This week we read together James 5:1-6. It is challenging message which demolishes any hope of resigning the Bible to the 'self-help and spirituality' shelf in the bookstore. James has very strong ideas about the Kingdom of God and is insistent that the oppression of workers and the poor has no place amongst the Kingdom people. James considers it a great sin to deny a worker a reasonable wage for their labor. To gain wealth for oneself on the backs of those who cannot refuse and have no voice calls down the judgement of God.
How then can we repent and turn from these ways?
There are many ways to interpret these ideas into our context and the particularities of our lives, from how we tip to where we shop even up to how we might challenge our elected representatives to consider these issues.
One way to measure the fairness of a wage is to think about the idea of a 'living wage' which is defined most succinctly by MIT as a measure of the cost of housing, healthcare, food and other expenses which are broadly considered essential, against the average hourly pay of various industries. In other words, they ask how many hours in a sector someone would have to work in order to pay the various necessary expenses in their county or city.
This is of course going to always fall short of accounting for all the data in every situation but it might help us to see the kind of financial landscape in which our neighbors live.
Making a choice to frequent and champion businesses which allow their employees to do more than merely scrape by is one possible way of interpreting James' teaching into our lives today.
There are nationwide initiatives to raise awareness of the plight of the working poor and some might find they have a particular burden to remember this one part of God's desire for our world.