james 5 + purging {day 5 of 31}

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.

Yes, YOU.

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?

52 thoughts on “james 5 + purging {day 5 of 31}

  1. Pingback: Making the Switch to Fair Trade | Living the Life of a Frugal Trophy Wife

  2. Pingback: Marla Taviano » 31 days of purging: day 1

  3. Cheryl

    Marla thank you so much for hosting this James study-my first on line bible study!
    James 5
    I believe earthly riches are worthless to a Christian and we should focus on God’s blessings-Fruits of the Spirit-love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness & self-control. Does this mean I don’t have junk in my life/house-of course not I have a 7 year old who loves happy meal toys. 🙂
    Be patient in everything.
    vs. 12 is one I’m still praying about to ensure my words mean what they should.
    Pray!!!! I am enjoying praying in all situations not just during a time of need.

  4. Fiona

    Ouch that Message translation hits hard.

    Something I wonder about the whole made in china / fair trade thing is this – if a whole lot of us boycotted a product, wouldn’t that put some people, somewhere, out of work? Impossible for us to know. All so hard.
    So yes, I do think mindful purchases is the answer (she says, having just picked up lots of cute stuff at Ikea yesterday) but only then if it spares up cash for giving?

    Am doing without chocolate these days anyway for health reasons, and, who knew, it’s possible to live without it! But then what about the carob I am sometimes eating? Where is that from? All too hard. Maybe we just need to pray for wisdom as we shop from the One who does know it all …

  5. Emily Kay

    I think we have to be careful with how overwhelmed we let ourselves get with issues like these. Balance is key…we do what we can (and don’t wear blinders) but focusing too much on the issues can be terribly discouraging and counterproductive (at least from a Christian standpoint). I also think about instances like the berry farms in our own country that were denounced recently for allowing children to help harvest. It wasn’t cruel or “unfair” though…those families were staying together to provide a livelihood for themselves. No one was forcing them to work and they were content with their wages. Anyway, it’s all so much to think about and process. I just have a hard time believing that God is truly condemning all of us who live in first world countries because we run to the grocery store and buy a chocolate bar. You know what I mean? I guess I see reading James 5 with an open heart but not taking it as personal criticism…I mean, I truly believe God has chosen to bless me and my family with where we live and the privileges we have. If I change everything about the way I live and only buy “fair trade,” we would have nothing left to give and no way to be as generous as we are with our money.

    Sorry for the rambling thoughts…they’re jumbled in my head too. 🙂

  6. Melissa

    Sometimes I wonder if we share a brain…the whole chocolate, coffee, Dollar tree thing was hitting me hard in chapter 5 and has NEVER occurred to me before in that way. My post is coming tomorrow but just had to say you are so not alone in this conviction!

  7. Carrie

    There really isn’t any easy answers but here are some of the things that we do: We love coffee and like to buy Starbucks cause its fair trade, its expensive but we drink less so we can afford it. And there are other coffee companies that are fair trade and have great programs for their worker. I like to buy products from friends or friends of friends that make and sell clothing, handbags, accessories, etc. I know I’m paying more than I would at some stores but I feel like I’m getting good quality from someone (and they usually are stay at home moms trying to help provide for their families). I buy less and with clothes my trick is to wash everything on the gentle cycle, use gentle detergent and try to hang them to dry so it gets less damage, lasts longer, and I don’t have to buy as often. Stuff will last so much longer without being in the dryer all the time, and your electric bill (if you have electric) is cheaper. Win Win! Also, when you can’t always afford organic start a garden. It takes work but start small and you can feel good about eating something you’ve grown and you know its safe to eat, no listeria or e.coli here! Or get your neighborhood to start a community garden where you can all pitch in.

    James has been such a great book! For a short book it is jam packed with sooo much. I’ve read it many times before but each time I read it again I learn more and more. The one thing that stands out to me is that from chapter 1 to the end, it keeps building on itself which I find really challenging but I love it!

    When it comes to praying in faith I’ve been trying to understand this one for quite some time now. I sometimes wonder how do we pray in faith without coming across as arrogant or expecting God to just give us what we are praying about as if he is a genie in a bottle here to grant us our wish. I know that we should always examine what we are praying about or asking for and it should be with pure intentions, etc. Just sometimes I wonder where the line is on this one. Any thoughts?

  8. Candice

    Hi Marla,
    I’m sad that this is the last week of James! Good thing the 31 days theme is going on as well 🙂

    I agree with you interpretation of James. While I have just recently decided that I need to switch to fair trade coffee, I haven’t yet decided how to address other things that I buy. One thing that I’ve found helpful was from a sermon I heard by Andy Stanley recently (podcast). He said that it can be overwhelming to support all the good causes around and to get out of a consumer mindset so he suggested coming up with a percentage of you budget to donate to your favorite cause just how you tithe 10%. He also challenged tithing a larger percent as you make more money. So the hubs and I upped our tithing percent, started supporting a campus missionary at Virginia Tech (also conveniently my best friend), and budgeted a percent to a certain non-profit that I may or may not have heard about from reading your blog.

