Reflecting on James 5: 1-6
I’ve just finished Kristen Hannah’s The Four Winds, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get the dust out of my mouth. I love a novel that is so compelling that you live in it, and see the world through it, every day that you’re reading it, and for weeks afterward.
The Dust Bowl endured for nine long years, with the unrelenting series of misery caused by drought, dust storms, and poor farming practices overlapping with the ten years of the Great Depression. Millions descended upon the California fields, begging for work planting and harvesting.
The book follows its characters from the plains of Texas up to the San Joachim Valley. Just when we think they are finally going to have enough to eat and drink, we encounter the merciless owners of the fields, who, recognizing that there are millions willing to work for less, begin withholding wages from the starved migrant workers.
That’s where today’s shocking reading from the Letter of James intersects. But this ugly business of employing workers for the fields, and then cheating them of their wages, goes back much earlier than that first century letter.
The book of Deuteronomy may be at least seven hundred years earlier. Look at 24: 15: “You shall give him his wages on this day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it.”
How terrible to work hard, on an empty stomach, and receive no pay at the end of the day. The author of the letter of James railed against this malevolent practice. O God of the harvest, protect all laborers who work to bring food to our tables.
How can we follow the biblical mandate to ensure that workers receive just wages?
Kathy McGovern ©2021