Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you. -- James 5:1-6, NIVRead these verses in James, and Ellen White's counsels on agriculture begin to make sense.
She lived through one of the greatest demographic transitions in history, after all -- a time when farmers dropped from 70% of the American workforce to 27%. Yes, millions and millions of people moved to the cities . . .
And all because life in a slum -- as hellish as it was -- was still better than life back home on a farm.
When Ellen White urged our schools to teach agriculture, in other words, she was not indulging some utopian fantasy of "back to the land"; neither was she simply urging that education be practical.
Instead, she was asking the church to make life better for poor farmers where they lived -- and if we did so, then maybe they wouldn't need to look for a better life in the tenements of New York and Chicago . . .
Or the shantytowns and favelas of Mumbai, Lagos, and Sao Paulo.
In short, Ellen White wanted to do more than just help the poor.
She wanted our church to address the structures that cause poverty -- the structures that allow the few to live "in luxury and self-indulgence," while the many suffer want.
In her day, that meant agriculture.
What would it mean in our own?