    These are small steps, but it makes a difference, and we don’t feel like throwing ourselves on the ground and wearing sackcloth for the injustice in the world and our unfortunate and, until recently, unknowing contribution.

    I love verses 13-15. Prayer has so much power. It is also amazing the results when we admit our struggles to close friends and have them pray for us. I’m really into praying on the spot with people lately, and getting the Holy Spirit right in the midst brings healing and freedom. I used to be ashamed of talking about my struggles, and sometimes (probably a lot of times) I still really don’t want to talk about them. I am really blessed to have a few close friends who extend grace, encouragement, and unconditional love though that it is getting easier.

    I’ve so enjoyed participating in James. One more thing that I wanted to share just because I thought it fit into James 1/ you would be as blessed by it as me. Here are some before and after pictures of special needs children who were adopted from some pretty horrific situations in orphanages. Now that they live in loving homes they are thriving 🙂 Praise Jesus! http://tinyurl.com/6jx7g5z

  9. vikki

    I almost always use Fair Trade Chocolate. And if possible I do not buy anything made in China. Sometimes though all of the item that you need is made in China. I found that one out when I needed a small part to fix my garden hose. I looked and looked and finally had to buy what was available.

    As far as James, I agree. We are perhaps not rich, but so much better off than those in other countries. My son is living in the Philippines and he sees real poverty. People have to work all day just to eat, it has so opened his eyes, before he thought we were poor. Now he knows what poor is.

  10. Ellen R.

    James really has a way of putting me in my place. I was very humbled after reading this chapter and then reading your post.

    Would you mind posting links or more details about the things you have discovered about how to buy directly from artisans and other things we can do to buy more things fair-trade?

  11. Eliza

    It is quite the conundrum isn’t it. I actually had a bit of an experience with this idea this week. My daughter Lece who is 7 was looking at one of her toys and asked “Mommy, why is EVERYTHING made in China?” I explained some of the basics and she’s now officially on board. Not only has it helped with her gimmies, but we can all feel better knowing that we’re going to be having less junk around the house and that more of our money can go to better things and better ideals.

  12. Jennifer

    Wow. I don’t know that there ARE easy answers. But there are ways we can make good spending decisions. We enjoy shopping for Christmas with a ministry called World Crafts Village (I have a link to their store on my blog) and Samaritan’s Purse (again, link is on my blog). The money we spend there goes directly to the artisans who made the crafts and/or directly to the projects named. Worth checking out…

  13. Lori

    My James 5 post isn’t finished yet but……2 random thoughts on purging:

    1. why do I feel the need to hang onto a single earring that I dearly loved but lost the other? For hope that it turns up someday in the nook and cranny of a suitcase? (this has truly happened to me 😉

    2. I really need to purge my “favorites” list….on every browser and computer/device I own!

    1. Sharon W


      I, too, held onto an amethyst earring whose mate was lost years ago. I can’t even remember now if I ended up donating the one I still had or if it’s still in my jewelry box! Guess I’d better go check my jewelry box.

      lol. I had 447 on my favorites list earlier this year. I have been slowly going through them, putting them in folders (so I have a chance of finding the one I need when I need it) and deleting the ones that I no longer need. I would save a webpage related to an upcoming event and then forget I ever saved it, so it wasn’t doing me any good anyways!

    1. Lori

      59. wow. double ouch. (way fun fancy website by the way).
      Interesting that mine was driven up significantly by the fact that we have 4 kids (at least as far as I can interpret)

  14. Sallie

    I buy organic, fair trade tea. Drink it every morning. Love it. I believe James was referring to the rich folks he mentions in chapter 2, who were taking the believers to court. They wanted to be part of the church but weren’t behaving as redeemed people of God. It’s good for you to be mindful and conscientious as you’re able, but don’t put the entire weight of the world on your shoulders. Act when you have information to act on, but don’t pressure yourself unnecessarily. Just my thoughts.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Great reminder, Sallie. I know I come across as “carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders” sometimes, but in my heart, I lean more toward mindful and conscientious. Thanks for your encouragement!

  15. ali

    Oh, expletive. Marla, I’m going to stop reading your dumb blog with all your dumb ideas that make me feel just dumb awful. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Expletive!

    I haven’t read James 5, heck, I don’t even know if I read James 4 (did I tell you I’m doing BSF – oh, boy, I’ve got some stories for you!) but back to my point . . . your post is SO spot-on to what I’ve been struggling with for the longest time. Where do I begin? How do I become a God-glorifying consumer in the land of consumerism? How do I, what do I, where do I? I’m so stinkin’ overwhelmed.

    So even though I said I’m going to stop reading your blog (and no, it’s not dumb), I didn’t really mean it. I’ll be back to this post, and others, often. I need help and ideas and inspiration and support and all the stuff that satan tries to strip from me so that I go on making lazy decisions and give up on what God is speaking to me.

