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Living patiently in an unjust world

September 27, 2022

Daily Scripture

James 5:5-7

5 You have lived a self-satisfying life on this earth, a life of luxury. You have stuffed your hearts in preparation for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who doesn’t oppose you. 7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, you must be patient as you wait for the coming of the Lord. Consider the farmer who waits patiently for the coming of rain in the fall and spring, looking forward to the precious fruit of the earth.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

There’s an old story about two poor men watching a very wealthy person’s funeral motorcade. As the gleaming limousines, sharply dressed mourners, and massive floral wreaths rolled past, one man said to the other, “Wow—that’s living!” (Think about it.) James knew most of his readers were not wealthy. But envy of the wealthy might create frustration and impatience. He transitioned to urging them to live with patience, trusting in God’s timing to set things right.

  • “James ends with the theme of endurance, urging those being oppressed by the wealthy to have patience while awaiting the Lord’s return.” * The New Testament shows clearly that the early Christians expected Jesus to return soon, likely in their lifetimes (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, James 5:9). How much more do we, 2000 years later, need James’ call to endurance and patience (cf. also 2 Peter 3:3-9)?
  • But James kept challenging the selfishly wealthy in his world. “God regarded as sin not only direct exploitation, as in v. 4, but also living lavishly while others go hungry (cf., e.g., Amos 6:3–7).” ** Jesus told a long parable showing the sad eternal fate of a man who cluelessly lived in luxury as a beggar lived in misery right on his doorstep (cf. Luke 16:14-31). How can you enjoy life without letting your lifestyle become one that James called “self-satisfying” and “luxury”?

Lord Jesus, it’s a fact that nearly anywhere I live, there are people going to bed hungry less than 100 miles away. Help me to be grateful for what I have without hoarding it selfishly. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann

Denise serves as the Care Coordination Director for the churchwide Care Central department at Church of the Resurrection.

It’s easy to take what we have for granted. It’s easy to believe we deserve all that we have.

But what about people who ‘don’t have’? Do they deserve that? Some might actually claim that they do. Judgements that perhaps these people make poor financial choices, perhaps these people don’t work as hard they could.

Maybe one or both of those things are true, maybe not, but what about those who have more than we do? Is it because they work harder? Are we making bad financial decisions that caused us to have less than others?

Wait…I work hard, sometimes I don’t make great financial decisions, but I do the best I can with what I have. Don’t I deserve to have as much as the next guy?

In a society that seems to determine the worthiness of others by their bank balance or the size of their home, their car or the brand of their clothes, it is very easy to get caught in this vortex of fiscally judging and being judged.

But what if we all stopped worrying about how much money people have and focused on how we can use what we do have to care for others?

I recently received a message from a friend who had heard about a high school football team in the metro that, due to financial limitations, wasn’t able to provide meals to their players prior to the games. These players were from families who were not in a position to provide big pregame meals.

As I read this, I thought about all the team dinners we had hosted in our home, and all the team meals that my kids participated in. Never once was the cost a factor in those meals. We didn’t worry about how we would pay for 30 pans of pasta, piles of breadsticks or hundreds of cookies. We had the luxury of taking a couple of days off work to prepare the oodles of food and then to set up and decorate to create a great environment to help our kids get game ready.

As I read about this team and thought about how I would feel if those were my kids, I didn’t care why these families were facing a financial struggle. Their finances are not my business. I can’t deliver pans of pasta or bring this team to our home to feel truly celebrated, but I can do something to let these kids know that someone cares if they are hungry. Someone wants them to be well fed prior to their games.

My friend has coordinated meals from a local deli that was willing to give a better price and with a few of us donating money, these kids are getting a meal before their games. They aren’t taking the field hungry; parents aren’t panicking trying to get off work to get food to their kiddo before they load the bus. I have never seen this team play and I doubt I ever will. In fact, I have no idea which school this is.

But as a football fan–sitting in the stands of a local school every Monday afternoon and Friday evening, cheering on the kids of some dear friends-–I look at those kids and my mind wanders to another group of kids who are playing on a different field. And I think of what a privilege it is to be able to be able to help provide a little nibble to some strangers so they might know they are loved.

Our contribution to these meals is small, but as Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small things with great love.”

What if each of us found some small thing that we can do with great love? Maybe we could refocus the time we spending thinking about how much money people have and, instead, focus on what small thing we can do for others.

I challenge you-–there are so many ways you can share what you have. It doesn’t have to be money, it can be time, sharing a skill, making a call to someone who is lonely…however you choose to love others will be the best investment you ever make. Once again, in the words of Mother Teresa, “It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Patrick J. Hartin, study note on James 5:7 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 459NT.

** Comment on James 5:5 in NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.