George was the richest man in town, not because of his money…but his heart. “No man is a failure who has friends,” Clarence notes…..and from that perspective, Mr. Potter is the poorest, unhappiest, and biggest failure of them all.
Let’s look at the Scripture again through the eyes George….but as we do, put yourself in George’s shoes, and consider how the words of James in this passage, interact with your own experiences and your own situation. I’m going to begin with the second section and then move back to the first.
5:1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you.
2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.
3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.
4 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.
5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.
6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
Potter is the picture of wealth, greed, and evil. He’s the kind of guy James is talking about here—those who love their wealth, rely on their wealth, trust in their wealth, and use their wealth and power and influence to the detriment of others….who hurt people and use people as they do what they want to do.
Most of here probably would not consider ourselves to be wealthy, especially compared to our friends and family back in our home countries. In our contexts here, though, many of us are more wealthy than many of the people in this country we call home. Most people consider us to be wealthy…and indeed we are. I don’t have to look any further than myself…
I live in a nice, modest home—but clean and safe and comfortable.
I have a well-maintained vehicle…more than one.
We spend money when needed on new furniture and new computers and such. We occasionally go out to a nice restaurant and, when traveling, we hit up every Indian place we can find. And now that I mention that, our family has been able to travel to places like Singapore, Malaysia, and beyond….places many will never see. Sometimes people here ask me how much a plane ticket to US costs and I’m embarrassed to tell it would cost them several months income….just for one member of our family.
And, I’m almost ashamed to say it, but I tend to get happy when the exchange rate turns in our favor. It’s really good for my budget, after all. Am I the only one who feels this way?
More embarrassingly, even though I already have more than many people and live fairly comfortable life….I am all too quick to complain about what I don’t have….and complain when my AC goes out and my office is warmer than I’d like it to be.
People say “time is money,” but that is only true for those of us that have enough money to buy the time, right? Clearly, I am not the right person to be the prophetic voice on the dangers of wealth and comfort.
And if we expand our concept of wealth just a little bit beyond just financial wealth, we might also consider that some of us have been able to enjoy the riches of:
- Being raised in Christian home and learning from an early age about God and Scripture and Christ.
- Some of us have enjoyed the riches of a stable, healthy home environments with two loving parents, stable jobs, opportunity to retire, and more.
- Some of us have enjoyed the riches of a healthy and strong body from childhood, free from sickness and disease.
- Some of us have enjoyed the riches of quality, even world-class education from elementary school…to high school…through university and even post-graduate studies.
- Some of us have grown up NOT having to deal with racism, sexism, abuse, neglect, and so much more.
More than that, in my work here, I have been given a certain level of decision-making power, authority, and influence on the ministry team on which I serve.
It is important, James is reminding us, to realize where we stand and all that we have been given…to understand that we have been given things that other don’t have. We all have enjoyed certain advantages that others haven’t had, and have access to funds and resources, positions or power or influence, that allow us to live—for better or worse—a fairly comfortable life without constant worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow.
In the words of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, “with great power comes great responsibility.” James would say the same…..he is reminding the people in his context about the dangers of wealth and provision and power and influence and more, and as he does we are reminded that we must be careful about how we use these resources and to remember the responsibility that comes with whatever level of wealth, support, power, and position we might hold.
Mr. Potter spent his life fattening himself up for the day of slaughter, as James would say. A lesson for us, I suppose, is to not let ourselves not get metaphorically fat and lazy living for ourselves, because no person can serve two Masters, as Christ reminds us. Money and God? Self and God?
Let us use whatever we’ve been given—financial resources, power, position, authority–to glorify our Father in Heaven and to meet the needs of the people around us….to live Kingdom-focused lives.
Thank you for reading!