 5:11-12; v.12=Matt. 5:34-35). In James, it appears that we simply have another voice (outside of the gospel accounts) conveying Jesus’ teachings.
In the first part of this final section of James (vv.1-6), the apostle speaks out forcefully against the folly of being rich and relying upon worldly wealth. In this section, James draws heavily on the prophets and particularly Amos. If you have time this weekend, compare this section of James with Amos 4:1-4, 6:1-7, and 8:1-7. And like in Amos, James’ condemnation of the rich is not limited simply to the fact that the rich rely on our wealth and not God. Rather, James’ condemnation lies with how the rich obtain and retain their riches – by withholding wages, hoarding their wealth, and condemning the righteous. Wealth is not simply a danger because it forms the basis of inequality, but wealth itself corrupts the human soul.
A more contemporary perspective on this issue is offered by Fr. Stephen Freeman in his blog post: Strange That Our Money Says: In God We Trust. Here, Fr. Freeman addresses how the idea of wealth and property has corrupted middle-class America. Wealth has been transformed from its Biblical understanding as a dangerous and deadly spiritual disease to the mark of spiritual success. We no longer see ourselves as stewards of property which imposes certain obligations on us, rather we are now owners of property with the full right to do as we will with our wealth. The best example of this transformation is the issue of interest. For 1500 years the Church condemned the charging of interest but today the charging of interest forms the very basis of our capitalist economy. Although Fr. Freeman does not quote James, I think his concerns are the same as the apostle.
SCHEDULE: On Tuesday, November 27 (Tuesday after Thanksgiving) we will be preparing care packages for our college students and homebound neighbors. If you wish to place anyone on the list, please let me know.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is stuffed peppers and squash with polenta. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.
Those who bestow laudatory addresses on the rich appear to me to be rightly judged. . . by inflating the minds of the rich with the pleasures of extravagant praises, and by making them utterly despise all things except wealth, on account of which they are admired; bringing, as the saying is, fire to fire, pouring pride on pride, and adding conceit to wealth, a heavier burden to that which by nature is a weight, from which somewhat ought rather to be removed and taken away as being a dangerous and deadly disease.St. Clement of Alexandria (150-215) “Who is the Rich Man who shall be Saved.” para.1