March 15, 2011

Challenging Passage

At my church, we are making our way through the Book of James.  We just finished chapter 4 and are heading into chapter 5, the final chapter of the book.  This chapter begins with, what I feel, is a challenging passage.  Here is that first section of chapter 5:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
(James 5:1-6 ESV)
I feel, though you may not, that this is a challenging passage because (frankly) we are all rich over here in America.  I don't think of myself as rich; I live paycheck to paycheck, but if I compare myself to the world, instead of my own little neighborhood, I am rich.  In fact, according to the Global Rich List I am in the top 2.59% of the world's population.


Combine that thought with some pictures of children from around the world with their sleeping arrangements:  (All of these pictures come from James Mollison's book, Where Children Sleep.  I found them through the blog 22 Words.)








Or what about these pictures of the amount and type of food that different families eat around the globe?  Each picture is a real family and the food in front of them represents a typical week's food consumption. (Pictures from Time's What The World Eats.)





Or what about these pictures of Ah-Long, a 6 year old chinese boy who, since the death of his parents, now lives alone.





We are rich, we are well-off, we live very comfortably, many of our miseries are better than the vast majority of those in the world.  So what do I do with this passage from James?  Is it referring to us?  Are we guilty in any of these regards?

There is more that could be said on this topic, but I leave you with this passage and these images for now, because that is where I am.

Update:  I couldn't find this earlier... Here is a link that discusses the sorrow that is increased because of our ability to connect (at least through stories and images) to the rest of the world.  There is heartache and suffering everywhere, and I am overwhelmed by the immensity of it and my inability to do anything about it.  Read this snippet: Sorrow Overload