“He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch”
(Proverbs 11: 28)
I recall the stories my dear old Dad shared about the 1929 depression. One that sticks in my mind is how people would pass the window of the local butcher shop, look longingly at the sides of beef hanging there and then pass by to purchase the cheapest of cuts or maybe a sparingly small amount of hamburger steak. It was a time of great sacrifice on the part of most people, just trying to eek out enough food for their invariably large families. Yet, apart from those too heavily immersed in equity markets, the rich at that time experienced few problems, as there was not a shortage of goods, just money. The super-rich discovered a time of great opportunity and bought up industries, resources, communications and other assets at fire-sale prices.
Lately it seems that many of our readers are looking at today’s world and wondering if we are headed for another great depression. Many who have contacted me wonder if what is happening in the derivatives market, including the sub-prime mortgage packages, the bursting of the real estate and financial bubbles are actually evidence of the fall of Babylon. Warren Buffett has warned about the derivative danger since 2002 and recent figures show this most dangerous of all investment vehicles has reached over 500 trillion, 10 times the amount of the world economy. So, are we in deep trouble? Perhaps so, but then, maybe there is a rabbit or so that can still be pulled from the hat.
Still, if we are to witness another depression, it will be one that cannot be measured by precedent, at least in the last few hundred years.
For such a coming depression will have global consequences, affecting not only the general population but the unscrupulous rich as well, including the corporate giants who have had almost total control in the world for nearly a century now. How do we know, other than the enormous cracks in the economy now being openly acknowledged and published? We know because of Biblical prophecy. It’s true that the financial community may be showing the greatest weakness thus far but it will expand to rapidly infect the entire corporate body. One respected analyst projects that the cumulative losses of just the American banks might reach one trillion dollars, or more than their combined assets. I’ve mentioned before that as America goes, so goes the world. And America, even in the eyes of the most optimistic, is not faring well. Just as an example, a recent report suggests that American politicians went hat in hand to China seeking two trillion dollars to bolster their sagging dollar, but were turned aside.
We have to look to the first six verses of James Chapter 5 to see the fate of the unscrupulous rich, including the international corporations. It is not a pretty picture. Now, many have suggested that this chapter refers to the time leading up to and the subsequent sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans. I don’t believe this is the case because the prophet makes it clear he is directing this message to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. (James 1:1) If you study the entire chapter you will quite likely reach the conclusion that this prophecy has its fulfillment at the very last days.
Nonetheless, the first six verses deal with the judgment that is to come upon the corrupt rich. This warning should be clear that the rich here are not being attacked because they are rich but because they have failed in their leadership and responsibilities. The great howling and weeping from these rich people is not repentance but sorrow because of what is happening to their wealth. They just do not realize that their wealth must be used for good purposes, for the benefit of mankind, not for hoarding. Yet, the hoarding is going to be the prime witness against them and there is nothing their wealth can do to help them to escape the judgment.
Verse 4 is very interesting, “Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud…” Deuteronomy 24: 14 should be read in conjunction with this, “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates.” Let’s for a moment examine what has happened in our Israel lands, particularly over the last half-century. First, the financial structure of the lands, that is banking, investment dealers, who, with government sympathies, have permitted corporate takeovers that have resulted in monopolies and oligopolies to the extent that it permits the men and women behind them to control almost every facet of society. And what decisions are these men and women making outside of pricing matters that place an undue strain on people? Well, downsizing has killed the jobs of countless thousands; free trade agreements with non-Israelite countries have closed one manufacturing plant after another as industries have moved offshore; and workers are paid exactly what it takes to keep them, not a penny more. In the last decade, the unscrupulous rich behind corporate power have transferred millions of jobs offshore to take advantage of cheap labour and the pace is accelerating. All the while, government is sitting idling by.
Verse 5 warns these unscrupulous men and women that their love of luxury, pleasure and extravagant living is just fattening them up for the day of slaughter (or the day of judgment). And why, because as verse 6 says, “ye have condemned and killed the just: and he does not resist you.” But what does passage really mean? The Apocrypha Book of Ecclesiasticus Chapter 34: 21-22 clarifies this for us, “The bread of the needy is their life: he that defraudeth him thereof is a man of blood. He that taketh away his neighbour’s living slayeth him; and he that defraudeth the labourer of his hire is a bloodsheddar.” So now you will see why I emphasized those words “in thy land” in the above paragraph. These passages in Ecclesiasticus clearly relate to those who so casually kill millions of jobs in the western nations by sending them overseas and thereby forcing occupants of those jobs to seek welfare or take menial replacement jobs.
In verses 7-11, the Apostle now turns to counseling those who are being oppressed. He is not suggesting action but patience. He relates it to a farmer patiently waiting for the harvest. He basically says, “don’t get caught up in any fray or grumble, so you yourself don’t get judged.” And he emphasizes, “the judge [Jesus Christ] standeth before the door,” another indication this is a latter day event. In verse 12 he counsels not to bind ourselves to any oath, let our word be yes for yes and no for no, otherwise we will be judged for it.
James imparts further advice through verses 13-18 to ease suffering and he urges prayer, singing a psalm and if a serious illness, for the church to be called for prayer and anointing with oil. It is clear that the oil may be of simply therapeutic value for it is the Lord who shall answer to a prayer of faith, subject always, of course, to His Will.
Then, in verse 17, James employs the example of Elijah, perhaps a man very much like ourselves, but how his prayers brought forth both the drought and its end three and a half years later. According to Wycliffe the prayers of Elijah and the time element is not mentioned in the Old Testament but for James to employ it I believe has great significance. Let’s look at 1 Kings 17:1, “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these days, but according to my word.” These last words suggest that there must have been sufficient rain to keep the populace alive but the drought would have been extremely damaging. In terms of pinpointing a time frame, it cannot be done with James’ reference to the three and a half years, but I believe it must be a prelude to the judge “already being at the door.”
It’s interesting that Malachi 4: 5 references Elijah, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:” Perhaps some of you will recall my mention of the late Bible scholar Charles Hurst’s thoughts on Elijah’s return. In one of our last conversations, he surmised that since Christ came in a body of flesh and blood the first time around and was proclaimed by John the Baptist, also a fleshly body, that on the second occasion when He will return in all His Glory in His Resurrection Body, He will be announced by a prophet with a resurrection body, namely Elijah. He also suggested that since John the Baptist began his ministry six months before Jesus’, then Elijah could well precede Christ’s Second Coming by six months.
In any event, the three and a half years window that James mentions has to be of great importance. Perhaps it’s this; Elijah’s prayers brought forth drought, but probably enough rain for sustenance. James’ three and a half years might well bring drought of another sort, a spiritual drought. Yet, as there was enough rain for survival, surely God will provide the truth to exist in some quarters at least, perhaps through organizations like this.
Verses 19-20 represent opportunities that we Christians must keep prominently in mind. Quoting Knox for clarity we read, “My brethren, if one of you strays from the truth, and a man succeeds in bringing him back, let him be sure of this; to bring back erring feet into the right path means saving a soul from death, means throwing a veil over a multitude of sins.”
My friends, when you see how God’s Word is being moulded to fit today’s wicked world, when you look at thinker changers like the DiVinci Code, media presentations denigrating Christ, theologians embracing evil, then you know we may already be in a spiritual drought. I think you will agree, we have a big job to do. May God give us the strength and protection to do it!
(Thanks to Wycliffe, Knox and my Bible study group for their wisdom)