Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why James Matters

I would like to make just one more comment on the rich and the poor in James.  Please read James 5:1-6.

Again, James doesn't hold back.  The rich are blamed for persecuting, even murdering, the poor.  Now remember, murder doesn't necessarily mean an act of violence.  Murder can also take place through neglect or privation.

This understanding of James is periodically emphasized in Christian thought.  Some Christians read this and think of sweat shops, child laborers, or slaves in our modern world.  I believe that this is an honest reading of the text.  In fact, Christians have been reading James like this for centuries.

The Rev. F.D. Maurice
During the worst abuses of the Britain's Industrial Revolution in the middle of the 19th century, many Anglicans were horrified at the working conditions of the poor.  One priest, F.D. Maurice, was so incensed that he decided to form a school for these working class men so that they could receive a religious education.  The Working Men's College is still standing as a legacy to Maurice's vision that all of God's people should have access to Christian education.

Here is a long quote from Maurice that speaks to the heart of James 5.  His words were powerful in 1850, and they still ring true today:

“But if you accuse us of being idle, visionary dreamers who abhor statistics, we must plainly tell you that our object will be to deal with the commonplace details of human misery, to inquire not how the world may be cut into parallelograms, but how you and I may buy our coats without sinning against God, and abetting the destruction of our fellow creatures; to show how our little acts of inconsideration may cause far more physical and moral evil than great crimes; to point out a way in which habitual acts of deliberation and reflection upon our relations to our brethren may avert or relieve wretchedness, which grand charities, magnificent subscription-lists leave untouched or perhaps aggravate.”

– F.D. Maurice, Tracts on Christian Socialism, 1850.

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