It’s a long story, so I will attempt to keep it short. A few months back I decided I wanted to do a series on how friendships with Jesus changed and challenged people. It was something that challenged me to look at how Jesus interacted with specific people. It also revealed his humanity that he fully adopted.
There sat James, his brother. The same brother who would have known him his own entire existence and probably most of Jesus’ existence as well. The brother who was probably with the family when they told Jesus to quit acting crazy and go home. The brother who existed outside of the range of Jesus’ closest companions for his three years of ministry and yet started his written record with these words:
This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad.
Who is this guy? What caused such a turn around? As these questions were sought I began to see the book of James in a different light. It’s often been taught from a position of condemnation as we seek to determine exactly who are the ‘real’ Christians.
If we envision the book of James as a reminder of who Jesus was as a person we see that much of the time James is quite simply saying; remember how Jesus lived! There are multiple overlaps between the Sermon on the Mount and the reminders and teachings of James. In every reminder of our behavior as believers is the call to remember the person and actions of Jesus.
This leads us to James’ teaching on how we should interact with the rich and the poor. James is adamant that we not send the poor to a lower seat or raise the rich to a higher seat. There’s a revelation there that I am learning, and hopefully you will give my imagination just a moment of attention.
The concern of the poor man might be that they will not be accepted fully into the Kingdom of God. Religion has, to some degree, been used to keep social divisions and divides normalized. The particular call of Jesus was that all were equally welcome into His Kingdom. And, all were equal in the Kingdom.
The concern of the rich man may be that he may not fully need God. While religion can be used to keep social divides normal, it often is characterized as a sign of weakness. Humility, therefore, can be hard to come by, even among the religious; something that Jesus pointed out more than once.
Here is the truth that jumped out at me, and quite frankly, exposed me. When we treat the poor man as if he is less than us, we reinforce the opinion of himself that he may have already accepted or constructed. When we treat the rich man as if he has already earned that which is not his to earn we have also reinforced his view of supremacy and therefore no need for dependence.
In either case we have solidified a view of them as a person which is not how Jesus would have had them view themselves. We have told them that what the world sees them as, and possibly more importantly; how they have come to see themselves, is really who they are. We have told them that how others respond to them is truly what matters. We have told them that they are whom they have been forced to become or whom they have made of themselves.
I’m just going to leave it there while I think over my interactions of the last few days and how often my actions, words, and thoughts have caused some one to feel like they are outside of the Kingdom. As I’m doing so I will leave you with a short list of words that I commonly use as descriptors of others; annoying, clueless, needy, know-it-all, condescending, and on and on I could go.
In the days of those kings, the God of the heavens will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will crush all these kingdoms
For more reading on the rich and poor man, look at Jesus’ story in Luke 14 and see how closely James was mimicking Jesus’ teaching here.