We’ve got a few streams of people converging today–those of you who are joining us for our final week of the James Read-Along and those crazies who are Pumped to Purge (and you goons that just stick around because you love me no matter how nutty I get). And I have good news for ALL of you!! James has SOME STUFF TO SAY to you in Chapter 5.
I’m going to use The Message version this week, because OUCH. In all my many years of reading the book of James (I must have read it over 100 times), I have never, not ever, thought of myself as the “rich” dude that James is bashing over the head in the first chunk of verses.
And a final word to your arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You’ll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment.
All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger. You’ve looted the earth and lived it up. But all you’ll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse. in fact, what you’ve done is condemn and murder perfectly good persons, who stand there and take it. (James 5:1-6, Message)
See? That’s not me. For starters, I’m totally not rich. And never have been. And I’ve absolutely never exploited and cheated poor workers. What workers? I’m not some wealthy landowner with immigrants picking my peaches for me. I’m just a nice, humble, lowly girl, doing my best to love Jesus.
And then God opened up my eyes.
Every single time I buy something that someone else made, there’s a very good chance that that worker was poor. And exploited. And cheated.
Who grew and picked the coffee beans in my bag of coffee? Someone who was paid fair wages for a hard day’s work? Or someone (perhaps even a small child) working 16 hours a day for a pittance (or nothing at all)? If my coffee cost less than $8 a bag, it probably isn’t fair trade.
Who picked the cacao beans that became my chocolate? If it’s one of those snack-size 8-packs for $1, then there’s undoubtedly some cheating and exploiting going on somewhere (maybe everywhere) along the line.
Who made my $1 trinket from the Target Dollar Spot? A man in China earning enough money to support his family? Or a 13-year-old girl in China working 15-hour days for pennies an hour with bruised and bloody fingers?
Who made my cheap t-shirts? Most likely an under-age child in a developing country working in a factory instead of going to school, all so his family can eat one meal a day.
I AM THE ARROGANT RICH who is exploiting and cheating poor workers.
Before I knew all this stuff, I could at least claim ignorance, but no more. And now, neither can you.
Part of my Purging Plan involves being much, much, MUCH more discerning about what kinds of food and goods we bring into our home. When I’m happy with less, that frees up more money to make choices that are fair and right and glorifying to God.
Believe me, I know how hard it is. And when you’re on a relatively-tight budget, the cheap stuff is soooo tempting.
When your kids think Nestle Crunch bars are the bomb, and fair trade chocolate “tastes funny,” that’s hard.
When you’ve had a decades-long love affair with things that cost $1, it’s hard to let go.
When you don’t have a million hours in a week to research every item you need to buy to see if slave labor was involved, what do you do?
When you just don’t have the money to buy local, organic produce and fair trade this, that, and the other thing, what then?
If anyone has any easy answers, please, please share your wisdom with me! (I’m serious.)
Two sets of questions this week. One for the James Readers, and one for the Purgers with a Passion.
James 5 Discussion Questions:
1. Anyone have a different interpretation of James 5:1-6?
2. I’d love to hear your thoughts on “patience in suffering” or “praying in faith,” the other two major themes of this chapter.
3. If you linked to your own post EACH of the five weeks, I have a FREE BOOK for you (not one of mine, unless you really want one). If you linked at least ONE of the five weeks, I have a free e-book for you (the one I just wrote OR the one releasing in November–your choice).
And today’s Purging Challenge:
1. Tell me ONE (or more) item you consistently buy fair trade.
2. Take 5-10 minutes to look through your home and imagine who might have made some of the items you own. What is one small spending habit you could change TODAY so that you’re not cheating/exploiting poor workers?