You ever heard the saying that it’s best to be the skinny cow when the butcher shows up? A cow’s lifespan is typically however long it takes to get it fat enough. They gluttonously graze, completely oblivious to the fact that this simple act is the catalyst edging them toward their demise—fulfilling the purpose of someone not holding their best interest in mind. Surely human beings are different, right? Surely we’re aware of our own impending doom and apply that priceless knowledge to how we live our life? The Bible plainly instructs us with that awareness:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:19-20)
Eternal State of Mind
The phrase “where moth and rust destroy” brings in the nature of time by pointing to decay. Nature as we know it is under a curse of entropy. It’s screaming at us that this world and our lives are temporary, yet most convince themselves that their earthly possessions will last for forever, and the ugly side effect is it is making them think that they will too.
“…For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” James 4:14
If that’s your desire then you certainly better not read the Bible. And if that’s your desire within the American culture, then you probably ought not listen to a song from 1968 entitled “Mr. Businessman”. In fact, the businessmen of that time who owned radio stations didn’t allow it broadcasted across their airwaves.
Counter Cultural Music
The song by Ray Stevens came along when it was very unpopular to criticize capitalism and the businessmen involved, even if it was meant to expose those who were taking advantage of the system. Mr. Stevens sings through the song describing the urgent lifestyle of someone wrapped up in the activities required to idolize success. He questions the businessman on the moments of life he might be missing out on, and the chorus opens with sarcastic encouragement:
“You better take care of business, Mr. Businessman”
Although the song is upbeat, the lyrics at one point bluntly challenge the purpose of devoting your life to that pursuit:
“Do you qualify to be alive, or is the limit of your senses so, as only to survive”
As I listened to the song, I imagined all the oblivious businessmen I’ve seen over the course of my life, plugging along like cows grazing in the pasture. They chase only the next moment with little regard for the future, and none for eternity.
Jesus’ Brother James, the Socialist?
Then I imagined New Testament author James singing the words he wrote in James chapter 5 to the tune of this song. He too applied bluntness to his message, starting with the beginning:
“Come now, you rich people! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming on you.”
He was calling out the wealthy for the way they were treating the less fortunate. And he didn’t hold any punches in plainly explaining what was coming their way:
“…You have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.” James 5:5
Like cows indulging, their grazing had blinded them to believe that they had escaped Justice. James continues in verse eleven to encourage the poor who are being abused:
“…we count as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and have seen the outcome from the Lord. The Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”
See, believers can always have hope for justice because we know who invented it. Even if you struggle in poverty your entire life, the reality of eternity (making our life like a “vapor”), takes away the sting of any temporary affliction. The reality is, struggling can be more valuable than comfort.
This isn’t necessarily saying there’s anything wrong with money, it’s how you steward it. I also haven’t written this to endorse any political agenda. Passages of scripture like this can make the idea of socialism appealing. But it would be a sad worldly solution doomed for failure. You can’t legislate this biblical value into being forced upon the wealthy.
Now, is socialism biblical? I’m not sure if it really lines up, but generosity most certainly is. Scripture is full of admonitions toward wealth and the hoarding thereof. But in a culture that loves to pick a side, with the opposing viewpoints relentlessly reaching new extremes further away from one another, the full counsel of God, as is His trend, places the truth at a balanced midpoint. If we attempt to legislate generosity from the rich, the legislation itself will be taken advantage of. The Bible admonishes those perpetrators as well. Proverbs 12:24 plainly explains that laziness leads to unfair treatment:
“The diligent hand will rule, but laziness will lead to forced labor.”
Proverbs also tells the lazy person to look to the ant as an example:
“Go to the ant, you slacker! Observe its ways and become wise.”
So, as many look to a human politician for the salvation of our country, once again only the words of our omniscient Creator provides the balanced truth that will actually make a difference. He gives us an eternal glimpse at the situation. As Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun. The Bible described it happening close to 2,000 years ago, a frustrated musician challenged it a few decades ago, and the human heart perpetuates the problem to this day. God help us as Satan continues succeeding at pitting Americans against one another. Not all poor people are lazy, and not all rich people got it by mistreating others. Be a biblical example wherever you land on the spectrum. Pray hard and vote for holiness.