His Judgment Cometh

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, July 21, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Anyone who is even a marginal fan of The Shawshank Redemption should know what comes immediately after the phrase in the above title: “AND THAT RIGHT SOON." That sentence just about sums up the plot of what is, in my opinion, one of the top five movies of all time. Andy Dufresne is the intelligent banker who is erroneously convicted for the murder of his wife and her lover and sentenced to life behind bars at Shawshank Prison. Warden Norton is the man who runs Shawshank with abuse, corruption, and dishonesty all while pretending to care about the inmates and quoting favorite passages of Scripture as if he follows it. When he learns of Andy’s financial prowess, he realizes he can take advantage of it and use Andy to “cook the books” to the warden’s direct benefit. Warden Norton gets rich while the innocent Dufresne gets nothing more than a few minor privileges for his forced participation in the crimes.

Every night when Dufresne is done with the paperwork, he has to put it in a safe that is behind a picture on a wall. The picture has a design along with the word, “His judgment cometh, and that right soon." Warden Norton sees it as a reminder to Dufresne and others not to cross him or challenge him, because he has the authority within Shawshank to pronounce judgment on his prisoners. Dufresne, however, knows that he has something very special planned for Norton that he is preparing for 19 years. He bides his time and endures many unfair hardships, trusting that the true, righteous judgment will pounce on the unjust soon enough. When the time comes and he escapes from Shawshank with proof of all of the warden’s crimes, the warden and his minions can no longer hide from the judgment that is coming soon.

The fictional story portrayed in this great movie is pretty close to what James had in mind when he warned the rich about the judgment that awaited them in his letter to the early church. The biggest difference is that Andy Dufresne accomplished his own revenge and justice on the warden this side of heaven, while James urges the oppressed and mistreated to trust in the God who says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” (Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19). James understood that in his day, there were many wealthy individuals who had neither earned their riches nor received them from God, but they had swindled and manipulated their way to affluence. In James 5:1-6, he wanted to make sure they understood, as they continued to revel in their dishonest gain, that God was not pleased with them and would not overlook their oppressive actions unless they repented.

It’s not that being rich is a bad thing automatically. Jesus definitely had some followers who were pretty well-off, including Zaccheus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Barnabas. However, if you go back and read each of those men’s stories in the Gospels and in Acts, you see that their wealth did not stand in the way of their obedience to Christ. Zaccheus was a tax collector who no doubt ripped people off, but when Jesus came to his house, he repented and agreed to pay back anyone for what he had cheated them, plus interest, and he also gave half of his remaining possessions to the poor (Luke 19:1-10). Joseph of Arimathea, who may have been among the Jewish authorities, owned a new tomb cut out of rock and used it to bury Jesus’ body for just a couple of days because that’s all was needed (Matthew 27:57-60). Barnabas owned a huge piece of land, but he sold it and gave the money to the Lord’s work in the early church (Acts 4:36-37). In the Old Testament, Job was one of the wealthiest men of all time, but he loved God more than his riches and didn’t hesitate to worship Him even when everything was lost.

Rest assured that you can still follow Jesus and obey him even if you are wealthy. The question is, how much do your riches mean to you? Who did you have to step over or step on to get them? If God is calling you to abandon it all for a life of service to Him, are you willing? James specifically addressed some individuals who only focused on what they could gain in this life and not on treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). He urges them to weep and wail because the riches they have treasured are going to disappear very soon and they’ll have nothing left (James 5:1-2). Their condition before God will actually be even worse than that. What could be worse than losing everything to moth, rust, and corrosion? James tells them: “Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days” (James 5:3). The point here is that on the day of judgment, it will be revealed that they did not concern themselves with the things of God but instead lived their lives arrogantly independent in the way James just condemned at the end of chapter 4 (see last week’s post).

Anyone who focuses solely on earthly treasures, whether by intention or a lack of care for God and others, should heed the warning in this section of James’ letter. By nature, we all seek comfort and try to avoid suffering, and we know that riches do alleviate some suffering for a little while. But if we really understand the judgment and eternal suffering that could be coming our way, it’s a no-brainer where our efforts should be focused during the short time we have here. English commentator John Trapp said, “Better weep here, where there are wiping handkerchiefs in the hand of Christ, than to have your eyes whipped out in hell. Better howl with men than yell with devils."

While James directs his warning toward the rich in this section, his words are also a comfort to the poor, especially those who have been cheated by the wealthy. In those days, the poor were willing to work wherever they could find it. Those who were wealthy enough to own land would hire workers to tend it. When the work was done and it came time to pay up, the laborers had no recourse if the landowners would choose not to pay. The rich would occasionally take advantage of the lack of accountability and either pay the worker less than the agreed upon wages or just not pay them at all. James has this travesty in mind when he writes, “The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty” (James 5:4). In other words, the rich might think they are getting away with their oppression, just like Warden Norton thought he was getting away with his crimes. But as Numbers 32:23 assures us, “You can be sure that your sin will find you out." The “Lord Almighty” could be more accurately translated “Lord of hosts." He is the God of angel armies and He’s got a whole fleet - though He needs no one else - that is ready to take the fight to anyone who oppresses another.

I think we can all be honest and admit that we don’t want to find ourselves in a fight against God and all His angels. That’s not going to end well for any of us. For this reason, it would seem to be in our best interest to make absolutely certain we are not cheating anyone else in order to succeed in the world’s eyes, and also that we are doing everything we can to assist those who are in need. If we stand before God and all we have to show for our time on this earth is a bunch of “stuff” that is corroded and destroyed, then the judgment we assumed we’d never face is coming our way. Since we never know how “soon” it’s coming, let’s make an effort to store up treasures in heaven, starting today!

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