The Rich and the Poor in James

Rich and PoorA central aspect of the ethical teaching in the book of James is proper treatment of the poor. James 1:27 commands the care of widows and orphans, in 5:15 he commands the elders to care for the sick in their churches. James warns his readers that the wealthy ought not treat the poor with contempt or insist on special privileges (2:1-9). In fact, James 5:1-6 is a stunning condemnation of the wealthy who store up treasure on earth and abuse those who work for them.

James’ concern for the poor accords well with the situation in Judea just prior to the Jewish revolt, John Painter points put that in the years leading up to the revolt there were increasing tensions between the wealthy Aristocratic Priests and the poor priests and Levites who served in the Temple (Just James, 250). Since the aristocratic priests were likely Sadducean, few (if any) from this level of society joined the Jesus movement. The poor Pharisees, however, may have been attracted to Jesus as a messiah, teacher of the law, and had no problem with the idea of resurrection.

This concern also resonates with the book of Acts and the letters of Paul. Paul’s concern for the “poor saints in Jerusalem” is well known, from the earliest mention of Paul in Acts he is delivering a gift to Jerusalem because of a famine. In the letters of Paul there are several references to the collection from the Gentile churches to help support the Jerusalem church. There were some wealthy members of the Jerusalem church, such as Barnabas, who sold property to help the community survive. But the wealthy did not make up a large percentage of the Jerusalem church and potentially exhausted their wealth supporting the community.

Jan and PaulThis may mean that the church in Jerusalem was living in a kind of self-imposed poverty, perhaps because they were modeling their lives after Jesus. Just as Jesus had no home or possessions to speak of, the members of the Jerusalem church shared their possessions and lived in anticipation of the return of their Lord. If this is the case, they may have been despised by the aristocracy, who understood wealth as a sign of God’s blessing. This somewhat perverse misunderstanding of the Blessings of the Law would have led to the assumption that the ones living in poverty were under God’s curse.

The letter of James therefore gives us a bit of insight into the social conditions of the Jerusalem church in the middle of the first century. Just as care for the widow and poor is typical of the prophetic message of Hosea or Amos, James takes up the cause of these undefended members of the community.  Karen Jobes points out that James 5:1-6 is a “prophetic denouncement” of the rich, people who accumulate wealth by abusing the poor (Letters to the Church, 170).   She sees James’ attack on the rich as an attack on an “evil arrogance which is incompatible with spiritual maturity.”

To what extent is the danger about which James is concerned a problem in modern churches?  Is there favoritism in the church? Is there an “evil arrogance” which is evidence of our spiritual immaturity?  I think that perhaps there is….

Bibliography: John Painter, Just James. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999; Karen Jobes, Letters to the Church.  Grand Rapids, Mich. Zondervan, 2011.

55 thoughts on “The Rich and the Poor in James

  1. Your posts on James are a great way to start the day. Thoughtful and provocative, reflective of the text you’re commenting on.

  2. These are important concepts. Thinking and caring Christians for at least a century and a half have sought to apply them properly to our democratic republic (“secular state”, or with “separation of church and state”). The differences from ancient Israel are significant, in which “church” (or religious practice and leadership) and state were intermingled. Of course, Rome’s occupation complicated things further.

    As to present applications in America, of course ideas differ, and I can (generally) respect my more “limited government” friends who want only the churches (or “private sphere”) to care for the needy. Trouble is they can’t, at least very fully or effectively on a broad scale…. Inadequate organization or ability to even find all who are in need, even IF they had enough to help all who legitimately need it. In a country of loosely united states needing much coordination federally, smaller “units” of civil gov’t, such as state, county and local can’t or won’t do it effectively either, though I applaud and support their efforts.

    So until I see large numbers of churches, nationwide, coordinating effectively with smaller regional governments to adequately cover citizen needs, I will have to stick with supporting the far-from-ideal system of federally administered programs. To me, it goes seriously against the principles here in James for ultra-conservatives (many of them Christians) to oppose federal programs overall rather than trying to improve them while “allowing for” them unless and until churches CAN and DO do what I’ve suggested (or something that works!). Otherwise, it’s just like James’ noting that people say “… ‘keep warm and well fed’…but [do] nothing about his physical needs…” In Jesus’ terms, are not the needy who may be effectively beyond the reach of church or private charity our “neighbors”? And to be cared for through any structure we may create or have available that “works”? Even if it is contributed to and run by a combination of Christians and others and is far from perfect?

  3. I think the two biggest problems that he is referring to, is about how the rich and poor view things when it comes to the idea of why people attend the church. The rich person goes to show they are a good person and the poor goes to get help from God and others generally. The rich should be giving to the poor and helping those in need, while the poor should be doing all they can to help each other and work hard for those who can. The rich and the poor should both be helping other not just the rich helping the poor or the poor working hard for the rich. Because the poor should not be going to become rich and the rich should not be going to feel superior to others.
    The problem comes in where the rich believe the poor are not doing their part or the poor believing the rich are holding back the resources. Because of this stigma it causes conflict and nothing gets done. This is why James speaks of the more spiritual aspect of preforming and doing good works. He wants people to know that the works that they do are out workings of being in the holy spirit. He doesn’t want the poor or the rich to concern themselves with what the others are doing. The rich should also learn how to offer help correctly to the poor as well, they are not looking for handouts most of the time they are looking or much rather have a secure job or line of work.
    That should not influence their giving or there working with each other. For the church itself should take up the responsibility of check on the what the people are doing with what they have been giving. Because we are called to hold each other accountable for our deeds and actions. Therefore there must be someone holding us to that accountability. When reading James it really helps me to think if I read 1 Timothy chapter 5-6:2. It speaks greatly on what the church should do. It doesn’t say the rebuke but to encourage them to do the right thing. It speaks of doing good to and for others so they look good and not so you do. So that they can be a light to the world in your stead and that they my bring wellness to others. I think of it this way, making others look good is what you are being called to do, help them do what is right and good in the eyes of God.
    Churches do not want to admit this but they do need the wealthy people in order to have what they think they need now a days. So there is favoritism towards the rich, but it should not whole be that way, they should hold to doing what is going for everyone.
    The only evil in the spirit I see is that churches are taking their reliance on themselves way too seriously now a days. God has become a smaller and smaller part of where things with in the church are coming from. It is becoming about the people wholly and about what they want and what they tell us they need. If people knew what they needed they wouldn’t need God. We are losing our dependence on God for what we sadly decided was reality.

