4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you. ~ James 5:4-6
Today, we come back to the final chapter of the epistle written by James. As we considered in our last blog and podcast, in this passage, James provides for us, yet another test which enables us to know that we have faith in the God of the Bible, and through our faith we have accessed His wisdom. And, necessary for our faith to grow, we must go through difficult times. No one would prescribe trials for ourselves, that is until we recognize the connection between our trials and our ability to access God's wisdom. This test centers around how we handle the wealth God has given us.
In v.4 of today's passage we read, "Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty."
Among the scattered and persecuted Jewish Christians to whom James wrote this letter were those who appeared to love money more than God. These, instead of being generous with the poor, they exploited them. Instead of giving to the poor, they withheld from them. Instead of giving them the small wage that they had earned, they kept it back.
In biblical days there were people who every morning would go to the marketplace, hoping that someone would come to hire them for the day. They would work for whatever agreed upon wage they could get. And, at the end of the day, they were paid.
The phrase "The wages you failed to pay" is one word in the Greek and it means "to withhold by fraud." They weren't guilty of delaying their pay, they refused to pay. They didn’t pay them what they were due. And so, the rich then had money hoarded that they unjustly gained. And the cries of those who were treated wrongly were being heard by the Almighty God. Just as parents hear the slightest sigh of their children, God hears the cries of the hurting.
In v.5 of today's text we read, "You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter."
The phrase "You have lived on earth in luxury" literally means, "You have lived in softness." When we gather unto ourselves much money at the expense of others, making them poor, we are guilty of idolatry, and the idol is ourselves. And, a life style of indulgence follows. The downward spiral never ends, making us more and more numb to God and that which is really real.
Luxury most often leads us to the vice of comfort. We start living the soft life, and it takes us over. Once consumed with our own pleasure, we find ourselves desiring all sorts of pleasures, and luxury turns out to be our vice. At the root of it all is covetousness which is desiring more and more of what belongs to someone else. It is at this point that we find ourselves living a life without self-control and self-restraint. A man with wealth who closes his eyes to the needs of others, closes his eyes to the work of God.
The result of it all, as indicated by the last sentence in v.5, like the fattened calf, we find ourselves prepared for the slaughter of our own flesh. Even though our sins are forgiven in Christ and we are headed to heaven, we can lessen the quality of our lives here on this earth. And, God is very clear that when we feed the flesh, it brings with it, corruption and destruction.
In v.6 of today's text we read, "You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you."
When we are defined by the things of this world we are blinded and numbed to what is substantive and worthy of our investment. But, when we are defined by God, we will have His heart for others, especially for those who are most needy.
I close with a great quote from C.S. Lewis that sums up today's passage well. "Enemy-occupied territory---that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage."