Warnings to the Rich

from the James reading plan

James 5:1-6, Matthew 5:38-42, Hebrews 10:35-39, Revelation 20:11-15

Surely you’ve heard some variation on this theme: It’s not what you do, it’s whose you are.

While that statement sounds uber-spiritual, does have a hint of truth to it, and would look great emblazoned on a fairtrade t-shirt, the text in James blows a raspberry at it, and then offers this corrective without apology:

Because of whose you are, what you do matters. A lot.

And while this text could be read to a general audience, there is a specific group the writer had in mind: the rich. Or as one translation puts it, “the arrogant rich.” Their continued stockpiling of wealth with no concern, much less thought, for the hearts and minds and souls and strength of the little people who were used and abused to make such wealth a reality, is a telling indication of whose the rich are not. If they were God’s people, they would act differently.

Most of us are, to some degree, the little people. So we raise a fist and cry, “You tell ‘em, James,” to which James responds, “I will. But hey, don’t forget the other texts for today, okay?” Sigh. Thanks a lot, James. For now we see that we, too, can be the arrogant rich. While God has very direct things to say with regard to endlessly amassing wealth, God also speaks equally direct things into other areas of our lives where we are to act differently because of whose we are.

The spirit found in James and his fellow writers is one of living generously, open-handed and open-hearted—embarrassingly so. Because of our identity in Christ, the singular thing we should expend any effort toward stockpiling on this earth is what we’ve been given: mercy. Now that can work itself out not in building bigger barns, but instead building better childcare. Or turning the other cheek, standing there and taking it like a man who knows the sting of mercy. Or staying loyal to those friends persecuted or imprisoned for their faith when the safest thing would be to turn tail and run away fast.

Whose we are is of the utmost importance in this life, because this identity drives both our words and actions. And those deeds matter.

Mercy, do they ever matter. A lot.

Written by John Blase

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Post Comments (5)

5 thoughts on "Warnings to the Rich"

  1. Bernie Connelly says:

    To put the simply since I am Christ’s I need to follow Him closely and become more Christ like.

  2. Will Black says:

    “Because of our identity in Christ, the singular thing we should expend any effort toward stockpiling on this earth is what we’ve been given: mercy.” Boom.

    Why would we ever let ourselves get in a position where we actually thought that we deserve anything that we have or that we are “self made” in any way? Are you kidding me?! The enemy is clever to put these things right in front of us and we often take the bait. I know I do. What are we buying in to (literally and figuratively)? Louie Giglio once said, “Why pride? When the only reason you have anything good is because the King humbled Himself and died for you.” What a truth.

    This is a gut check for me because I want so much. I tell myself that it’s for good reasons, but I think it honestly fuels my pride. I want to be seen as successful. I want people to enjoy my things. I want to be a provider of many things. I think it can be used to glorify the kingdom and I pray that what I’m blessed with will glorify Christ instead of myself. We just need strict accountability for such things. I’m thankful for the never changing Word of God being the truth that keeps me grounded.

  3. Kevin says:

    Because of whose we are, what we do matters. A lot. God cares about what we do, and although he picks us up every single time, he does get a little upset when we make the same mistake over and over again. The lord wants us to be good stewards of who he is. I think this ties directly to our words. I saw a quote the other day that said “if you make the same mistake twice, you’re doing it on purpose”. Kind of a hit to the gut as we fall into sin so often with the same things. What we do matter, because whose we are matters.

  4. Dalen Hanquist says:

    Do not be greedy and become rich for yourself. Instead, use your money for good (“Give to Caesars what is Caesars”). Become rich in mercy and love, and reflect the image of the God that loves you

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