6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? - James 2:6-7
James seems to spend so much time on not judging others and treating others fairly because he truly wants to drive home the point that Jesus calls us to love others as ourselves, yet we fail at this all the time in our judgment of others. How many times have you made assumptions about someone because of the way they look? If I am being honest, far too many times in my life. I definitely am working to overcome those assumptions and stereotypes in my mind, but if we’re being truthful, those assumptions have been bred into us by our culture and run far deeper than we care to acknowledge.
Working in a school, it’s easy to make the assumption that a mom who cannot take time off work to come tend to her sick child is a terrible mother, or sending a child to school without breakfast means the parents don’t care about the child, but those assumptions are often terribly wrong. In many cases, these families are living below the poverty line, and they simply can not afford to care for their children as the rich do. They have to live with the heartache of difficult decisions every day.
Don’t be mistaken - we make just as many assumptions about the rich. James is not in any way saying being poor is preferable in the eyes of our Father. Many of us look at the rich and make assumptions about their air of superiority, believing they are lovers of money or somehow think they deserve more than those who do not have. Looking at the lives of wealthier people can also stir up feelings of envy or jealousy, and those feelings can cause us to make undeserved judgments about their lives. Many who are wealthy came by their riches as a blessing for their obedience to Christ and are being trusted with a larger portion of wealth because they have stewarded His resources properly.
The point James is making is not that poor is the preferential economic status, but rather we should not be judging anyone. We should be showing God’s love and grace to all people, regardless of how much money they have. In these two verse, he is specifically making that statement in terms of a court of law.
Throughout the ages, the rich have taken advantage of the poor because they can - they pay low wages to preserve their wealth, they loan money with ridiculous interest rates the poor could never hope to repay, they call in debts that keep the poor at an economic disadvantage, they foreclose on properties leaving the poor homeless. They continue these actions because our legal system supports the rich lording their power over the poor. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. They cannot afford a good education, good healthcare, nice clothes, and so they are forced to stay down.
James asks these two questions at the end of this passage to prompt us to think about our alignment. When we promote those who are rich simply because of their economic status then we are aligning ourselves with enemies of God. God’s enemies use their strength to oppress the poor, and in these cases, God is concerned for the poor.
At the end of the day, it’s about using Godly wisdom and discernment as you look on others. There are plenty of poor people who are in their situation as a result of their foolish decisions and lack of discipline, and there are plenty of rich people because they are wise and disciplined; but there are just as many who find themselves in the opposite camp based on the same actions. James is ultimately reminding us not to judge others based on outward appearances.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗
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