Donate to Support

Support the church that supports this blog. Donate at - www.PleasantGrove.cc Click the donate button in the upper righthand corner.
Showing posts with label Epistle of James. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Epistle of James. Show all posts

Monday, July 8, 2024

A Warning for the Rich | A Sermon from James 5:1-6

Introduction
We are now in the last chapter of the Epistle of James.  Lord willing, we will spend 4 more weeks studying this letter that was written by Jesus’ half-brother.  The message today might make you feel uncomfortable.  I want you to know it makes me feel uncomfortable too.  Why?  Because James gives a stern warning to rich people.  And although I don’t consider myself a rich man, I do realize I live in one of the most prosperous nations on the planet. 

According to zippia.com, the USA has the 7th highest avg annual income in the world - $70,930/year.  Now the average income of the whole world is $9,733/year.  The average annual income in Afghanistan is only $390/year.  So maybe that puts some things in perspective for us.  And God’s Word to us today in James is challenging.

James 5:1-6
1 Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. Your gold and silver are corroded. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This corroded treasure you have hoarded will testify against you on the day of judgment. For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. You have condemned and killed innocent people,[a] who do not resist you.


A Warning to the Rich
James speaks to his 1st century Jewish Christian readers to remind them not to become like the rich and powerful who persecuted them.  Many of his readers may have been wealthy.  Many of them had suffered and lost much wealth at the hands of non-Christians who persecuted them.  And as always, James is very blunt.  He warns the wicked rich using terribly vivid imagery of the troubles the wicked rich will endure.  Your wealth will rot away.  Your fine cloths will be moth eaten rags.
Your silver and gold will corrode.  The wealth you counted in will eat your flesh like fire.
And all your wealth will testify against you in court on Judgment Day.  That makes you squirm in your seat a little bit—if not for yourself, then for anyone who faces it.

Money IS NOT the Root of All Evil
It’s important for me to correct a often misunderstood statement in the Bible.
Contrary to popular belief.  The Bible never says money is the root of all evil.

The verse people misquote to proof-text this is 1 Timothy 6:10, which says, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  It is the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil.  That’s an important distinction. 

If you know your Bible, you will realize there were many godly rich people who were part of God’s story.  Abraham is revered as a holy man by three world religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  Yet Father Abraham was a wealthy nomad who had large flocks of livestock and a the large household of a wealthy man by the standards of his day.  One of Abraham's descendants, Joseph, was part of that wealthy household.  Joseph lost it all when he was sold into slavery by his treacherous brothers, but he eventually rose to power as second in command to Egypt's Pharaoh (who was arguably the wealthiest and most powerful man in the world at that time).  David started out as a lowly shepherd, but then became King of Israel and lived in a palace with the wealth and power of the nation at his disposal.  Then the Bible says David's son, Solomon, was the wealthiest person in the world.  There were also several wealthy people who supported Jesus’ ministry and the Christian church in the New testament – Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man who donated a tomb for Christ burial.

There is nothing wrong with having wealth.  It’s how you get your wealth and what you do with it and your attitude about it that matters most.  James warns the rich who got their wealth by unjust means.  Verse 4 says, “Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay.”  These were people who had little power.  The landowner could promise to pay them a certain wage, but if he decided to cheat them, what recourse did they have?  (There weren't even any labor unions back then.)  And these were also people who lived hand to mouth, so if the landowner didn't pay them on time, they would certainly go hungry.  James says when rich people act like this, God hear the complaints of the people they cheat and He see the rich people's wickedness and He will judge them.

As God’s people, we are to be holy as the Lord is Holy.  What does it mean to be Holy?  It means to be set apart, to be different from the sinful world.  It means to be like God.  

God is righteous.  He does not cheat and steal.  He does not mistreat and use people.  Therefore, we must not cheat, steal, and mistreat people either.  We must be kind and generous and gracious, just as God is kind and generous and gracious  We must be fair, just as God is fair.  

