Recently I was in a group studying chapter five of the book of James. The heading of the chapter is, "Warning to Rich Oppressors". Among other things James says;
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.
I explained that James was speaking to a culture and community where the lines of accountability were fairly direct. The readers in that day probably had a pretty good idea of who James was referring to. My question for the group, and a question that haunts me is, "How do we know who the rich oppressors are today?" The lines of accountability between us and the harvesters and workers and innocent ones are elusive and remote. How do I know that my purchases are not contributing to injustice in the lives of people half way around the world or even in my own community? How do I know that my retirement plan isn't contributing to famine in a distant corner of the globe? How do I know that I am not a rich oppressor?
Part of this journey for me is finding a good answer to that question, drawing up lines of accountability where there have been none, and finding new practices that not only do no evil, but bring blessings and peace to people's lives.