Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
Man’s Inconsistency with God’s Impartiality
Listen! From verse 4’s example of partiality, James demands the attention of the reader to make the case for the poor. We see the partiality and how we humans would have the lesser sit on the ground underfoot, while commanding attention in a scornful manner, “Hearken!”
Those over whom Christ rules presently, as well as its future millennial and eternal glory. We may have the poor sit on the floor. God has chosen them as heirs. They are now children of the King who would inherit the kingdom. Luke 6:20 says, “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.” Of course the rich would inherit as well, but the point being made here is that both would.
Therefore, man’s partiality is inconsistent with God’s impartiality. “How then can other believers force these poor to sit at their feet like conquered victims?” “Instead, every effort should be made to ennoble the poor and to rejoice in salvation together with them.”
Oppressed or literally “to tyrannize” rather than make effort to rejoice together in the coming kingdom and inheritance of incorruptible things. James writes that the poor were being despised in the church. Then he gives an example of what would happen in the world (rich vs. poor) to illustrate his view of what was happening in the church.
Draw you before the judgment seats
Drag you into court–a reference to civil court. Don’t the rich of the world drag you into court? Most likely for debt. The poorest of the poor could hardly afford to live. Money lending was a plentiful business. If a creditor met a debtor on the street he could drag him by the neck of his robe into the court. This was a common practice of the rich on the poor. There was no sympathy. Now, remember here, James is not condemning the rich, if anything their lack of sympathy. An unpaid debt should be called in whether rich or poor. The issue was that the rich were brutal in their handling. But, in reality, he is condemning the church for acting similarly at gatherings.
Blaspheme that worthy name
Probably a reference to religious courts. Wealthy Jewish opponents of Christ were harassing these poor Christians slandering the name of Christ. Slander is the use of blaspheme here not blaspheme as in the Holy Spirit.
By the which ye are called
Called – the same word used for a wife taking her husband’s name in marriage. Also, a son being called after father. The first church at Antioch had followers first called Christians. Most likely called this in jest or as a nickname. The Christians gladly took the name of Christ. As a child, we take the name of our father. As a bride, we take the name of our groom. The wealthy heathen would blaspheme this name.
Pastor Chance Strickland
Harpeth Baptist Church
Kingston Springs, TN