by Mike Ratliff
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14 ESV)
One of the marketing themes of the Democratic Party’s attempt to take control of the White House and both houses of Congress along with Governor of many states in this election year (2008) is a an attempt to cast their opponent’s voting record and their past performance as supporting the wealthy while taking money from honest, hard working Americans. An analysis of what is being said by these demanding change for sake of change reveal promise after promise to take profit from those whose businesses do well and spread that money around to those who are relatively poor. While this may appear attractive to those who would see themselves as benefiting from this, this is nothing new.
I was in the 7th grade when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Therefore, I witnessed the two terms of Lyndon Johnson who was a New Deal Democrat. He tried to have Congress implement a plan called The Great Society. This was a plan to increase Government spending paid for by increasing taxes on the ‘wealthy’ and corporations. This spending was meant to go to programs designed to help the poor live better, et cetera. From this came increased Welfare and other programs where the US Government became responsible for supporting the poor with programs that ensured that most of them remained dependent and poor.
As Christians should we be at enmity with the ‘Rich’ and powerful? Should we be looking to the Government to be our ‘Big Brother’ to ensure that justice gets done? Of course, this justice would be based on arbitrary values; not necessarily Christian or Biblical values. What does God Word say about this?
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. (James 5:1-6 ESV)
The ‘rich’ in this passage are those with more than they need to live. Does James condemn them for being rich? No! He condemns them for misusing their wealth. These James refers to here profess to be Christians, but their real god is their money. James tells them that because of their ‘wickedness’ they are inciting judgment from God. Notice that they hoard their wealth and do not pay those who work for them. They worked within the legal system to maintain their wicked lifestyles. Again, please notice that these people are not guilty because they are successful, but because of their wicked misuse of God’s provision. What is James counsel to all Christians in how they are to respond to this?
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:7-11 ESV)
The Greek word James used here that we read as ‘be patient’ is μακροθυμέω or makrothumeō. This is the same word used throughout the New Testament that speaks of patience with people instead of trials and circumstances. James is using it here to refer to Christians being patient with the wicked rich he spoke of in vv1-6. He commands us to be longsuffering with them until when? When our Lord Jesus Christ returns, He will right all wrongs. This is a trust in the promises of God. We are not to take these matters into our own hands. Instead, we are to establish our hearts. This is a call for resolute, firm courage and commitment to not avenge ourselves on those who oppress us. Our hope is in the second coming of our Lord, not in the courts or elected officials. I see that some are looking to Barak Obama as the “messiah” who is going to right all of these wrongs and bring justice in the form of transferring the wealth of some to those who have been neglected.
My brethren, our hope is not in any man. Instead, it must be in the Judge who is standing at the door. We are to emulate the prophets of old who stood firm as examples of suffering and patience. This is our calling my brethren, not the active pursuit of man-made justice. This principle also applies to all of our personal relationships. We are called to patiently endure, not strike back, or seek their punishment. No, we are to pray for them and actually love them. God’s justice will prevail. In whom do we trust? In whom is our faith grounded?
Soli Deo Gloria!