Saturday, November 26, 2011

James 5: Beware, Rich Oppressors

I need to think more about what James 5 means to me, as one of the world's One Percent.

I am glad for the economic growth in India and China. As a kid raised on  horror stories of famine in India and China, I welcome their emergency from poverty even if my own country "suffers" as a result. America does not "deserve" economic prosperity any more than any other country, except to the extent that we use our material blessings to promote freedom, justice and relieve suffering. This Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I would add to my prayers of thanks prayers of repentence for not doing more for the freedom, dignity and welfare of the poor. I do not even need to pray "Lord open my eyes". I can hear him saying "I gave you eyes and you certainly don't need to look very hard to find ways to help the poor." David Platt says that the American tradition of throwing the occasional bone to the world's starving hundreds of millions is like the antebellum tradition of giving the slaves a chicken at Christmas.

To brothers who are suffering, James says: "Don't grumble against each other, brothers or you will be judged." I am reminded that two of my great Christian heros, Eric Liddell (the Scot from Chariots of Fire) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer both died in Axis prison camps in World War II. Their fellow prisoners remembered afterwards that none were more patient, loving, giving and cheerful than Liddell or Bonhoeffer. Schoolteacher and Olympic medalist Liddell would organize races for the little boys in the Japanese detainee camps, sometimes joining them  - racing the celebrity athlete, what fun! - his head tossed back in his trademark running style. Bonhoeffer was uniformly cheerful and considerate to everyone, guards and prisoners included, whether at Gestapo jails in Berlin or at Buchenwald work camp. I think both men knew that in the body, and in families, we make our own heaven and hell on earth, and the difference is whether we feed each other or just feed ourselves. How beautiful, the hands and feet.

"Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise." Praise you Lord for a full stomach, a full heart, a healthy body, the body of Christ, and the song in my heart.

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