So I work for Winthrop Wesley Foundation now, and on Monday we do our worship service. We are focusing on the book of James this semester, and today in the shower (where all the best ideas come from) I was thinking, how would I have ‘preached’ it? How would I convey the message from James to folks in my way? So on Wednesdays I think I will do my own version. Enjoy or not, leave me feedback or not, it’s all good.
I love thrift stores. I mean I could spend days upon days in thrift stores. I love to rummage in the bins and dig through the books and clothes and find the exact something that I didn’t know I couldn’t live without until that moment. For example, I
went with some friends yesterday to a new store called Value Village. I was in hog heaven. It is hands down the biggest, cleanest thrift store I have ever been in. Rows and rows of clothes and household items. Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my chin….. While there I found a sweater, shirt, and six books that I thought that my life had to contain. I mean who could have thrown away all this good stuff!! Those books are gold! I cannot wait to dive into their pages, and give them use and purpose again. The text this week was James 1:9-11 “When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.” This makes me think of my new found treasures. They were down and out. No one wanted them any more. They were unliked and tossed aside. Then all of the sudden some crazy book fiend came and brought them up. She took them back to a place of use and prosperity (I know it’s a bit of a stretch, but come with me). I gave them a break, and I cheered for them, quite literally. No longer do they face an uncertain future on the shelf of a thrift store, they now have meaning and purpose and are back at the “top” with fresh new store bought books. In the life of a book, this is the distinction between rich and poor. Do you belong to someone or don’t you?
I think that this passage doesn’t just have to be about riches as in money wealth. There are people who are emotionally poor dealing with depression and abuse. When they break out of those cycles, we should rejoice. There are people who are spiritually poor, maybe they have never felt the hand of God move in their lives, never known the love of God. There are folks who are socially poor. They don’t have a single friend, they know not of this community thing that I love so much, a community to lean on and feed off of. On the other hand there are people with a multitude of all of these, they have a supportive community, they know and love God, they have never had to deal with depression, and those are the folks that God is talking to here. God is talking to the haves, if you have an amazing community, but you share it with no one that community will wither away. If you never share the love of God that you have been blessed to know, then it will never be realized in the most amazing ways that come with sharing it. We need to reach out to the down and outters, envelope them in all of the love blessings that have been bestowed upon us because only then will the blessings be fully realized. Only then will those blessings bring glory to God. God is talking to the have nots here too, but it’s a very different message. God is giving them hope. A lot of what the gospel is about is hope. Hope for a better day, hope for a savior, hope for grace, love and compassion, hope for life. In this passage in James the poor are being given hope for a tomorrow where they are not so poor, and where those who dwell in riches on high fall down from their mountaintop.
This journey will not be an easy one, for either the poor or the wealthy. This journey will require sacrifice, whether given freely or eventually, in the ups and downs of life, taken from you. For the pauper it may require sacrifice of pride, for the millionaire time or money. The sacrifice will be different for us all to either come from the riches or to come up from rock bottom. There will be times when you are on either side of this scripture, and while in the midst of either, remember to walk humbly and be thankful because regardless of where you find yourself, you are loved abundantly by the God that has carefully crafted you.