James 5:1-11 Justice and Mercy

This church that James first penned this letter to, faced particularly tough times. As religious refugees in a foreign culture, life was hard for them. This is why James opening words were on facing trials,

James 1:2 Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials…

James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trials…

James began to center their hope in the Lord, as they essentially relied on money.

They catered to the rich. They may have thought they could some financial backing and get out of this jam. Makes sense.

But James reminds them to trust in God's sovereign power, wisdom, and provision for them.

James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above…

Church, put your hope in the Lord who loves you, not in rich people.

James 2:6… Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

From what James's wrote, the rich people that he railed against were unbelievers who used their wealth to legally oppress Christians in the courts and to smear Jesus' name in the press.

When we read our passage for today, James is reminiscent of an OT prophet who looks to the return of Christ and the judgment to come upon the rich and unbelieving who resist the grace of God and oppress the people of God. Hard stuff. Real stuff.

James 5:1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments [with which you smugly show off] have become moth-eaten. 3 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!

James is not denouncing the 1%. It is not actually wrong nor sinful to be wealthy.

Consider Abraham. David. Joseph of Arimathea.

There is no inherent evil in wealth nor is there any inherent virtue being poor. Paul says it clearly,

1 Timothy 6:9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

In James, He doesn't speak against all wealthy people, but the wicked acts of some wealthy people. Especially, those who cheat their workers of pay,

James 5:4 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.

God is not deaf to the cries of injustice, fraud, and oppression.

These believers were jilted out of their hard earned pay!

Although the wealthy ignore their cries, the Lord does not! The Lord of Sabaoth, the Lord of armies, the Lord who is all powerful hears them.

James 5:5 You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure;  you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.  6 You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.

For their love of money, they used their influence to crush in court whoever stood in their way.

James is speaking against the rich who do these, but he speaks this to the gathering of Christians who are oppressed by them.

What these men are doing is wicked. God knows.

When you are mistreated, God hears.

When Christians are oppressed around the globe and berated, beheaded. The time will come that God acts against them and He reverses each of your fortunes.

Put yourself in the place of the truly beaten and beaten down. In lands where there is no hope.

Listen to God's heart for them. His heart against injustice.

This is God on record against injustice, fraud and true oppression of the poor.

Granted these are born again Christians. But our Lord stands against exploiting the poor and powerless anywhere. This is human dignity.

People worked for you to benefit you; and you agreed to pay them. But now you find some loophole not to pay them. And there's nothing they can do except call to the God who loves them.

Well, God hears when the humble cry out to Him. God gives grace to the humble, and opposes the proud!

This is a theme that reflects God's character from the OT to the New,

Deuteronomy 24:14 You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. 15 You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he may not cry against you to the LORD and it becomes sin in you.

And God finds you guilty of defrauding them. Oppressing. Harming them.

If you have employees. If you're a business owner, boss, manager don't pull one over on them. Don't defraud them.

Pay them fair wages! Don't overcharge them. Don't discriminate against them. For in verse 15, He is poor and he sets his heart on the paycheck he worked for. This speaks to God's heart, and should melt ours.

Empathy. Human dignity!

"But I don't own a business," you say. "I don't hire employees. What do I do with this?"

Globally and historically, even the least well to do among us are rich.

1 Timothy 6:17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

Embrace God's heart, His people, His mission—and be generous stewards!

1) Meet needs in our church family. [Many names were mentioned]

As a church in 2019, we aided Safe Passage, Service Net, and African Refugees all in Northampton. These are not Christian ministries, and the recipients aren't necessarily Christians. But we want to love on the people in Northampton and support our community.

This year we will also partner with Smith Vocational and Agricultural School in Northampton—to bless their teachers and students who need help purchasing work boots, gloves, and tools.

But it's important that we understand our identity as Christ's body, and care for one another and unite with the body of Christ, Christians everywhere.

2) Meet the needs of the global church; the suffering, starving, persecuted.

Financially aid believers in parts of the world plagued by extreme poverty or  those who are persecuted and oppressed, facing beatings and beheadings. We support orphans in Ghana. Bring the gospel to oppressed in Iran, Turkey.

We hope to share more generously in 2020. Maybe help translate the Bible into every language by 2033 via Share Light-illumiNations. We want to begin sending at least one short-term missions team from our church each year.

We are Christ's body. Part of a greater community. Greater mission. Serving a greater cause.

Offering new life to those dead in sin.

Freeing sinners of guilt and shame.

Introducing people to Jesus.

Reconciling the lost and hurting, angry and empty to a loving and giving God and Father, Savior and Friend.

Let's read through the rest of our passage.

James wrote to poor, disadvantaged and powerless Christians.

What about when life is unfair, nothing seems able to change it, and all seems hopeless?

Again, know that God sees and hears and cares and loves you. He is sovereign and good.

And while He may let sin continue in this world, and the evil seem to prosper, and many of us do suffer, trust in His wise care,

James 5:7 Therefore be patient, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.

In other words, set your hope on Christ's return, and the coming of the kingdom of God! Know that all will be made right and the suffering you endure will be rewarded at that time. And choose patience.

James 5:7 ... The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

Whether you are persecuted for your faith, in a marriage without love, or single without hope. If you're currently in a job that underpays or you cannot even find a job, or you're still in school and falling further behind. Or you live under the never ending consequences of a really bad mistake:

Trust God even if things don't change.

God is just and merciful.

Live and act knowing this. Trust this now today, and await His return for He will right every wrong. He will wipe away every tear. Avenge every attack. Redeem every injustice. Reward your faith and love…

But your faith will be tested.

We'll wonder, "Is He good? Does He care? Why doesn't He change this? What does it matter if He makes all things right in the future?"

It's easy not to love and to not be merciful to others and to not be kind at times.

So strengthen your hearts in God's grace.

Be in community. Draw near to the Lord. Resist the devil and he will flee. Submit yourselves to God's great love and bless one another.

James 5:9 Do not complain, brothers, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.

Embrace your identity and our unity as the body of Christ. And have it in your minds, set your hope on Christ's return.

For the One who will reward our enduring trust and love is near. How we treat each other matters to Him.

We think it's impossible to suffer and endure in faith.

We get hurt. We want to escape. Call it quits. But some of us have no option. We are stuck.

Either way,

James 5:10 As an example, brothers, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.

Christians in serious harm and oppression desperately need to trust this.

Wherever you are at today, this is a great thing to wrap our heads and hearts around in faith.

Our Lord does.

When our Lord returns, His reward shall be with Him plentiful and abundant. He is a generous rewarder. Even now as we wait, entrust your heart to Him knowing that His heart is merciful and compassionate toward you.