Oppressed by the Rich (James 5:4) ~ A Daily Devotion for March 11, 2014

“Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” ~ James 5:4

Explanation of the Text: In his warning to the rich, James challenges them about where they got their gain from, suggesting that it was gained fraudulently. Remembering that James is writing to believers who have been oppressed under the rich, James now brings out some of that oppression in his accusation against the rich. As workers in the fields, each was entitled to an appropriate wage for their work. However, it is clear that the wealth defrauded the workers and thus, held some of the wages back for themselves. This practice is what has resulted in the riches they have, the very same ones that James say have rotted. These very men have broken the law as was required in Deuteronomy 24:14-15 and now the very riches they obtained unlawfully will be evidence against them in the last days.

The evidence has captured the awareness of God, and He knows of the evil done through these specific deeds. They were unable to hide it from God, because He already knew. James explains this through two distinct cries; the first cry is that of the wages that were held back from the workers. The second is from the very workers whom were denied wages. God, being the Lord of hosts, has heard these cries. “The God who is greater than all the hosts of heaven is certainly great enough to mete out justice to the cruel fat cats who inflict such pain and misery on their workers!”[1]

Examination & Application of the Text: Every worker is entitled to their appropriate wage. This is something that most of the secular society will even agree upon. In this particular text, there are two responses that should be noted based on the position that one holds. As one who employs workers, there is a call to treat others fairly, giving them their due wage without consequence. The second response is from the one doing the work. Notice that when the wages were held, these workers did not fight or quarrel. Instead, they took their petitions to God. This has a greater impact for the cause of Christ than one who creates discord. This does not mean that one does not stand up for what is right, and the truth of God’s Word, but sometimes there is great wisdom in holding back, because this allows each of us to step aside and God to do the work.

One final note to consider is that God knows everything. It is interesting how often we think that we can hide our sin from God. Yet, in His omniscience, God knows everything. We should never seek to hide our sin from God, instead, we should come forth and confess our sin. In other words, saying the same thing about it that God does, and then commit to turn from it. Our desire should be for Him and we should want to maintain a relationship with Him. Therefore, it is coming forth and putting off sin so that we can maintain a right relationship through the power of Jesus Christ.


[1] Roger Ellsworth, Opening up James, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2009), 148.

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