  4. I would argue that the Church today is at much more of a risk of dealing with the poor out of obligation and self-righteousness. I feel that today people believe it is their duty to cares for others and are philanthropic because it makes them look good to others; our service towards others is performance based. Our current culture is particularly performance based and individualist. It makes people feel good to know that they are “helping others”, who otherwise couldn’t “help” themselves. We help people because they appear to be lower than us and need saving they they couldn’t otherwise provide themselves with. In Matthew 23:5 Jesus condemns the Pharisees for flaunting their piously and the good they do. I would also argue that Megachurches and Televangelism only fuels the favoritism present in some churches, in order to afford such grand buildings and ornate details the churches have to keep the people that will pay for those things. Not to say that all Megachurches or Televangelists are just in it for the money, many certainly have made positive affects on peoples’ lives. Even look at modern mission; short-term missions are filled with pictures of white people holding “underprivileged” children living in destitute. We make the shot of us holding an orphan or the picture of us playing soccer with kids in Africa our banner on our Facebook profile. And certainly not all short-term mission trips are like this either. I’m simply trying to make a discussion and bring up things we make not often take about. I guess what i”m trying to get at, is in what heart are we doing service in? Are you doing it for the glory of God or for the glory of ourselves, the glory of man.

  5. I think the real issue behind the “rich” and the “poor” is the heart and attitude behind the individual in either case. Jobes states that, “most people have a very shortsighted view of the future that might extend to living now in a way that will afford a comfortable retirement, but the biblical writers want us to see that how we live now is related to our afterlife and to choose to live accordingly.” I agree with this view in today’s culture. We have lost sight of the race we are running for the Lord on this earth, and then we become more self-focused and obtain an earthly mindset. I think James condemns those who are have a “rich” earthly mindset instead of a “poor” one like Jobes discusses. It is not about how much money you have, or what possessions you own, but how you use those things for the Lord. James 5:3 talks about how gold and silver (earthly things) that you hold onto will corrode and then testify against you.

  6. The people of the Old Testament were told, “The poor will never cease to be in the land” (Deuteronomy 15:11). They were told to open their hands freely to the needy and the poor. James speaks of proper treatment for the poor in his letter: They are not to be judged or discriminated against (James 2:4).
    James speaks out for the poor who have not received proper wages, who have gone hungry, who have sat quietly under their oppression (5:1-6). In today’s world, it’s difficult see the poor as “not opposing” the rich. We hear of so many people collecting unemployment or disability wages when it seems apparent that they could work to earn a living. And it doesn’t appear that these people sit quietly; they seem to oppose standards and laws, demanding that more be given to them.
    James, however, doesn’t speak to the poor, but to the rich. Those of us with material resources, many or few, must humble ourselves and accept God’s sovereignty as the only sustaining power in our lives. This is very much an issue in the modern church. As Jobes reminds us, “The enticement of wealth is is still a great danger to Christians today.”

  7. I think that there is certainly some favoritism and discrimination amongst the American churches, and I think that the environment of the modern American church is an exquisite example of what happens when individuals try to keep their private capitalistic lives separated from their private spiritual lives. Americans live in the wealthiest nation that in the whole scope of human history. The amount that we use and the amount we waste is staggering when compared to the people living in poverty, either in the past or the present. With this wealth we believe ourselves secure, we constantly talk about what we are going to do tomorrow with no regard to the Lord’s will on our lives. We arrogantly believe that it is our own intelligence, our own networking, our own strength that has enabled us to achieve and possess that which we claim is ours. When compared to the churches of Africa, South America, or Asia the security that we feel is staggering, and detrimental. Detrimental because it allows us to delude ourselves and separate God from our finances, and it is our finances which bring us security from the harshness of this world. Even though we all know that it is God that is supposed to provide us our security we hoard and take pride in the security that our wealth has provided us. I do, however, want to make a point of divergence here and talk about what James means in regards to the rich and the poor. Jobes sheds some excellent light on the subject by making the distinctions between possessing wealth and how a person acquires that wealth (Jobes 228). It is this distinction that we need to focus on, for if we do not we turn our focus on if it is evil to have wealth, which is not the point that I believe James is trying to make. It is the attitude of the “rich”, or those who are friends of the world and oppresses the poor and plan on making more money without consulting God beforehand (James 5:1-6; 4:13-17). Americans need to be careful not to slide into that attitude, which is all too easy in the American capitalistic culture, and instead embrace one another as sisters and brothers in Christ and be humbled that God has given us an abundance of wealth to use in the helping of others.

  8. I think that there is definitely an issue still in the modern church with not caring/giving to the poor. The fact that we are more concerned with the size of our sanctuary than we are with helping the needy is evidence in and of this in itself. It is a big danger if we start focusing on the wrong things in our churches. The church should be an example of what it teaches. By spending our money on things that, may in fact be useful, but not necessary, when we could be shaping lives of those who need the money more than we need comfy seats in our sanctuary. In a few of my different classes an example has been given of a homeless person or of someone dressed inappropriately coming into church and not being accepted and greeted by people or even being told to sit in the very back or to leave in general because of the position of life they are in. This doesn’t show the love of Christ to them at all and may even turn them away from religion/Jesus because of our foolishness.

