When I was in kindergarten some of the bigger boys at school took my marbles. (I know I am showing my age here, but I promise carrying marbles to school in your dad’s sock for competitions was once a cool thing to do.) These high school boys told me, a kindergartner, if I told anyone that I would get sent to detention. Wanting to be a “good” kid and not get detention I didn’t ask for help. BUT those were my marbles and I was really upset that I had “lost” them.
Somewhere, somehow, school boys thought it was ok to pick on a small kindergartner. Although stealing marbles is bad, the truth is there are a lot of things that happen in our world that shouldn’t.
The world is a broken place,
"…the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." (Romans 8:22)
In my line of work I have come across SO many broken systems:
• Felons have a hard time getting a job because of their record, but without a job they aren’t able to live self-sufficiently.
• Teachers recognize the system is setup to only provide adequate education for the middle third of the class, and although they would like to make that different, the requirements in place on their time, attention, and resources make it nearly impossible to adequately reach 2/3 of their class.
• In order to get services for the homeless, you must have an ID, but in order to get an ID you must have an address. How can the homeless get these services meant for them?
• A college kid who lives without debt is unable to purchase a house or a car because they have not built up any credit history – so living without debt can hamper their ability to get a good interest rate on a loan.
• Addicts who come into rehab having detoxed without help are ineligible for programs which will help pay for rehab… thus in order to get into rehab some addicts have to go find a high first in order to qualify for the program.
• The mentally ill need a diagnosis to access services, but this same diagnosis will now label them and follow them at everything they attempt.
• Families living in poverty are asked to fill out various legal forms in order to access programs for aid, but of course these forms require a computer, internet access, a printer and the ability to read in English. These are barriers to accessing the programs available that keep out the very people they are meant to help.
The very systems set up to help people escape poverty are failing our society. In fact, even good people, Godly people don’t always realize how they play a part in keeping others from reaching the success we take for granted. We, often without realizing it, have become the rich oppressors to whom James is speaking.
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you. (James 5:1-6)
But this passage from James is both convicting and comforting at the same time.
I feel called to make changes in these systems, to help the oppressed get back on their feet, to right the injustice I see in the encounters I have. I don’t want to be a part of the problem, but I want to seek daily solutions for those who need help.
AND … that little kindergartner in me, hears this:
Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. (James 5:4)
Do you hear it too?
Our cries, my cries have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. And He cares! He cares about my marbles, or at least about my little hurt heart. He cares about your hurt heart too. He cares about all of the systems which are broken in our world. And HE has sent HIS people to help seek justice in our world, to love mercy and to bring about change because we belong to HIM and HE cares about HIS creation.
Yes, its true we usually read this passage as a warning to those who are behaving badly, and they should be warned. I think James’s purpose was actually to remind the Christians reading this text who certainly would have been oppressed in this time, that the Lord Almighty had heard their prayers.
We serve an amazing God. One who has loved each of us and truly cares about the desires of our heart. Thus, when life seems to be a struggle, when the very systems set in place to help fail, take a minute and remember James’s admonition. Take heart! your cries have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty, and HE has already won the battle.
Youth Minister, Mountain Ave Church of Christ