Year B: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Second Reading: James 5: 1-6
The first reaction to today’s reading could be a deep “On no!” James is unequivocal in his condemnation of the rich - threatening them with misery in the next life because they enjoyed the pleasures that their wealth brought them in this. Does this mean that we cannot enjoy good food - attractive clothes - and the good things in life?
However, as we read it again, we begin to see that James may not be addressing people in the community. Who, for example, having become a Christian would continue to cheat their workers? Who would condemn and kill the innocent? If such people bore the name of Christian, then it really was in name only - their “faith” was not proven by their “good works”.
It is also a fact of life that “you can’t take it with you when you go” and setting too much store on things that will eventually rot or tarnish or be handed on to others does not make for eternal security.
But wealth in the right hands can be a blessing in the world. Where people set up businesses, they provide work for others. If they treat the workers fairly - paying them enough and on time - they support the families of those workers allowing them access to education and a decent standard of living.
There is a limit too as to how much one can spend on oneself and one’s own family and so, rather than accumulate still more, many wealthy families use their money to support those who are less fortunate. They may build hospitals - or set up educational foundations - or support projects in poor areas of their own country or around the world. They may offer their expertise in training others to establish ethical businesses which, again, will bring security to others without risk of exploitation.
Those with great wealth may find it harder to avoid the temptations of self-indulgence - but where wealth and Christian ethics and values prevail, then the right use of their wealth provides for the material good of others - and a powerful witness to a generosity born of faith and compassion for others.
What does it mean for me?
© 2006 Wellspring