  9. I feel like this is a discussion that should be discussed and brought into light in all the churches. I know for sometime at my church back home there was some favoritism and no one would bring it to light. Instead, let it thrive in the vines of gossip chocking the church. I think that the danger James is concerned with is still prevalent in churches; some churches may be blind sighted more towards it than other churches.There is favoritism whether you choose to deny it and let it thrive or accept it and help crush it. Most churches I noticed have cliques. There are the ones who get burned out from volunteering so much, those who do not volunteer much, those who work at the church and so on. There tends to be favoritism from those who work there and volunteer exceedingly. They tend to be seen as more holy while the others almost like peasants. The ones who tend to be favored tend to look down on those who do not do much. They tend to feel that they are doing all the work while those who do not volunteer as much are not really doing much at all. On the other hand those who do not do much tend to glare at those who volunteer exceedingly because they tend to feel like they may not being doing much when they do something or that they cannot do much because things are done by the few working or that they those who do everything look down upon them because they do not do as much. Those who do a lot of work in the church tend to view themselves higher because they serve more when really those who do not serve much maybe do not feel welcomed or unable to for one reason or another. I am not saying all the churches are like this, but I have seen this in a few. I think if churches talk and get to know each other then the prejudices can not be so negative allowing for growth spiritually and accountability to help grow spiritually. If the church can grow spiritually internally then they can expand and help externally to those who are need. It is hard to help others properly when one is not alright as well. This is when burn outs happen. You cannot help as many people if everyone burns out quickly.

  10. I believe it all boils down to why people choose to attend church in the first place. Are some doing it just for the sake of doing it? Are some feeling the need to give because they feel condemned to Hell if they don’t? Or, are they doing everything out of the kindness of their heart? These are all acceptable questions to ask when speaking of the rich or poor. However, it doesn’t make sense for this to be a reason for people drifting from the church. In fact, I believe that is a deep conviction within themselves if they feel that sort of way towards a person. Rich or poor we are all creations, pieces of art that are attending a church to fulfill the purposes he left behind. In hopes that we, as his disciples, would treat everyone as equally as he.

    I think certainly there is some favoritism and discrimination among the American churches, as this is the reason for the different denominations that are present. But it doesn’t mean that we should treat anyone any differently as we are supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves as James implies. We have learned from our reading in Jobes and in James that he transposes the Law. It is obviously clear to us that this is the Royal Law as seen in James falls in line with the teachings of Jesus and the work that was carried out by him and his disciples during his early ministry. If we believe there is an evil arrogance or favoritism in the church, we will distance ourselves from the main source and never accomplish the goals we have set out for us as ambassadors.

  11. This is absolutely an issue that is worthy of discussion. When I observe the different class structures in churches it reminds me of the way others are treated in schools systems. Typically the rich kids get a lot of attention in high school and are more likely to succeed and prosper. This is the same sort of interesting dilemma facing Americans today with issues like selfish capitalism and pursuit of riches becoming more and more prominent. I like that Jobes mentions James 5 as a “prophetic denouncement” of the rich. I can’t conceive in my head why I person who has much and whom much has been given to would take that responsibility on lightly. When understood in the light of the words of Jesus, wealth is dangerous tight rope to walk on. Jesus says himself to “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor” (10:21)/ Whether or not we interpret that literally in light of our own lives is obviously up for question, but he definitely does not have much good to say of the rich and does not advise this sort of monetary gluttony to be a trend in one’s own life for any stretch of time.

  12. I feel that the 21st century church serves the poor out of self-pity and they are trying to put themselves up on a pedestal. (I am not saying that this is the case for everyone who is serving the poor but it tends to be the 21st century mindset.) Our culture is so embraced with highlighting only the good things that we do to promote ourselves to other people. Through the increase and outreach of social media, helping the poor more becomes a post of “look what good thing I did today”. Someone snaps a picture of them giving food to the homeless, and next thing you know they serve one for 2 hours and never go back. It is kind of like just doing it to check it off of the list. Rather we are called to serve the poor all the time, not just for a picture to post on social media.

    This idea reminds me of the parable of the widow giving two small copper coins as an offering (Matthew 12:41-44). She gave everything she had to God. Rather in today’s culture, we try and see how much we can hang onto and how little we can give to God. A famous theologian, Karl Barth, believes that to serve man you must serve God and to serve God you must serve man. I believe that we are called to see the poor around us and serve them. Not just for self-glorification, honor, and attention, but rather as an act of serving God. Regardless if it is serving the poor with your money or individual talents/skills, we are called to serve the poor in every capacity.

  13. When it comes to the modern church and favoritism, I would say that at least the church I go to doesn’t show many signs of favoritism. Of course, i don’t really spend any time there aside from Sunday mornings, but it really does seem like a group of believers who is set on honoring God. THey aren’t focused on having favorites among newcomers or people as far as i can tell. But there are some churches/Christians out there for sure who are bent on receiving maybe the best care for their kid during the service, or they only talk to their friends in the greeting times during service. I would say that this lack of presence really of care for people who aren’t in the loop is only there because church has become this impersonal, once a week thing that doesn’t follow a proper New Testament model of doing church and worship. The faith that most Christians present is not as alive as it should be because it simply lacks works (James 2).

  14. I really like what Jobes had to say about this subject, at the end of chapter 7: “James is not concerned with how much or how little his readers have; rather, he rebukes the “rich” person in each of us.” I think so often we look at those who are more fortunate than us and we become envious. We look at ourselves as being the poor that the rich need to assist. I know personally I can get that way when I look at my student debt and the money I still owe and think of all the students who have money to pay it all off. However, I know there are those less fortunate than myself as well, and looking at what we do have and not what we lack is essential to having peace in life. And once we begin to focus on the needs of others, and our own needs begin to get less and less significant, the life described by James becomes much more attainable.

  15. I would agree that there is a major problem with spiritual arrogance in the Church today. I liked the thoughts that Jobes had in the text about rich and poor relating less to money and more to pride (230). When we think about it this way, James is rebuking all of us, not just those of us with lots of money (also 230). The church has issues with people not being loving and open to those deemed “lesser”. For example, the way that the church has handled the LGBT community is just not the right way of going about things. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31). To illustrate this point, Jesus told a story about a people group that the Church reviled, the Samaritans, to illustrate who our neighbors are. The church needs to learn that all people are our neighbors, and love them accordingly, regardless of how “poor” they are.

