Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Poor

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? (James 2:1-7)

Remembering that James is addressing Christians, he reminds his audience to show no partiality between classes of people.  Why?  Well, first, God shows no partiality (in either direction; rich or poor).  Now, this letter assumes that any partiality will be for rich over poor, and indeed that slant has been the case throughout history, although these days we tend to politically slant in favor of the poor, just because of the class itself, in order to earn merit with our fellow men, and oftentimes we can earn a great deal of wealth from championing the poor.  God judges the heart of a person, and so should we. Not all poor are righteous, and not all rich are unrighteous.  Historically, and even today, the rich have a more difficult time being rich in faith because they have the obstacle of wealth.  Wealth and its benefits are able to block a person's spiritual development, and keep them away from a close communion with God.  So, we are not to judge on appearances but on the fruit of faith, a righteous judgment that God approves of.  The fruit of faith is easy to detect in rich and poor.  It comes out in behavior that keeps or violates God's commandments.  Unfaithful rich are easy to pick out, because they violate the commandments by outwardly oppressing others.  The rich are usually the oppressive ones.  They are usually the ones who sue others, and they are usually the ones who blaspheme God, Christ, and Christians in thought, word and deed.  However, the poor class can violate the commandments, too, usually in the realm of self-abuse, which is the inward sin manifesting itself in the flesh.  And one does not need wealth in order to blaspheme God.  Many in the world today, rich and poor, disgrace the name of God with their tongues.

Now, let's look at this a different way.  The pharisees were usually wealthy people.  They were legalists, in that they kept the letter of the law, but not the spirit, and they judged others on whether they kept the letter of the law or not.  At the same time, they were antinomians in spirit, because they did whatever they wanted to, violating the spirit of God's commandments, and encouraging others to do likewise.  These are the people who persecuted Christ and stirred up the Gentiles in order to have Jesus crucified.  Christ was poor in class, and so were his followers, but Christ was rich in faith.  He was sinless, and he had the deepest of connections with the Father.  Christ was judged on his appearance, but the pharisees never were able to condemn him on his thoughts, words, or deeds.  However, due to their sin, the pharisees oppressed him.  They captured him and took him to court, where the blasphemed him and persecuted him.  Later they would do the same to Christians.  They killed Christ, and they rallied up the rest of the world to participate in his crucifixion. 

Christ is "the poor." We are not to be partial to the poor class because they are poor.  We are to be partial to Christ because he is The Poor.  The second part of the Trinity volunteered to be the poor, in order to be rich in faith and the heir of the kingdom.  Anyone IN Christ is "the poor" as well and will be an heir of the kingdom through Christ.  This he has promised to those who love him.