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James 2.5-7 – Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
6 But you have dishonored the poor man. 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?
Verse five is good news to the max! James writes, “Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” Good news! God chose you and wants you to be rich and part of his kingdom, now and forever.
Ephesians 2 goes into beautiful detail of what it means to be chosen and to be a rich heir of God’s kingdom. Below is an outline of the chapter. I hope you will take the time to prayerfully read Ephesians 2 and to consider all that God has done for you.
(1) What were we like before we experienced God’s love and grace?
— We were spiritually dead, children of wrath, and controlled by world and satanic forces (Ephesians 2.1-3).
— We were without hope and without God (Ephesians 2.12).
— We were strangers of and aliens to God’s household (Ephesians 2.19).
(2) What motivated God to choose people like us?
— We did not have anything to offer God, but our sin and guilt (Ephesians 2.9).
— God was motivated to choose us solely by his mercy, love and grace. (Ephesians 2.4, 8).
(3) What kind of riches has God given to us?
— He made us alive together with Christ, raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2.5-6).
— He has chosen us to have access to the Father (Ephesians 2.18).
— God chose us to be citizens and members of his household (Ephesians 2.19).
Let’s ask ourselves how we can be like the “bad guys” in this picture.
The early church was primarily made up of poor people. It is an interesting and sad aspect of human nature that these poor people joined sides with the powerful against other poor people.
James put it like this: “But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?” (James 2.6-7).
The powerful oppress those without power. In doing so, they mock the One who called us and gave us the riches that Ephesians so eloquently describes.
The history of racial and class divisions is full of references to how the powerful manipulate one race or class against the other. The powerful divide the poor through persuasion in order to maintain their advantage over the masses. This behavior spans centuries of behavior and takes place all over the earth.
James’ appeal to his audience is to not be seduced and manipulated by the powerful of this world. After all, they are part of a world’s system that opposes God’s kingdom.
We should refuse to be manipulated by powerful people to take their side against brothers and sisters in Christ. The question is, how can we make the right choices? After all, the issues are often quite complicated and at times confusing.
Rising Above the Noise
Ezekiel pictures one way we can remain in tune with God’s activity while being bombarded with the manipulative techniques of the powerful. God called Ezekiel to be a watchman. He said, “Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me” (Ezekiel 3.17).
What does a watchman do? A person who performs this function gets to a place where they can hear the word of the Lord. The noise of the crowd is so loud that the watchman has to get away from it to see what God sees and to hear what God is saying.
The Quakers are a good example of doing this, during a tragic and evil time in our nation’s history. While other denominations focused on preaching, often justifying the institution of slavery with both sermons and books, the Quakers were listening to God.
During the founding of our nation, the average Quaker worship service was filled with silence. People waited until they felt they had received a “word” from the Lord. Only then, did they speak. God was able to make them “watchmen” like Ezekiel, because they waited to hear what he was saying. As a result, they were the first opponents to the institution of slavery. They had heard from God, and all of the arguments in favor of slavery could not persuade them to change their position.
I have read more than an average amount of history, dating from the 1700s to our current date. Our world’s history is filled with accounts of powerful people oppressing the less powerful, usually for financial gain. Evil is often cloaked with persuasive arguments, designed to justify this kind of behavior and make the greedy look acceptable.
How can we best protect ourselves against the manipulation of the world’s system that is as old as the Old Testament prophets and the Book of James? We can join Ezekiel and the early Quakers by getting in a place where we can hear from God. Once we hear from him, we then must act on his message.
Let’s remember what is at stake. Our poor brothers and sisters in Christ in our country and around the world are depending on us.
Dear God, thank you for the amazing good news that you have chosen us to be members of your household. Thank you for the riches of the inheritance you have provided for us. Please help us hear clearly from you, so that we will always stand with you for your plans and purposes in the world.