  16. This is a discussion that has been discussed over many churches throughout the years because we want to know how much to give according to the Law. Jesus clearly states, give to the poor (Matthew 19:21). But just how much really needs to be given to the poor? I feel like we take many demands from the Bible and put an exact amount on it so that we may do the minimum requirements to make us good in the eyes of the Lord. For example, we have decided that tithe is necessary of 10%, but as we remember from the woman with two coins, we are supposed to give everything (Mark 12:41). 2 Corinthians 9:7 says that we should give what is in our hearts and not what we feel obligated to give.

  17. Looking at James as kind of the origin where Christians are given instructions on how to act and behave, it is interesting how taking care of the poor and being humble with what God has given those in the church has carried over. I believe that God has given people what they have (money and wealth), and they are to use that for His glory; to spread the gospel. I think that for those who are blessed with earthly possessions, that there is a problem with arrogance. It makes it easier to look down on those who do not have anything. As Christians, we need to remember that everyone, those less fortunate than us, are created in the Image of God; and the He cares for them.

  18. Giving and helping the poor can go so much further than “just giving your money”. As for the rich person, I believe money and wealth can be given to enhance the kingdom of heaven. As for the poor, although they may not have material things, the ability to shine bright among the world by still caring, staying humble etc. Wealth and money is always favorite no matter the circumstance or setting. When putting greed and money above people and ministry, that is when things can become very dangerous. Living in the Western part of the world, it can be so easy to become guilty of this as truly following Jesus Christ requires being humble and obedient in our thoughts and actions, this includes our money as well. Jobes says “Rich believers have been humbled because no amount of wealth could buy what they have received in Christ; therefore their resources are worthless un view of the gospel and can be no source of pride within the Christian community.” (Jobes, 169). Jobes later on states the point that the poor and rich with both pass away therefore no amount a money is permanent.

    • Troy,

      Great post! I see this so often in our society today. The amount of greed is absolutely astonishing in this world. Some people truly do not know that once they pass away the amount of money they have is not permanent. You stated that the poor that can still shine bright and can be humble in this world even though they do not have much is absolutely true! And most people that I have met throughout my life that are less fortunate than me are some of the most humble people I have ever met. These are the people that I have learned the most from in my life. Jobes states that “the humble believer has received every privilege from God, who gives without consideration of one’s material resources” (Jobes, 169). This shows no matter who you are as long as you are humble God will give you those privileges. Our material wealth truly means nothing to Him. Ephesians 4:2 states, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” This should be something we live by and encourage others to do as well. Thanks for sharing Troy!

  19. The way money is used in modern church is a debate that I think is sorely needed and is currently not being had anywhere near actively enough. While there are many mission fields and ways in which churches focus on outreach, there’s so much money being spent on so many things that do not further the gospel of Christ. A big building can be nice to host a bunch of people, but are fancy windows really necessary? Is it truly imperative to have a snack table in every church?

    This is an issue our church has long had issue with. Getting “our own building” has been something on the church board’s mind for a long time, and while it is certainly of benefit, it is nowhere near a necessity. Our church has plenty of money that is just sitting around for “emergencies”, and very little of it has been used to help organizations. While outreach is finally starting to occur, I think it is an issue that needs further discussion.

  20. James is an advocate for the poor and under privileged, and commands fellow believers to do the same throughout his book. The church is bound by this same commandment. To what degree does the church help the poor? I believe that it varies church by church, but there are certainly churches who live beyond their means, while ignoring the needs of the community poor. How often are churches buying new sound systems, remodeling their bathrooms, and updating their youth rooms? Of course these things make for a better experience for their congregation. But, what could that money be used for instead? I love Jobe’s discussion in her book about the rich/poor dilemma in relation to our eschatology. Eschatology usually is a future oriented discussion. The things to come, the future of the church, the destination of humans. “But eschatology…. intended not to predict the future but to motivate right living in the present”. (Jobes, p.225) If we truly believe that Christ is coming back, “eschatology”, how is that impacting the way we live now? How can we use the many blessings we’ve been given to spread the gospel. I believe that selfless giving would represent Christ far more than a paper track.

  21. As I am look at the body of believers that make up the church I feel as if we as a collective do not do enough. If we are called to help those who are broken and struggling why is it that some people refuse to give when they know they can? Why do some people only give when their is a spotlight on them. According to Jobes, “All of James’s discussion of wealth is intended to put the Christian’s resources, no matter how little or much, under God’s sovereignty” (Letters to the Church, 170) If this is true than why is it we as Christians hold onto our money and save for consumerism. Do we not trust God enough to the point if we do give to have our future and our needs in his hands? I think that this stigma to have the best comes from pride, but yet we are also called not to have prideful arrogant ways. I know people who choose not to help the poor because they believe they got themselves into this mess, and they should get themselves out. These people are Christians. I would say there is a definitely a spiritual immaturity when we pick and choose what scripture to follow based on our bank accounts and selfish needs.

  22. The ethical teaching in James is relevant within our lives today. I liked the statement made about today’s common churches. The problem in modern churches is that in order to be considered “successful”, money is a main asset. I believe the attendance in churches has declined tremendously. The younger generation is less likely to attend a church that sings older hymns, participates in older traditions, or is not held is fancy building. In my opinion for many churches and situations, a relationship with God has lost value within my generation. Therefore, in order to get the younger generation to attend church, there needs to be a huge production in regard to entertainment. Does this mean that the rich are Favorited over in the church? I would say yes. Not in all churches of course, but in some yes. James understands that believers fall and make mistakes, (3:2) but he encourages his readers to recognize how we act after we make the mistakes. He also stresses how important it is to not reject the poor. This post made me think of the current issues within the modern church. I believe the that sometimes “wealthy worship” is considered more valuable than being in a church that is smaller or old fashioned. James illustrates to us the life in which a servant of God would live. He understands that our treatment of the less fortunate is important to recognize. I believe that our treatment towards the less fortunate especially in the church should be addressed. God a church is place where there should be no judgment. James message can apply to many issues within the present day.

