Blinded By Wealth
James 5:1-6 (1) Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. (2) Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. (3) Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. (4) Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. (5) Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. (6) Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. The Apostle James in this epistle is addressing “...the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad...” (JAM 1:1), which would be an exercise in futility if, as some affirm, ten of the twelve tribes were lost hundreds of years earlier as a result of the Assyrian conquest and dispersion. Paul spoke of the twelve tribes of Israel in his day as “...instantly serving God day and night...” (ACT 26:7). It is not ten tribes who are lost; it is the blinded unbeliever who cannot see the truth because of his love affair with the false doctrine of “the lost ten tribes.” Paul says, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost...” (2CO 4:3-4). James was an apostle to the circumcision, to Israel, to the Jews (GAL 2:7-9) and his epistle should be interpreted with that in mind. James is particularly addressing Jewish Christians: assembling brethren who had the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, albeit with errors (JAM 2:1-5; JAM 5:19-20) and a lack of faith-confirming works (JAM 2:14-26). It is interesting how much of James' epistle to people of his own nation is devoted to a censure of the wealthy Jew who is noted for his oppression of Jewish Christian brethren. James even chides the saints for making special overtures to the rich in the assembly (“synagogue” in the Greek) as if to court their favor (JAM 2:1-5) and then rhetorically asks, “...Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?” (JAM 2:6). The answer didn't need to be stated. Apparently, these misguided Hebrew Christians had a similar view to that which many Christians today hold: the wealthy are the most important asset of the church and should be given special treatment. There is no new thing under the sun. Honest treatment of James' epistle can earn one the trendy smear of being “antisemitic.” Yet some of the most outspoken critics in history of the wealthy, oppressive Jew have been, like James, Semitic Jews. The Jewish prophet Hosea said of Ephraim (a tribe in Israel and a special name of Israel in general), “He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress. And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin” (HOS 12:7-8). They held to the durable heresy that “gain is godliness” (1TI 6:5) and money the means of redemption, a vanity that was handed down as a tradition amongst the Jews (1PE 1:18). The Jewish prophet Amos spoke against the ungodly rich Jew who basically used inflation as a means of taking advantage of others (AMO 8:4-6). Arguably Israel's greatest king, David, even declared that the primary blinding factor of the ungodly portion of his own people would be their “table” (PSA 69:22-23), to which the Jewish Apostle Paul refers in ROM 11:7-10. That word translated table in ROM 11:9 is from the Greek “trapeza” and is the very same word translated as “bank” in LUK 19:23 and speaks of a counter for money, figuratively a broker's office for loans at interest (per Strong's Greek Dictionary): a principal means through which certain Jews plundered their brethren. Their own prophets all the way back to Moses had much to say against this practice; it was called usury in the O.T. (LEV 25:36-37; NEH 5:7-10, etc.). It was the very table (“trapeza”) of the moneychangers with which another Jew (Jesus Christ) took great issue on two occasions in His ministry (JOH 2:15; MAT 21:12). To label the godly Semitic Jews Antisemites for exposing and denouncing the corrupt and extortive practices of some of their own people is ridiculous. It is just as ridiculous to label a Gentile Antisemitic for simply pointing out what Jews have said about their own people. The Jewish believers in Jesus Christ to whom James wrote generally stood in stark contrast to their wealthy oppressors. The humble Hebrew Christians tended to be poor in the things of this world (ROM 15:26), and had taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods (HEB 10:34), the spoiling coming at least partly at the hands of their Jewish brethren, especially the wealthy ones who oppressed them (JAM 2:6; JAM 5:1-6). Thus, from the Jewish nation went forth two powerful forces: that of the gospel of grace in the hands of humble, believing Jews who tended to be of “...low degree...” (JAM 1:9) in material wealth, and that of financial strength in the hands of the proud, wealthy Jews, some of whom were professing Christians. The white horse of Christ (REV 6:2 c/w REV 19:11-13) and the black horse of commerce (REV 6:5-6), as it were, rode together out of the same paddock into history.