James chapter 5, first six verses:
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.If the rotting of riches and the loss of fancy clothes are miseries that make us weep and howl, then they're not just riches and clothes; they're idols, and we've put them in the place that's supposed to be God's place.
The final sentence of this passage needs some thought. In the New American Standard, "he" isn't capitalized, as you'd expect if it refers to Jesus (the NAS capitalizes pronouns that refer to Deity). THe King James also doesn't capitalize this pronoun -- but then, the copy I consulted doesn't capitalize pronouns referring to Deity, nor does the NIV (in fact, it renders the sentence as "You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you"). Still, the righteous man who allows himself to be put to death and does not resist is powerfully reminiscent of Jesus; and, in the Matthew 25 sense, when we mistreat anyone, but especially the poor man or the prisoner, we mistreat Jesus as well; He accounts it that way.
I also hear, in the reference to the withheld pay of laborers crying out against their withholder, an Old Testament echo of Abel's blood crying out to God from under the ground (see Genesis 4:10). God's ways of knowing aren't the same as ours; and it's a little unsettling to consider that, even if we think we're clever and sneaky and do our misdeeds in secret, all of God's creation tells Him our story.
Click here for more Words for Wednesday, most of which are actually posted on Wednesdays ... unlike this one.