  23. This post has more relevance today than any other post I have read and evaluated. The American church has its problems. The American government has its problems. I think the biggest problem in all of it is the fact that we, as a universal church, do a pretty terrible job about taking care of the poor. I think that we have been raised in a culture where the poor are often criminalized for being poor, and not much is being done about it by the church. This is obviously an opinion post on my part, but I see similarities between James 5:1-6 and our country, even my own church. Do we allow the homeless to have a seat at our table, in our pews, and in our small groups? Jesus even talks about the wealthy in his comparison between a rich man and a camel (Matt. 19:24). James not only talks about boasting about one’s own riches and taking care of the poor, but he also talks a little about stewardship. No matter the amount of money we make or the resources we have, it is all meant to be for the Kingdom of God and under His rule (James 4:13-15). This puts my own spending and earnings in perspective. No matter how much I tithe, give away, or donate, does it then mean nothing if it is not for the advancement of the Kingdom? Maybe. I think that there are social differences between the times James was writing in and the time we live in now but I think we can draw a lot of similarities and warnings from it.

  24. The book of James shows an important position of social injustice such as how the poor are being treated. In Proverbs 19:17 says, “kindness to the poor is a loan to the Lord, and he will give a reward to the lender,” what you do to the poor is what you do unto God. If we are considered children of the Living God, living in life and abundance of life such as blessings and other areas of growth, for one to respond in treating the poor evil is completely breaking the commandment law as to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the same to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Spiritual maturity in the areas of helping the poor, the orphans, and widows, shows the depth of relationship we have with Jesus Christ. Misinterpretations of Scriptures can lead us astray and grow outside the path of God’s righteousness in doing good for his glory and expanding his kingdom. James, had the right to voice his view of how the poor were being treated by the hands of the wealthy. I see this issue of social injustice has been around for a long time and an issue that have yet to be dealt with the right solutions in our modern time. I believe the most dangerous people in our world are those whom have the error of knowledge that they believe in this error of being the correct way of thinking.

  25. I believe that today in the modern church this happens but also as christians we do this. For example “white trailer park trash”. As I was reading through this passage I think about when I was in school. we pick favorites of people based on how they look and sometimes how they smell/look. right here James tells us that this is a sin. We should not be treating the the poor different from the rich. society does this, romans 12:2 speaks of this. we are to be different but different in a good way. James even says aren’t the rich the ones who oppress you and drag you to court? Right here, James points out that the rich are the ones in power who mistreat you. why are you treating them better than the poor? from my experience I can confirm that the people who have less money and who have less friends are some of the best people. I am not saying that rich people cannot be. but the people who are poor and more willing to help each other out and be there for you. I have experienced and witnessed this many times in my life. This favoritism is extremely dangerous in the church. Because if a church goes to the extreme of saying we only want people with money, then that is saying that God only wants people with money. which is false. there is a big danger today of favoritism in the church.

  26. Treating the poor people in our communities and our world in general is a major theme of Christianity in my opinion. It is a concept that many people turn to the Bible for in search of references about how to view and treat the poor. This is a great thing, and many times, James is a place in which people will look to get some Scripture references on this topic.

    Something that caught my attention from this blog post and really challenged me as a Christian and believer in God is the fact that Jesus did not have a home or material possessions that are spoken of. This is definitely true, for I cannot think of one material thing of notoriety or wealth that is commonly attached to Jesus Christ and His possessions. Jesus Christ is a man who is written about often, so the fact that His material possessions are not discussed most likely means that He did not prioritize these possessions of this world.

    As a Christian, this is important to consider, but it is also very challenging after taking some careful consideration to the idea. One of the main goals of being a Christian is to live a life that mirrors the way in which Jesus lived. This is why so many Christians wear JJWD bracelets, for they want to be reminded to act or behave how Jesus acted or behaved. Therefore, if Jesus was not caught up with worldly possessions, then why am I so worried about my money, that cool new outfit that just came out, or that new jersey of my favorite basketball player? Why do I worry about how nice my car looks to those around me? These were not worries of Jesus Christ, for He did not worry about His worldly possessions. It becomes evident that Jesus Christ lived off of an eternal perspective. Worldly things did not matter. This idea and concept really challenges me to set my priorities straight.

    Jesus Christ wanted to set the example that being rich is not important. Additionally, James speaks out against those who strive to be rich and use their richness and wealth as a sign of superiority. This is something that is commonly done in Bible communities, but I believe that one could say the same about today’s society. The car people drive, the money they have, the house they live in, and the clothes they wear all seem to be signs of superiority and stature. However, this should not be the case, and this is why James speaks so harshly against this sort of arrogance. Jobes (2011) claims that James views this kind of attitude as arrogant (p. 170). The point at the bottom of the blog post that claims that James does not believe in the compatibility of this arrogance with spiritual maturity is very important (Jobes, 2011, p. 170). Essentially, one cannot be arrogant about their wealth and also spiritually mature. Spiritual maturity is important in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, so Christians must be willing to rid themselves of this arrogance and seek proper treatment of the poor and less privileged.

    Jobes, K. (2011). Letters to the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

  27. While reading through this article the topic of caring for the poor comes up. Like every church, this topic comes up with how bad we are doing when it comes to caring for the poor. Back when James wrote this book, they were doing great when it came to care for the poor. Think about what Jesus did, he took them in, healed them if they needed it and took them home. He didn’t just ignore them like a lot of people are doing now. The church now talks a lot about how we are to care for the poor and yet nothing ever gets done. I think that the people in the church talk way too much about it to make people think that they are actually doing something about it. I find this issue nothing short of just disgusting, even at Grace there is a lot of talk about how we are to go from school and make an impact of the community we will be in and yet it always feels like we are still doing nothing. So, my question is will anyone actually do something about this issue or are we always just going to sit and watch?

  28. The rich and poor in James is another example of how the New Covenant is different than the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the Israelites believed that riches and wealth represent God’s blessing in their lives. They also believed that poverty and illness were signs of God’s judgment on them. However in James, James tells the believers to honor the poor. Not only that, but the rich and poor should be treated the same way. One should not be disrespected while the other is honored. James does not condone favoritism.

