Life Lessons from Hard Times – Studies in James
Okay, we jumped over the skeptical fence last week. To the skeptic who says, “Bring it on” to the dangers of wealth, James speaks like a prophet and warns that the very thing we seek, as to wealth, slips through our fingers like sand: ‘misery is coming on you’; wealth has rotted’; gold and silver corrodes’; eat[ing] your flesh like fire’. In other words, to those who chase and hoard wealth, it doubles back, like a monster, and eats and devours us as we chase the dollars.
Now, James moves the second level of his prophetic warnings – to employers. To James, employers, like teachers (i.e. people in places of influence or with behavior that affect others around them) James 3:1 – have greater accountability which follows greater responsibility.
James 5:4-6 4Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the LORD Almighty. 5You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
1. Analysis of a bad employer. No holds barred. If you or I am an employer who pays unfair wages, the wages you failed to pay, if you have taken advantage of your employees, the innocent who were not opposing you, your or my day of reckoning is coming. Not just with the Bureau of Labor and Industry. Not just with the IRS. Not just with an individual employee. But with God, reached the ears of the Almighty. It is an absolute truism: With privilege comes responsibility – and accountability.
2. Condemnation of lifestyles. We all rush to say that it is not money but the love of money that is bad. 1 Timothy 6:10. Yea, but that is a small separation. Having money leads to a love of money. Or as Nelson Rockefeller is quoted as saying when a reporter asked him, “How much money is enough?” He responded, “Just a little bit more.” Here the condemnation is contrasting lifestyles. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.
In ancient times it was apparently customary during sheep-shearing, for men of wealth to hold a feast for which some of the sheep were slaughtered to provide meat for their feast. The imagery is carried over here. The greedy employer has fattened his own heart and lifestyle while standing back and doing little to nothing for the struggle of their workers, graphically portrayed as you have condemned and murdered.
Wow. Very sobering to me. I have a few small businesses and about 25 employees. My responsibility is to work at paying compensation at the upper levels of what I can afford, not the less or little or minimum. I have tried to apply that for about 50 years of having employees. God will be my judge as to how I have and am doing. As he will be your judge, also, if you are an employer. Instructions for us all, and employees, next week. Stay well and do well.
– John Moore