Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
— James 5:1
James, following close in the footsteps of Jesus1 makes it very clear that status and riches will not get you to heaven. The opening lines of chapter 5 bring to mind these words of Jesus, from the gospel of Matthew:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.2
James goes a little further in accusing rich men of becoming rich off the backs of their labourers.3 Wealth in itself isn't bad (many gave their entire purse to the Jesus movement as described in the book of Acts) but the way wealth is gained is the fault. The same is true today. Those millionaires and billionaires who have created vast empires for themselves are likely also living in their own private hell. The more we have the more we fear losing what we have. Sometimes the happiest people are those with little or nothing. Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God4
The emphasis on poverty as being the way to the kingdom is emphasised once again in the gospel of Matthew. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.5
1 James is often considered the brother of Jesus as mentioned in Matthew 13:55, although there is no conclusive evidence that this is the same person who wrote this book. For more on this see James, the Brother of Jesus by Bruce Chilton, Oxford Bibliographies, 26/07/2017
2 Matthew 6:19-21
3 James 5:4-5 (NIV) Look! 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. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.
4 Luke 6:20. Interestingly this line gets twisted in Matthew (written later) to read blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3) somewhat letting the wealthy off the hook. You're much more likely to hear the Matthew version these days, than the one from Luke.
5 Matthew 19:24