  29. James makes it very clear what was happening in the Jewish Christian church he was writing to regarding the rich in the church. He looks at the division that is taking place and sees the fundamental issue surrounding it, which was the philosophy of their culture. A large amount of focus had been placed on the fact that those who are more wealthy have been blessed by God and those who are poor are poor because they or someone in their family has committed a sin in the past and led to this trouble (Jobes, 206-207, 209). James condemns this philosophy and the actions taken by the church. He goes so far as to ask the rhetorical question of “Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?” (James 2:6, Jobes, 227). He says this in a way that shows that he clearly does not approve of these actions (Jobes, 227).
    Throughout James 2:1-7 it is clear that the rich man is favored. In the 21st century Western church, this philosophy has appeared once again, although in a slightly different form. It is often seen that those with money in the church, and especially those who give large amounts of money have greater influence in the church. This is condemned by what James said in 5:1-6 when he gives a warning to those with wealth in the church. On the other end, many Christians in the Western church look at those who have less in the church with contempt and an attitude of “Why can’t you just do better?”. This attitude has created a mentality that now treats them like a burden, rather than helping them as Scripture commands us to do.

  30. I remember when my grandpa died my grandma was left with a lot of new work she did not yet know how to do. She got turned away from the church because of there lack of support for widows. In the book of James, James becomes an advocate for the poor, widows, and needy. The book brings awareness to the social issues in Jerusalem. Jobes sees this increased wealth is taking advantage of the poor. This is an arrogance that does not reflect the spiritual majority. When we look at caring for the poor and needy we look at the need to love them. This does not mean that we love them in the mushy gushy way that our society today overuses. We look to the view of the good samaritan and how they loved the innocent. We value others by the way we treat them and the verbal, nonverbal, and actions we show them. Jesus’ greatest commandment is to love God, with all of our heart, mind, soul. This means our whole life is a reflection of loving God. When we give to the poor and needy, we pray for others, we trust God with our lives and have faith he will provide. The second commandment is loving others. This requires us showing them through prayer, encouragement, and action. This adds values to God’s creation and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Overall, we have to keep our lives in check-in who we are serving, the actions, and values we add to others.

  31. More than half of the Roman Empire population were living in poverty during James’s writings. However, when James writes to us about the rich and the poor, he doesn’t focus on material possessions or lack thereof. Jobes states that James uses the word rich not only as an economic status but also meaning “friend of the world” (228). Someone who loves the things of the world and is so focused on their life on earth, though it is temporary. The poor are “those who love God and seek wisdom” (228). James urges us who have means to use what we have to honor God. God wants both rich and poor to use their wealth, talent, and heart to serve Him. For in the end both the rich and the poor will be judged accordingly, only through God’s grace will we be saved. “to assign a person’s value and honor based on wealth or lack of it is to violate the supreme law that sums up all of God’s law: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Jobes 229). Today, however, there is more arrogance than ever. James rebukes us all, both rich and poor. We all have the ability to give all we are to God, but we are material minded and arrogant. We are challenge both personally and as a church “to repent of the false values that a love for increasing wealth and possession instills” (Jobes 231).

  32. James has a fascination with and tries to emphasize the importance of loving your neighbors in accordance with Christian living. He models much of what he says on Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, but also ties much of it back to Old Testament Torah writings. The idea of loving your neighbor permeates James’ writing, becoming the basis of everything he says. James also applies this to the teaching of favoritism and how you treat the rich and poor.
    James challenges the thinking of people in the day in his discussion of rich and poor. Many people treated the rich as better than others, thinking they are more blessed by God because they have money. They also treated the poor worse than others, thinking that they were cursed by God because they did not have money. Some people also thought that the poor were more pious than others, because they depended more on God to supply for their needs. James challenges Christians to change from this way of thinking and to model it to be more like Christ. They should treat people equally, not based on the money they have or what they look like. He calls readers to treat others the way they would want to be treated if they were in those situations, and to love everyone equally.

  33. I think that to some extent the problem to which James spoke is a problem in churches today. Now that is not all churches some of it depends on how they keep their pride in check. In my home church, I have never experienced favoritism in the church based on someone’s financial status however just because I have not experienced it does not mean that it does not happen in other churches. They say that money is the root of all evil but ultimately it’s our pride in what we have that leads us to sin. If we are showing favoritism based on how much money someone has then how are we any different than the world around us? The simple answer is that we are not any different. Society feeds us these lies that money matters and that materials matter but that is not at all what Jesus teaches. How can we claim to be followers of Jesus if we cannot even follow his most basic teaches which is to love people not materials? How we love others is evidence of our spiritual maturity. Money is something that we cannot take with us when we die it is something that has no eternal value. The only thing that has eternal value is your soul and the souls of those around you nothing matters except loving God and reaching others for him. Is there hypocrisy in the church? Yes, there is, but the church is not supposed to be a museum for good people but more places of refuge for the broken. That does not mean that we should continue to live in sin but that we must realize that Christians are broken sinners saved by grace and faith in Jesus.

  34. Spiritual immaturity is a topic that is very relevant in today’s society, especially within the church itself. I think James gives a great warning to us, that the rich will be humiliated, because like a flower in the grass he will pass away. (James 1:10) I believe in this verse James is referring to people who value money above other things, rather than just people who have money. There are many people who have a lot of money and do good things with it, but I believe James is specifically referring to people who chase the money, not just have it. I often hear of large mega churches who have been plagued with corruption deep within their administrations. This is very saddening, but it happens all the time. Greediness is a sin, and we all sin. We all have had times where we are striving for wealth of some sort, whether it be wealth in material goods, friends, or even in your health. James also talks about how we should not boast in our riches, if we have them. A poor person does not boast in their poverty…but just as trials are an occasion for joy, poverty is an occasion for boasting. (Long, 81) This describes very well the mind set that we all should have when faced with difficult situations like this. Knowing that God is in control, especially in times of financial struggle, will build character. It will also help you grow in ways that only God will reveal…so this is exactly why we should be excited when going through trials, because God will help guide us and in the process, reveal to us who we truly are.

