“But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?”
But you have dishonored the poor man.
The readers of James dishonored the poor by treating them as second-class citizens. This is the antithesis of how God views the poor (2:2-3). The poor deserve honor as well as the wealthy. God’s view of dignity does not depend on material wealth but spiritual wealth. There is an issue of honor when it comes to the wealthy relating to the poor.
Do not the rich oppress you
The word “oppress” means to exercise power over and comes from two words: down and to have power. The idea is to exercise harsh control over someone or dominate him by using one’s power against him. The rich tend to be harsh with the poor.
and drag you into the courts?
The word “drag” implies violent dragging. The idea is that there is some resistance because someone forces his person into a certain position.
Ac 14:19, “Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.”
Ac 16:19, “But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.”
Ac 17:6-7, “But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, ‘These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. 7 Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.’”
The word “courts” is a place of judging, a tribunal, a law-court where a bench of judges determines a matter. A suit will decide the thing. This is a situation whereby wealthy Christians take poor Christians into court to sue them.
Ac 19:38, “Therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another.”
1 Co 4:3, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.”
If we dishonor the poor, we dishonor what God honors.
Whenever we slight a Christian, we put him into an inferior station. By giving preferential treatment to the wealthy, we, by implication, give lesser value to the poor. God honors the poor, but our culture dishonors them.
Pr 14:21, “He who despises his neighbor sins;
But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.”