Yesterday, as we opened James, we saw stark judgement upon the corrupt rich. Yes! Those rich celebrities, media moguls and mining magnates really need to pay attention to this – clearly James isn’t talking about me! Or so I thought…
Last week, in our regen life group as we looked at money, wealth and generosity we noted that our tendency was to look to ‘others’ as rich, and count ourselves poor. Suddenly everything was relative to ME – ‘everyone else has so much more than me, if only I had a bit more’. We didn’t even have to work hard to come up with rationalisations and justifications for our greed… ‘If I won the lottery I would give half to the poor’ … and yet the unchanging word of God revealed to us how easily our hearts are corrupted and seduced by the world. The reality is that here in Australia, we are all considered rich by world standards. We should not too hastily consider ourselves out of the reach of James’ warning. As Mark described yesterday, James’ words apply to me too if I lay up treasures for myself, exploit workers (fair trade chocolate anyone?) and live in self-indulgence!
Today, our passage in James exhorts us to be patient. Why would James encourage his readers to be patient? …because his readers were likely being exploited by the rich of their time and suffering at their hands. At times I find this difficult to reconcile with my experience, I don’t feel like I am being exploited or suffering like these first century Christians (in fact my version of suffering regularly pales into insignificance when I compare some of the horrors of the first century Christian experience), and as such I suspect I am not longing for my heavenly home in the same way that they might.
Nevertheless, James’ encouragement is to ‘remain steadfast’ and not jump to judgement. His is a timely reminder that we are passing through this world and that the greater judge is standing at the door. We desperately need an eternal perspective on our temporary sojourn through this world and of the arrival of the promised King. We should patiently endure our own suffering (in whatever form it takes), knowing that the Lord is ‘compassionate and merciful’. Furthermore, we are to look to the examples set by our faithful ancestors as they clung to the promises and character of God (v11).
So, where does this hit me today? Where does it hit you? I know I am rich by world standards, I know I am called to faithfully endure. I need to put my hope in Jesus, patiently and expectantly awaiting his return. As I wait I need to invest my wealth, my time, my energy, my relationships – not in myself and expanding my own luxury – but in God and in looking to the needs of those who are suffering.
The story of Ahab in 1 Kings 21 today highlights how we can get it so wrong – looking to expand our own possessions, at the expense of others if necessary. Let us pray that we don’t fall into the same trap as Ahab, but that we obtain a clear perspective of this world, our riches, our savior, our calling and our response as we await the true King’s return.