    Thanks for your obedience, Marla. Thanks for being my friend. Thanks for being you.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Why don’t you just pile all your children into the car and come see me before I leave for Minnesota in the morning? I need a good BSF story to get me through this crazy day.

  16. Brooke

    do i get a perfect attendance sticker??? 🙂

    i’m probably going to blog the last verse in james next week. i’ve been praying a lot about how to talk to people who proclaim the name of Christ, yet have no fruit in their lives.

  17. Pingback: Blood on Our Hands | Living the Life of a Frugal Trophy Wife

  18. ellen

    I am back to walking in the spirit – That power after you experience the baptism engulfs you – and if you/I listent to that still small voice – Lord what do I do/buy today – where do I go etc – we don’t need to spend hours figuring out who what where to do things. Not getting back into this discussion but God does not want/explect us to live in poverty to help those who are — we reap what we sow — sow money (where God tells you to) reap money – have more to sow etc. God blesses us to bless others — if I live with nothing and bare bones – how do I help others if I have nothing???

    1. Marla Taviano

      Who said anything about living in poverty? If you’re talking about purging, that’s a totally different story. You’re welcome to come over to my house and see how much complete and utter excess I still have.

      1. ellen

        I understan excess – but it seems we will always have exess – and that is defined for each of us differently I suppose – and that gets back to hearing for the holy spirit I guess – I sometimes feel like Christians – not necessarliy you – can take on this persona of I should have very little or I’m not doing it right – We are blessed to be a blessing and we should always have to give away – It should be a blessed ‘vicious’ circle I guess — the more we give the more we get to give……so – we are never done purging I guess –
        ps – you didn’t mention poverty at all – I didn’t mean that – but many people can take the purging to having nothing – a vow of poverty – I was just saying that isn’t what God wants
        i now need to clean out closets and desks lol

        1. Marla Taviano

          I see what you’re saying, Ellen, and I do think it will be a continuous thing for me, because honestly, the more I give, the more God gives me.

          My goal is not to get down to nothing, it’s to get down to enough, to have just enough stuff that I’m most effective and have the most joy.

  19. Danielle

    Since we don’t have lovely linky stuff, at least not that my silly brain can see, here’s my James 5 link. http://randomnessofd.blogspot.com/2011/10/bible-induced-angst.html

    And yes, it does say Bible induced angst, because yes, James made me feel a little emo. Also, I think I spend WAY too much time around teenagers, as evidenced by the previous sentence. 🙂

    The only things Fair Trade I consistently buy is coffee and soap. This has to do with my lack of education about what else I should consider, and my husband having a severe chocolate addiction that would bankrupt us if I convinced him to eat equitable chocolate.

    It is something I’ve been thinking about a lot when contemplating future conversations with my daughter who probably knows more details of “choices” the absolute poor have. Her potential knowledge of the brokenness of the world scares the willies out of me.

      1. Danielle

        Thanks for your prayers! Even as I worry about potential conversations, I know that she will probably have a whole other spectrum of worrisome conversations on her brain.

  20. Laura

    I’m here for the purging challenge. I don’t necessarily buy fair trade, but I buy whole foods. I buy organic when I can- it is expensive. By buying local, organic, or whole foods in general you are going to have less of the foods that are cheating/exploiting the poor. Huge food companies telling us we their foods are healthy while they are ridden with toxic chemicals and genetically modified junk are also cheating/exploiting the poor. They advertise right on their packaging that their food is healthy- even when it is not. The poor and uneducated buy into it. They are up there making so much money while shoving foods in our faces that make us sick. (I know this might sound controversial, but it is truly what I believe.) We can support local farmers and businesses and bring a sense of community back to our nation.
    As far as James 5:1-6, I don’t think it is referring to people who can’t afford to buy the expensive fair trade stuff. God knows the intentions of our heart. He understands if we really can’t afford to do all of that. If you want to, and you do when you can that is a start. Do what you can. Buy a little less chocolate in general. Do we really need to eat candy bars constantly? No. We can try to use these things more sparingly and then we can hopefully afford the fair trade counterparts.

  21. Bethany Peters

    Do you have any links for how to do actual research that will be truthful and accurate? There is a lot of false information out there. Price isn’t always an indicator–many name brand companies slap their logo on the same item from China and just raise the price. And sometimes things are cheap because they’re cheaply made (and therefore fall apart easily) out of cheap materials. Didn’t someone talk about a book that gave info on certain companies? I don’t want to ignore this issue. I also want to be a good steward of my time and money and not buy into the idea that if it’s more expensive that the workers saw any of that extra money.

    Could you give us a list of companies or items that you know ARE fair trade so we could choose to purchase from them? I feel like this is an easier place to start rather than being paralyzed and not knowing who you should avoid buying from?

    When I read James 5 this past week it was also the first time I realized that I was one of those people living in luxury and self-indulgence. I’m so glad God is merciful and patient with us. I’m so thankful we can journey through all this together. I don’t want to ignore the part of the Bible that aren’t easy or fun.

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