  35. I believe that the divide in the rich and poor has grown to a tremendous level in the 21st century. In capitalism, it is all about how much I can make, and how well I can do. If someone else does well that is because they have earned it, and likewise if someone else is poor then they must have done something to deserve it. This thinking has even penetrated our churches and our religion. With the rise of the “health and wealth” gospel, many people are now using “religion” in order to become rich and to better themselves. This only reinforces the thinking that if someone is poor, they must not have enough faith, or they must be receiving punishment for sins. However, James is clear, that we are not to judge others or show favor based on riches (James 2:1-4). James also makes it clear that we are to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves (James 1:27). While the thinking that rich people are better, needs to be done away with. We must not swing too far to the opposite view and begin negatively judging others for having riches and wealth. Instead we must treat everyone fairly and with love. And for those who are more well off than others, use that for the kingdom of God.

  36. This message about the rich accumulating their wealth by taking advantage of the poor is absolutely something that modern Christians should be concerned with. First, there’s the issue of celebrity within Christianity. There’s an interesting podcast called “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” by Christianity Today that speaks to this issue in depth. This is where I would see favoritism within the church. It is easy to be swayed by someone who is a captivating or persuasive public speaker, which creates an element of favoritism toward them. As Jobes says, “favoritism may seem a relatively small infraction to modern sensibilities” but actually breaks the royal law, “love your neighbor as yourself”, which in turn means that the entire law has been broken, according to James (2011, p. 171)(Matt 22:39)(James 2:10). The other issue of spiritual immaturity is evident to me as I look at myself and the United States as a whole. When I consider our spending habits, we often buy a lot of useless junk or stuff that is not good for us, which we could be spending to help others. Worse than that, most of this stuff that we buy is made by people trapped in modern day slavery. In buying those types of things, we are supporting that slavery. As difficult as it is, churches in America need to be more mindful of what we spend money on and what it is that we support in those purchases. So yes, the danger that James speaks of is clear evident in churches in the United States.

  37. Taking care of others is a responsibility of Christians and it is one way we can show the love of Jesus to people. Sometimes it is easy to get political with this topic, and think that it is the governments job to provide people with everything they need. While government protection and aid is beneficial, we should not sit back and expect them to do everything. It is unrealistic to think that one person could help every single person in need. It is also unrealistic to think the the government can sufficiently supply everything for widows, the sick, the poor and the needy. As Christians, we need to step up and help people, but we should also want to do this. We should want to help others or sacrifice for them because of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Proverbs 19 also talks about how people who help the poor or needy will be rewarded by God. Giving to those who are in need also allows us to be less selfish and less materialistic. It is easy to get greedy and selfish, and find out security in material possessions or money. Being generous with these things and letting God work through us with the resources He has blessed us with can help us change our own hearts. Ultimately, helping others builds them up but also builds ourselves up and promotes our personal relationship with Christ. The more we want to obey Him, the easier it will be to do again in the future.

  38. I think today in our world, we tend to not think that we have enough. Those who are wealthier tend to still complain that they don’t have everything that they “want” or that I “need” this. There are people out in the world who are dying due to lack of food, water, shelter, medical assistance, etc. In the study Bible notes it mentions that in James 5:1-6 that “the rich people mentioned here are probably not believers” and then it refers to James 2 how rich people were taking away land from the poor. I think that our world has gotten a lot better especially in the church with giving and helping those who are in need. I feel like there are a lot more organizations that help raise money or donate things to hospitals, to the poor, etc. But in James 2 it mentions rich in faith. I haven’t thought of something like this before but after reading James 2 it reminds me of two kinds of rich, you can be rich in your faith walk and you can be rich with money. Personally, I think if you have a strong relationship with God and your faith is continuing to grow in the Lord then I think that is something that is very important. If you are poor, and don’t believe maybe it is your sign from God to turn to Him and He will provide things that you need. I always grew up with donating clothes to good will or a secondhand store when clothes wouldn’t fit me anymore. We always had donations for food or winter coats and boots for those who were in need in Grand Rapids and my church would deliver them downtown. There are always going to be rich people and poor people in our world, it is our job as Christians to take action and help those in need just as Christ Jesus has sacrificed for us we need to sacrifice things that we don’t need to others.

  39. James 1:27 is one of my life verses. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (ESV Study Bible). It is simply the command to care for those around you that lack the resources they need to thrive. I most certainly do not live this out as fully as I would like to, but it was one of the major influences in my decision to pursue psychology and human services. I believe that the modern church has failed greatly in this regard. I say this as an idealistic twenty-one year old, who poses no real solutions, but still has a heart for wanting to serve other people. How much more could the church be doing to help the individual communities around them? I don’t know the full extent, but it seems like instead of putting a million dollar sound system in, one might consider the family down the road who can’t make their mortgage payment. Or the foster kids who go to youth group who have been raised in a broken and destructive system their whole lives. I know that is an extreme example with many more factors involved, but I can speak to the hurt I have seen in the church regarding these issues, times the church has directly looked away when people were struggling. There is no perfect system here on earth, and there never will be, I just believe that the standard American church has started to drift away from some of these underlying principles about what following Jesus is all about.

    ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Print.

  40. I think this is a very important blog post because it addresses how even people in the church can have favoritism simply depending on how wealthy or not a person is. It is very pivotal to realize that it should not matter what social status a person has when they enter a church for all shapes, ethnicities, genders and social classes are welcomed in the house of the Lord. James 1:27 states that “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). I’d like to expand on what James mentions about the polluted world, because I realize that everyone is trying to live their lives according to celebrities and false idols when the only person that we need to please is God. Thus, when we show favoritism towards people of wealth and power we are inevitably forgetting about God and looking at these people of wealth and power with a higher status and I strongly Dis abide this. Jobes also talks about a key point stating, “James expects those with resources to do more than have pity on others who live in poverty and to do something to provide for their food and shelter” (Jobes 327). This is very important because a lot of wealthy people often say that they are going to do things for the poor such as give money or advice (get a job) but in reality, all they do is have pity and do not even attempt to help. This points me to the question at the bottom of the blog post asking whether there is spiritual immaturity and evil arrogance amongst the wealthy, I for certain think yes absolutely there is because no one really cares about the poor and more often than not they are trying to get rid of them.

