It’s impossible to turn on the TV, look at the news online, log onto Facebook, or check Twitter without being reminded we’re in the middle of an intense presidential election. As I read James chapter 5 today, I couldn’t help but think of the current political campaigns. Both major campaigns are talking up the economy. Both major candidates are proclaiming that they care more about people, jobs, the middle class, and helping people advance financially than the other candidate. And together, both campaigns and their surrogates have spent close to a BILLION dollars on campaign ads, mostly negative ones. That’s $1,000,000,000 in order to tear each other down and win votes.
To put it in perspective, if the average median income is somewhere around $43,500 in the U.S., that’s roughly enough to pay the salary of about 23,000 people for an entire year. If it costs about $5,000 to dig a well for a community in a 3rd world country so the people there can have access to clean drinking water, that’s about 200,000 communities that could be changed forever. If it costs about $35 a month to sponsor a child through one of many child relief organizations, that’s about 2.4 million kids who could have food, clothing, and education for an entire year. A billion dollars spent with Godly intentions could do a staggering amount of good in our world that would transform the lives of millions of people forever, but in our land of excess and political polarization, we don’t think anything of our presidential candidates casually dropping a billion bucks to make sure we know the other guy’s not nearly as good as they are.
I don’t care who you support in this election, if you’re a person of faith (or a person of reason and compassion), you’ve got to stop for a minute and realize how sickeningly ridiculous this is. What makes it worse is to hear how often the campaigns reference God, as if God would endorse this kind of spending in the face of the absolute poverty and destruction across our globe.
And what’s the reason our presidential candidates do this? Because it works! Because we eat it up! Because a nation of people, most of whom call themselves Christians, continue to encourage it and fund it and endorse it and fail to cry out, “Enough is enough!”
It is in this context, four weeks from Election Day, with hundreds of millions of dollars left to be spent, that these words from James ring out in a piercing voice:
“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.”
(James 5:1-6 TNIV)
God, forgive us. Forgive us for the ways we get caught up in the political frenzy and in turn forget about you. Remind us that it is you and you alone in whom we should ultimately believe and it is you and you alone who will lead us forward.