WE SHOULD PITY THE RICH, the Bible says.
I’d rather take my money back.
I’m talking about the money that rich people got by paying lawmakers to shift financial laws away from working grunts and toward the gruntmasters.
By “paying lawmakers,” I mean giving them campaign contributions, which some describe as legalized bribes. At the very least, most folks seem to agree it’s part of one messed-up way of seeking out the best and brightest to rule the land.
The process could seem reminiscent of feudal times, when a rich landowner bought a dukedom for a doof.
Not that all politicians today are doofs. In my country, the US of A, almost one in five people approves of the job our politicians are doing, according to a recent Gallup poll.
But it’s not the politicians I’m thinking about today. It’s the rich, and what the Bible says about them.
Rich flowering weeds
I’m thinking about them because I just finished paraphrasing Romans for the Casual English Bible, and I started this week by paraphrasing James. I needed a fun book after Romans, which gave me a headache. I can’t remember any other book in this project doing that to me.
James is easier to understand. Trust me.
Here’s my first-draft paraphrase of what James says about the poor and the rich in the first part of the first chapter. He gets right on them. It’s “Hello, how do you do, hey you rich people….” James uses the poor to set up the rich for what’s coming.
“Chin up, believers who don’t have much in this world to call their own. You have something better: God’s respect” (James 1:9, Casual English Bible).
“Rich folks can wallow in their glory—until they glory in their humiliation. They’ll share the fate of a flowering weed.
The sun will rise and its heat will scorch the meadow and sear the flower. That pretty flower is going to wilt to ugly and drop dead in the dirt. That’s what happens to rich people who don’t realize what’s going on as they go about their business of getting richer” (James 1:10-11, Casual English Bible).
We want our share
Many Christians, myself included, want to help fix the problem. We do that by voting, personally contacting our representatives, going to townhall meetings, and protesting with creative posters. Not nasty posters.
We do this partly because we don’t want rich people buying our political representatives out from under us. And we’d like to see the laws give us the same breaks, loopholes, and TLC that oligarchs and politicians get.
We’re missing the point
I don’t see anything in the Bible that says we shouldn’t fight for justice and fairness. The prophets, Jesus included, actually encouraged us to do just that—to lend our voice to those whom our leaders can’t seem to hear.
But the Bible doesn’t say we should stand up for fairness just because we, the peasants, deserve better.
The rich deserve better, too.
Bible experts say they aren’t sure if James was talking about rich Christians or rich unbelievers.
If he was talking about rich Christians, some scholars say he was warning them not to get snooty about their wealth and not to think of themselves as a notch above your typical human. He took them down a notch or two.
If James was talking about rich unbelievers, he may have been saying they might party like teenagers on a cruise ship, but the party will end and there will be hell to pay, one way or another.
They deserve better than that. If that’s where they are headed—whether it’s hell on earth, as we’ve seen some rich folks experience, or punishment in the next life—we should probably pity them.
I’d like to think I’d be helping them if I took back my money.
But that idea points me to something else James said in chapter 1:
“If you feel like you’re a little low in the wisdom category, and you make too many bad decisions, ask God for a wisdom boost” (James 1:5 Casual English Bible).
“Hello, God. It’s me again.”
See why I love James? Too bad he wrote such a short letter. Just five fireball chapters.
If you think of me in the next couple of weeks, think of me smiling.