Dishonoring the poor!
Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
“Listen!” Just what you want to say to your kids, spouse, and friends sometimes. My wife often comes home from school asking me “Do you hear any sound coming out of my mouth?” “Am I speaking English?” (Apparently, first graders, as well as adults, are prone not to listen.) He has mentioned the need to listen a couple of times already. “Listen my beloved brethren, this is something that is needful for you to hear and think about. Be quick to hear this, listen to what I am saying, let it sink in….etc.”
God had chosen the poor….Hallelujah! I say again, God has chosen the poor. The Good news has gotten better. Now some think that God has chosen us to be rich in this world. No such passage exists! (correct me if I am wrong!) This verse does say that the poor are rich but rich in faith and more than that, heirs of the kingdom!
Keep in mind that this falls into the context of some in the church shunning the poor in favor of catering to the rich. But that poor man is your brother! How can you do this? James says that in doing this that you have dishonored the poor man.
With what he has just said about widows and orphans, we should not be surprised that he continues with the poor in general. These are likely those who do not need help to feed themselves, they simply do not have much of the world’s wealth. However, they have food and clothing. They can be content. They can boast! They can boast that they are heirs and rich in faith and that God will keep His promise to them. They love God and God has promised good things to those who love Him.
“So”, James could say, “This poor man who is heir to the kingdom, loves God, has faith in God, whom God is pleased to honor….you are really going to dishonor him in the name of worldly riches?!!?” Uh…back away from the rich man and no one gets hurt!
Besides all this, “the rich are the ones who drag you into court.” It is worth thinking about what James means here. Obviously not all rich do this. Nor do I think that a poor man might not. However, if you have to hire a lawyer to go to court, the rich are more able to afford this than the poor. James seems to be saying “why are you putting riches on such a pedestal? Those who possess them often misuse them and you.”
In addition, he talks about blasphemy. Certainly there are passages where Christians were dragged into court and the name of our faith is spoken ill of. Yet, I would like to suggest one other possibility. What if James is talking of rich Christians? Maybe he is thinking of Paul’s admonition in I cor 6 not to sue a brother and to let wise men in the church settle disputes. Could it be that taking your brother to court is considered a blasphemy? Our faith has a standard has I have mentioned in other posts. Not living up to that standard is to not carry the name of Jesus with the respect and honor he deserves. Yes, I know we all sin from time to time, we do stumble; but no one just accidentally files a lawsuit against a brother.
James is not yet done here. Love is going to play a role in this in the next few verses.