Inadvertently Harming Others
Saturday - March 13th
Devotionals from the Book of James
Scripture to Read Today: James 5:1-6
You have condemned and murdered the innocent one,
who was not opposing you.
Throughout human history, those with power and wealth have leveraged the systems of government, the economy, religion, and culture to secure and increase their grip on power and wealth. They may not have considered themselves oppressors of others, but their actions locked the poor and powerless into their socio-economic and political class. Few believed their maneuvering to hold or advance their posture in society an evil against others. They may not have even noticed what their actions did.
In the first six verses of chapter five of his New Testament letter, James directly confronts those with wealth and power. He wants them to see how they have directly impacted the lives of those with little or no influence by defrauding them. He also explains that they indirectly leverage society's systems to oppress others when they leverage it to advance themselves.
President Andrew Jackson sent a message chastising lawmakers and banks for doing the same thing when he vetoed a banking bill that came to his desk in 1832. He said: "It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes...to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society... have a right to complain of the injustice to their government."
Andrew Jackson's words reflect the spirit of what James said to the rich and influential who bent the system in their favor in the first century. "You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you" (James 5:6). By saying "condemned and murdered," James points out that putting the poor and powerless in an even worse posture is the same as condemning and executing them. The unintended consequence of advancing ourselves to others' disadvantage is that we sentence them to an inescapable status. We may not even know we have done that. We harm the innocent who did nothing to harm us.
It is so important to see people the way Jesus did. He saw everyone as those made in the image of God. They had inherent value by creation. He treated them with the dignity and equality they deserved, even if He disagreed with their values or moral choices. He loved them and did all He could to lift sinners out of their sin. He did all He could to lift the poor and the powerless.
Look and see if your business and financial decisions harm others unintentionally. Explore whether the things you support politically or socially condemn others to an inescapable place of poverty and powerlessness. Few of us want to trap others into a status of struggle. But, many of us do things to advance our own lives that inadvertently condemn others at the same time. Ask God to show you any area where your success leads to limiting the capacity of others to achieve. Find ways to enjoy your own success and lift others at the same time. Heed the warning to the wealthy and influential in James 5:1-6!
Be aware your success can leave others further trapped in their life station. Adjust course to help them!