Today’s second reading was James 5:1-6:
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.
This reading should give every American pause. We enjoy a quality of life that is, by any historical or international standard, unrivaled. Money is not an evil in itself, nor is wealth. Similar to technology, money/wealth’s moral quality depends on how it is used. Perhaps more pertinent to this week is the idea of charity. Though I am wholeheartedly against government “charity,” it is extremely important that all Catholics realize the moral requirement that we have to give until it hurts.
But that is not enough. I would argue that we have the moral charge of giving to charity and knowing where the money is going. It is not good enough to simply give money to any cause. Ensuring that the charitable cause is genuine, in line with Catholic values, and aimed at alleviating the most destitute among us is extremely important. Though I may not have control over the money (and under certain circumstances, charitable funds will be squandered and there is no way around it) after I have given it, I must do my homework and ensure that the money will be used toward a moral goal. Giving money to the local street drunkard is not a moral deed if you are not certain that he will spend the money productively (i.e. other than on booze). In short, charity is not moral unless we have done our due diligence.
That’s all for today.
P.S. any and all prayers for a good family friend, Bill Keller, would be appreciated. Bill died very suddenly at the age of 59 on Wednesday, mere days after his only daughter’s wedding. The Kellers are good family friends of ours, and it is very early for Mary to be a widow. The good nature of the man and the compassion of God almost surely mean the equation solves to a positive ending, but it is never easy to see the people we love taken so abruptly.
You and I may have slightly different views on the proper role of government, but it may (to me) defend partly on the setup of the government in question to begin with.
That said, the basic synopsis of the reading appears pretty good; I think it extends naturally to making sure that if you are rich you don’t get fatter and fatter while failing to provide a decent enough wage for your workers to fulfill whatever a “just” wage is. (Note: I’m not talking middle-class business owners who have to pinch pennies to pay a just wage, though they still should if they can, I’m talking richer than that.)
Whatever the case this passage is very abusable, so it’s good to remember that at least some bibles label it as a “Warning to Rich Oppressors”, not a “Warning to Those Horrible People who Happen to be Rich”.
I completely agree.