Oppressors, Victims, and a Just God
1 Samuel 17:1–58; James 5:1–12; Psalm 119:153–176
Contemporary culture is often pegged as self-indulgent: We live in a have-it-now world, and we don’t always think about the repercussions of our actions. But when we read James’ letter to the early church, we find that self-indulgence isn’t a modern phenomenon.
In his letter James addresses two groups of people. First, he reprimands the self-indulgent rich who live without thinking about the repercussions of their actions, either for others or for themselves. The day is coming when they will have to account for all their evil deeds: “Come now, you rich people, weep and cry over the miseries that are coming upon you!” (Jas 5:1). James presents them with a harsh picture of what they have been doing: “You have fattened your hearts in the day of slaughter” (Jas 5:5). They have behaved like animals; their judgment will come.
James also writes to a second group: those who are oppressed. He encourages this group to be patient “until the coming of the Lord,” to exhibit the perseverance of farmers who wait for “the precious fruit of the soil” (Jas 5:7). He recognizes that often, when we’re oppressed or hurt, it’s difficult to avoid living in those wounds—they color our world and our interactions with others. We become bitter and selfish. James tells the oppressed: “do not complain against one another, in order that you may not be judged” (Jas 5:9).
Both oppressors and victims put themselves in danger unless they repent and focus on God, who will set all things right. Self-indulgent, self-seeking living appears even in the smallest decisions of our lives. Or we act from a place of woundedness, and we fail to move on to forgiveness.
God loves justice, and He gives hope to those who hope in Him. Examine your life, abandon your self-indulgence and your grievances, and seek the one who makes all things right and new.
How can you leave your hurts at the cross? How can you move from self-indulgence to trust in God’s ability to make things right?
Rebecca Van Noord
Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.