Open your Bibles please to James 5, we are going to be looking at verses 1-5
If you missed last week, we looked at two ways that our speech reveals our beliefs about God. That if we speak evil against others, or if we boast about our future, we are viewing ourselves as though we are the supreme being. James tells us that we are to remember that there is a God, and we are not Him.
This morning, we are going to see yet another text that reveals another way to diagnose our hearts. We are going to hear more hard words from James, and this week they are about how we view money.
Before we get into the text, let me ask you this question. are you rich? Now some of you might think, “I am rich in love.” Im not talking about that, I am talking about money and possessions, cause that is what James is talking about.
Now let me ask you this question. Does the existence of wealth, always equal God’s blessing? Let me say that a different way, do you see your financial situation as a reflection of God’s happiness or dissatisfaction with you? Because there are people out there who are preachers, and have huge Churches who say that Jesus was a rich man, and he wants you to be rich too, and if you sew a thousand dollar seed to their ministry, God will turn into your personal Genie and give you all kinds of money. Do you believe that? The only problem with this type of thinking, and preaching is a little book called The Bible. And I think today’s text will prove to be one of those texts that will never be read at those churches.
Before we go any further, lets read the text…
The first words of this should be arresting. they should shock us, they should jolt us. They should offend us. Why, Because he says that certain people should be weeping and wailing, and that we will have miseries fall upon them. Don’t read your Bible like a storybook and miss the urgency in his words, he is crying out with urgency. And it is not a suggestion, he is commanding people to weep and wail. So what is your first response to that? Lets take a minute and feel the weight of that. Don’t treat this text like the guy walking down the street with a placard on his chest that says the world is ending, let it sink in to you, because here is the truth of this text, when you consider the whole of the world, we are very rich.
Just a few quick statistics to help you understand what I mean. In 2012, the poverty line for a family of four in the US was 23,050 per year. That is a little less than 16 dollars a day per person. In 2010, there were 19 million hungry people in developed countries around the world, 37 million in the near east and North Africa. 53 mil. in Latin Am. and Caribbean, 239 mill. in Subsaharan Africa, and 578 Million people who were chronically hungry in Asia and the Pacific. added together that totals 925 million people, or 13.1% of the worlds population. And by Hungry, they mean that those people are experiencing “want, or scarcity of food.” Furthermore, there were 1372 million people living on less than one dollar a day in our world.
And some of those are in Powhatan. In the year 2011, 4.4% of the population of this county was below the poverty line. So I am not saying that there is not any poverty around us, but when you consider the whole of the world, we are in much better shape than many around us.
The difficult part of understanding this text is that our class system is very different from the class system of the original hearers of this letter. There was no such thing as a middle class when this letter was written. You were either in the poor/slave class, or you were rich. So, in our day, it is difficult to make direct application to our lives because we don’t tend to see ourselves as rich. In James’ day you knew if you were rich, and if you were poor. So then should we discount what James says because it doesn’t directly parallel our class system? No, because all scripture is God breathed, and useful. So, how can this translate to our day? Well, let me suggest that the attitudes about money that James describes a very relevant to us today. I think as we get into this that we can all find ourselves in this text.
So, who should worry?
Those who hoard their wealth. v. 2
– rotted and moth eaten means they are packed away.
– corrosion happens with lack of use
– stored up in the last days is a reminder that you don’t know when your end will come
– the corrosion will testify against you’ like the parable of the talents.
Those who acquire wealth dishonestly. v.4
– this is a cultural norm, more so than today. But it is still possible to withhold someone’s wages. Where do we have that opportunity in a real way on a regular basis? Restaurants are a prime example of our power to bless, or withhold wages from a person.
Those who are self indulgent. v. 5
– using our wealth for selfish gain, and self-indulgence is an evidence that we are living for temporal pleasures. That we are worshiping and finding our satisfaction in earthly pleasures and possessions.
All of these things are evidence against the rich on the day of judgement. V.3 and 4, and end of 5.
All of these actions, the hoarding of wealth, the gaining it dishonestly, and living self indulgently all are evidence of something deep inside our hearts. It shows us, just like our speech that we are relying on, and worshipping something other than God.
Don’t miss the word evidence. Evidence is not the crime is it, it is what we use to prove that a crime did or did not happen. So what is the crime?
Well, I think if we remember that this is not a stand alone verse, but it exists in a group of verses, we will be reminded of something we read back in chapter 4, namely that these are actions that a evidence of the adultery that has occurs in our hearts, that we have become friends with the world, and therefor enemies of God. That we have forsaken our trust in Jesus, and put our trust in temporal things like money and possessions.
What evidence is your wealth and possessions providing?