James Series

James 5:4-6 – Rich Men North of Richmond (and everywhere else), Part 2

Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.

Last week we began this section of James 5, where James takes on the oppressive wealthy classes of his day. His condemnation is scathing. This week we take up where we left off, as James lists in detail the charges against these oppressors of His people.

And these charges are serious. If we read the text above, we find specifically mentioned the withholding of wages, fraud, judicial corruption, and murder. There is an ascending order to this list, as well as a possible cause-effect relationship. Increasing withholding of wages means increased levels of fraud, which results in the innocent who have complained being condemned on trumped up charges, and, inevitably, people being “eliminated” to get rid of evidence.

One need not dive too deeply into current events to see every single one of these categories playing out in real time.

Withholding of wages? Check.

Fraud? Check.

Miscarriages of justice? Check and check.

Murder? Check and, of course, check.

And all the while, it seems like the powerful people at the top of the pyramid get richer and richer, while those at the bottom get poorer and poorer. It’s no wonder then, that when a random bearded troubadour goes out to his back yard and wails into a microphone about the “rich men north of Richmond”, people respond by making the song top all the charts. And we can’t blame them. The line about caring miners than “minors on an island somewhere” is one of the most epic lyrical twists in the history of all lyrical twists.

But James is here to remind us that we are not limited in our recourse to hillbilly protest songs. No, we have something much more powerful in our corner…more powerful than public uprising (although I think there is a place for that), more powerful and any politician or candidate who might promise to make a difference (although God can certainly use them, too).

James tells the “Rich men north or Richmond” that the cries of the oppressed have reached God’s ears. And he uses a very specific name of God: “Lord of Sabaoth”. Literally, the Commander of Armies. Oppressors take note: the God of the Universe is preparing to make war against you. And your insignificant, ill-gotten riches will be of no use to you in the face of his wrath.

You have been warned.


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