James 2:5-8 KJV
5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
James now paints an interesting contrast between the poor and the rich. I am not sure this is necessarily true today, but back in those days I can imagine the poor really did reach out a lot more in faith while the rich ridiculed them and did not depend on their faith as much. However, I really want to bring it into the modern day, and see what we come up with.
Today, the poor are considered those who are up to 400% above the poverty level in our country. I looked up the definition of poor, and it said lacking sufficient money to live at a standard considered comfortable or normal in a society. The federal poverty level in the US is $22,000 a year in household income for a family of 4. To put that in perspective, the poorest country in the world is considered to be the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the average annual income is $400 USD per person. To make this even more alarming, the percent of people living below the poverty level ($22,000 a year for family of 4) is 14.5%, but the number of people below the poverty line ($400 USD per person) is an astounding 70%! I would say this country has it made!
So do we even know what poor is? I don’t think we do. I would think the average homeless man panhandling in the street would make more than $400 per year!Since we are so well off, how much do we really need to depend on faith? Faith to get food on our table, faith to have a roof over our heads, faith to get from one place to another. I have to admit,these basic necessities of life are not a problem with me. We have rarely been at a point where we were lacking in any of these areas. Have you?
On the other hand, I am mentoring a young prophet in Uganda. During the time I have been working with him, he has lived in a makeshift tent for about a year, finally getting the m] finances to get an apartment earlier this year (at $50 a month). he has had many times that food was scarce and he went days without anything but what he could c=scrape together in the wild. He was dependent on others for any transportation as well. Yet this young man is hungry for the things of God, and displays incredible faith to continue on.
I share all this with you to give a picture of what poor means. We don;t know poor in this country very well, but if anyone could be classified this way, it is those who are struggling every month to meet the basic necessities of life. Sometimes they ask for our help, sometimes they ask for God’s help, but most of the time, they depend on themselves to make it through. I think there is an element of pride their which should be out down.
How willing are we to help the poor? We are God’s vessels to bless others in this world. Are we hearing God when He speaks to us about helping someone out? I would guess we are sometimes, but I would also guess there are many times we don’t hear Him, or make some excuse as to why we can’t help them. God will not train down money from heaven – He depends on us! We must move out in faith to help those God puts on our hearts. I believe those who are poor around us will not ask us, but they depend on God to provide. God is looking for those who will.
The rich, on the other hand, are said by James to oppress the poor. Who is rich? Well just about everyone in our country is rich compared to Congo! We have it made when we look at that comparison. Do you see yourself as rich? I don’t,, but I have a lot more than at least half the population of the world maybe even more than 3/4 of the population. Do I oppress the poor? Do I despise them?
I have to be honest with myself here and with you. I have always had a problem with people on welfare who can work but refuse to so they can collect benefits. I think we should develop a system where if they don’t work and they can, they are penalized. if they do work, their wages are looked at when determining their government help. The bible says a man who does not provide for their family is worse then an unbeliever. Anyone who can work, should. do despise those who just seek government handouts when they can contribute.
That being said, I also have despised the poor who just live off our government, even if they can;t work. That is wrong of me. I have worked on that part of my life, especially in the last year. I am being taught empathy by God right now, and I see things so differently. I try to put myself in the other persons shoes all the time, and I have gained a lot of perspective. Empathy is a powerful tool that God uses to draw us closer to each other.
So today may not be too much different than in James’s day! At least when I look at my life, I can see similarities. Can you? James finishes this section by using the golden rule. It doesn’t matter what social class someone is in, this rule applies. How would I like to be treated? If God spoke to someone about helping me, wouldn’t I want them to listen and do what God said? Well then I should do the same!