  41. In our world today we see a huge difference in the culture of those who are rich and those who are poor. One of the main themes in the book of James is teaching the readers what the proper way to treat the poor is. This same concept came up a lot last semester in the letters of Paul while Paul was teaching the Gentiles about the word of God and he was trying to teach them the way in which to treat those of the Jerusalem church. We see in American and other countries in the world that recently there have been a lot of issues with poverty. According to P Long, The Jerusalem Churches may have dealt with the first bit of poverty. There may be many different reasons for this, but they were accused of modeling their lives after Jesus’. Jesus did not have too many possessions and had no home. As far as favoritism goes in the church, I don’t think that the church is really favoring anyone at least with my experiences in the church, I believe that the church respects everyone wherever their status may lie and they teach the same to every part of the church.

  42. Just as the rest of the world, the church is full of sinners. Unfortunately we live in a fallen world where sin has taken over. The blog post above brings to light many issues that can be found in churches when the book of James was written, but also in our current world today. I think there is definitely an issue of favoritism in the church today. Jobes (2011) puts this idea into perspective, “While showing favoritism may seem like a relatively small infraction to modern sensibilities, James points out that showing favoritism, especially in the Chrisitan community, is breaking the royal law, love your neighbor as yourself” (p. 171). Jobes goes on to talk about how this is a common second only to loving God with your whole heart. I think society today has brushed these commands under the rug and labels them as minor issues. However, at the root of it as James says we are law breakers just as if we have murdered. This is an issue that is just as dangerous and James makes it out to be and something the church needs to come together to work through.

  43. I would say the problem that we see within the church is the mentality that the rich and poor individuals hold for themselves. It is the heart and mind. This also plays along with their reason or purposes for going to church. Jobes presents us with a great analogy of the humbled and the rich. The humbled are the people who have received privileges from Him. The rich believers are the ones who have been humbled by God because they know that no material resource on this earth will ever even up to what God has for us. The poor that have no possessions on this earth will also receive God’s riches and grace. It is safe to say though that both the rich and the poor will end up with the same result; passing away. Next we hear “Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31)” and begin to think about favoritism in the church. If we all followed this verse then there would be no favoritism in the church other than the love that God gives all of us. We also know this as the royal law. “Just as adultery and murder violate love for neighbor, so does favoritism.” (Jobes, 171) So do I think there is favoritism in the church today? I do think that there is some favoritism in the churches today. It may never come to the surface or be addressed but there is favoritism. We do sometimes see this with people who put all of their time into the church or people who volunteer there. With this being said, I do believe there is evil arrogance as well. The poor tend to either get pushed away from the church or become over-pitted.

  44. James introduces the theme of riches and poor of the specific problem responsible for producing the trials of the Christians. James concern for the disparity between rich and poor. James us the word of the church and it is possible that he has a different kind of assembly in mind there. There was evidence that James could envision a rich Christians, even if this one is neither treating others properly nor being treated properly. James condemns arrogant behavior and favoritism in the church because favoritism shown to certain people in the early church.

    I think favoritism is partiality or bias. To show favoritism is to give preference to one person over others with equal claims. The Bible is clear that favoritism is not God’s will for our lives. Favoritism does not fit in God’s character, “God does not show favoritism” (Rom 2:11). We all are equal before God.

    The Bible teaches Christians are not to show favoritism, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (James 2:1). I think that it is difficult to avoid showing favoritism. The fact that James specifically addresses the sin of favoritism implies that this was a common problem within the early church.

    Favoritism is a problem we still deal with in our modern day. Favoritism and partiality are not from God and Christians are called to love. As humans, we tend to form judgments based on selfish, personal views rather than seeing others as God sees them. God’s word gives us insight into his heart for the poor and instruction in how we are to care for them. If we truly have faith in Jesus, we must also share his concern for the poor. Jesus commanded us to love one another.

  45. Many of the problems James addressed in the book can be seen in churches today. It will continue to be a problem because there are social classes. It is interesting how James addressed social injustices in the book. Favoritism towards a certain social class is a problem. Most of the time wealthier people are treated better than the poor. James stated, “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by law as transgressor (James 2:9).” We know that Jesus did no show favoritism or was bias towards a certain group. He loves every person equally despite what social class they come from. Jobes stated, “Just as adultery and murder violate the love for neighbor, so does favoritism (Jobes, 171). There is no sin that is bigger than the other, sin is sin. As Christians, we need to work on not having favoritism but follow the example Jesus left us. I found it interesting what P. Long said “This may mean that the church in Jerusalem was living in a kind of self-imposed poverty, perhaps because they were modeling their lives after Jesus. Just as Jesus had no home or possessions to speak of..” I had not thought of that perspective and it’s interesting. Maybe the church at the time was looking at poverty in that way. Which is probably why the poor were being discouraged and the rich were favortized. Favoritism was an issue back then and still is.

  46. I love the thoughtful and courageous nuggets of truth that James presents in this letter. The truths presented in verses twenty-six and twenty-seven are no exception. Not only is this encouragement for us something that is very much in line with the will of God, but it is also something that beautifully reflects the life actions and teachings of Jesus. I do also agree about the point made in the blog post that this could possibly mean that the church in Jerusalem was living in a kind of poverty that was self-imposed. Could have this been because they were truly modeling their lives for Christ? I think it is truly interesting to consider this. James later on in this book writes that we must consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds- could have he been alluding to the trials that the followers of Jesus were facing at the time? It is truly fascinating to consider the significance of these teachings when you consider it very well could have been what the followers of Christ at the time may have been facing. All in all, there is so much we can learn from James. If we truly heed the words He has for us, we could truly live a transformed life for Christ.

  47. Good article and spot on I would like to one day find a small church that truly is like Jesus time in the Bible . Where the front row is given to the homeless and people truly show the love of Christ . God has dealt with my own pride and deliberately put me in situations where I have had no money . To show me my heart and those around me .Then when I do have money people want to know me both in churches and outside .
    Money is not my God and it’s been a privilege for others to look down on me as my confidence is and should only be in Christ and my motives is to be like Jesus . Give away material possessions and you will find him . How can we know what it’s like to be hungry unless we have been hungry .Jesus fasting for 40 days he could identify with the poor yet some are rich in spirit and have compassion like Jesus .

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