Friday

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? (v. 5)

James 2:1-7 Friday 7 February 2020

Psalm: Psalm 132

Background

The fastest growth in the Christian Church is among the poor and disadvantaged around the world. It’s not an accident. Where Christians actively look for opportunities to serve the poorest and most marginalised, the gospel flourishes.

As a contrast, it’s so easy to be blindsided by wealth, status and apparent success. That’s a very 21st-century problem but it didn’t begin with us. James knows it’s a real challenge to the emerging Christian Church.

There are consistent echoes of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and Jesus’ wider teaching in much of the epistle of James’s. Jesus identified with the poor – after all he was born and raised in humble circumstances.

We can all recall his warning that it’s easier for a rich man to go through the eye of a needle than enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). Jesus wasn’t saying it was impossible. He was saying it was incredibly difficult if the people who possessed riches eventually became possessed by them.

And James’s warning is that, if wealth becomes the yardstick, the Church will inevitably lose its missional edge and be less the Church Christ intended. To abandon the poor means that we have abandoned Jesus himself and blasphemed “the excellent name” (v. 7).

There was already an example for James to point back to. In the early days after Pentecost (Acts 2:42-47) we read: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (vs. 44-45).

That would be impossible in a church where money or the lack of it became the controlling factor in relationships.

It’s not that different today. In this tabloid age we are bombarded with images of the beautiful and rich as if that was the hallmark of acceptance. The call to the Church is to stand up and break the pattern so that those who have least can find their proper place in the kingdom of God.

 

To Ponder:

  • Is Methodism a church for the poor or a church of the poor? Does it matter?
  • Can we go back to the church of Acts 2 and live more communally? Should we?
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