You know “those” business people. Everything they do works out. They start businesses with the craziest business plans, and they succeed. They purchase businesses that are failing and have no hope, and within a year, the business is prospering. Everything they touch turns to gold, so to speak, and so we say that they have the “Midas” touch. Of course, when you think about it, that may not be the best compliment to pay to someone. According to the myth, King Midas asked for the power that anything he touched might turn to gold. At first, he rejoiced as he touched rocks, and sticks, and flowers and saw them turn to gold. Then, the problems started. It was time for dinner. Anything he picked up to eat or drink, turned to gold. According to one version of the legend, he gave his daughter a hug and, well, you can guess the rest of the story.
The Midas Touch would seem to be a great blessing, but King Midas found out that what he thought was a blessing turned into a curse. While I haven’t see this happen literally, I have seen people who have done amazing things to get ahead financially. Yet lost in the dust were family, friendships, integrity, faith. As James began this section he talked about gold and silver rotting and corrupting. Gold and silver don’t rot, or corrupt. Gold doesn’t oxidize, and oxidized silver has a special beauty. Yet, James made this comment in the context of a relationship with God and caring for others. He continued. “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.” (James 5:4-5)
Perhaps there’s a little bit of guilt for me as I write this; I haven’t paid the man who mows my lawn for the last time he did it yet. I won’t go into details, but I can say what’s different in my situation and the situation James describes is that I feel guilty about not paying him yet. James talked about those people who deliberately cheated people out of their wages. I would guess this wasn’t just a case of not paying those who mowed for them. I would guess that by manipulating the situation, the rich land owner charged them for various “amenities” and tried to make them think they were lucky to be able to work for him, much like what happened in the past when companies were able to pay low wages and charge high prices for necessities. Tennessee Ernie Ford sang the song “16 Tons” and these lyrics talk about the same thing: “You load 16 tons and whadda ya get, another day older and deeper in debt. Peter don’t ya call me ‘cuz I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store.”
The issue that James dealt with is one that still exists today: oppression by those in power. We’re dealing with that problem in society today as examples of that oppression continue to be brought out. Oppression happens because those in power don’t see those they’re oppressing as being people, or at least as being people worthy of respect. They treat others like objects to use for their own pleasure and discarded when they’re finished. Those who oppress others, be it sexually or financially, don’t really think about what they’re doing; they thoughtlessly deal with their own desires, sometimes just to show that they have power, and have no care for others. The cure for this is learning to see others, especially the downtrodden, as people created in the image of God. We need to see and recognize others as people that God has placed in our path to show His love to. Today, make sure the clerk at that store, the parking attendant, the secretary, the receptionist, and everyone you work with knows the love of God.
Lord, it’s so easy to get consumed in my own work that I forget to show others Your grace. Help me do that every day.