My daughter is a waitress.  She usually makes a decent wage, but a good portion of here income comes from tips.  When people don't tip the customary amount, she suffers.  And I know many people say they are god tippers if the wait staff  does a good job.  I understand your sentiment.  But what if God treated you the way you treat your waiter or waitress?  What if God was watching over you looking for any mistake you made as an excuse to withhold blessings from you.  We would all starve to death because we make many mistake.  But that's not how God is.  God is gracious with us and blesses us even when we fail.  We ought to be the same with people in our dealings.  We should seek to be holy as God is holy.

If you read about the heroes of the Bible, the holy ones who had great wealth, you will find that they kind and generous and fair.  They also did not put their trust in their wealth; they depended on the Lord.  King David, who was a powerful king who wrote so many of the Psalms, wrote in Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
And Solomon, who the Bible says was the richest man who ever lived, wrote in Proverbs 11:28, “Trust in your money and down you go!  But the godly flourish like leaves in spring.”

David and Solomon were wealthy men, but they didn’t trust in the riches to keep them safe.  They knew the Lord was their strength and their shield.  As Americans who live in one of the most prosperous nation in the world, we also must hear and head James’ warning.  Don’t trust in your wealth to keep you safe.  Put your trust in God.  And be very careful not to cheat and steal to gain or increase your wealth.  Be honest.  Be fair.  Be gracious.  And don’t hoard your wealth.  Be generous.  Don’t waste your money in careless living, but also be careful that you aren’t stingy. 

Chick-fil-A vs. McDonald’s
Have you ever noticed the difference in quality between Chick-fil-A and McDonalds.  Chick-fil-A just seems to have better quality food and service.  Chick-fil-A is a company that operates on Christian values.  They make a bold statement about their Christian identity by closing on Sunday.  That means they potentially earn 1/7th less than McDonalds (who is open seven days a week).  But Chick-fil-A still manages to pay their employees an average of $0.50 more per hour than McDonalds.  Christian values lead Chick-fil-A to care more about their employees and treat them better.  

It’s not so much about our wealth, but our attitudes and values surrounding wealth.  As Christians, we must understand we are blessed so that we can be an blessing.  Our blessings are not just for our own selfish gratification.  Christians are blessed so we can be a blessing.

Hard Times
There is a saying going around that I think makes a lot of sense.  It says that hard times create strong people.  Strong people create good times.  Good times create weak people.   And weak people create hard times.  That seems to be true in my experience.  (And when I say strong or weak people, I’m not talking about physical strength; I’m referring to the strength of a person's character.)  When times are hard, people have to buckle down and live right and work hard to survive.  It builds strong character that improves society and leads to good times.  But when times are good and easy, people tend to get lazy.  And lazy people tend to develop weak character.  They live too high on the hog and their entitlement attitudes lead to hard times.  It’s a cycle I see play out in society and in families. 

Where is our nation in this cycle right now?  It would seem to me that we have been living through some very good times.  We are the 7th most prosperous nation in the world.  But we are also seeing increasing inflation and times are harder in the past couple years than they have been before.  Perhaps it is because we are getting lazy and are living too high on the hog.  It’s leading to hard times.  I certainly can see in my personal dealings with people in our town that we have too many weak characters who feel too entitled to blessings without having to work for them.  It does not bode well for our community or our nation.

But maybe there is hope!  As Christians we are called to be different, to be holy as God is holy.  We are to be the salt of the earth.  We are to be people of good, strong character and values.  Pray that you are being part of the solution and not living in ways that lead to hard times.  

Conclusion
Remember Jesus Christ, who is the King of kings and Lord of lords.
  If anyone was entitled to take it easy and live well, it was Jesus.  Yet Christ left the glory of heaven and humbled himself as a slave and even laid down His sacred life for us.  He came not to be served, but to serve.  And we who follow Him as Lord are called to do the same—to live selflessly, to give sacrificially, to be a gracious blessing to people (not because they deserve it, but simple out of an abundance of grace). 

Every time we celebrate Holy Communion, it is a reminder of how Christ laid down His life for us.  His sacrifice gives us life and strength.  Let’s remember to live for Him because He died for us.  It will make our lives and the lives of everyone around us better.