This passage is hard to read, which makes it tempting to dismiss it. I’m guessing, dear reader, that you, like me, are not a corporate overlord who pays your employees substandard wages so that you’ll get a bigger bonus! (If you are, James says that God calls you to forgo this year’s bonus and raise those wages! Come on, get on it!)
As for we pedestrian sinners, feeling smugly satisfied that we don’t strip people of their livelihoods—not so fast! I don’t know about you, but the pandemic has made me even more smug about my righteousness. As a mother of two, I can barely think of moments not spent cleaning, feeding, cooking, or playing trucks on the floor with a toddler. I’m not seeing friends, going out to eat, taking vacations, or buying handbags. I’ve never been more self-denying. Keep moving—no greedy people to see here.
Yet, if I think deeply about how this Scripture applies to me, what would I admit to you? That I haven’t given to the food bank since April. And I’ve spent too much on creature comforts in my home—and on wine, which I’m drinking too much of. I think it’s fair to say that actually, I have lived on the earth in luxury and self-indulgence (v. 5). My family, which has not suffered much financially during COVID, has “fattened” ourselves in the day of the slaughter. Scripture makes it clear that the deadly sin of greed eventually kills everyone. It destroys those who have nothing and will destroy those who do not share. Greed wreaks havoc on the community God envisions and loves. Maybe this troubling passage leaves us with a mirror and a prayer for God’s help as we learn to trade the deadly sin of greed for the better way that leads to life.
What do you see in the mirror of these verses?
God, help me see myself as you do, so that I will embrace the ways that lead to life. Amen.