Summary: 6th in a sermons series on James dealing with the priority of eternal wisdom.
“A Biblical Perspective on Wealth”
I. Faith’s response to trials 1:2-18
A. Life Instruction #1 with Insight
1. Instruction: Consider it all joy when encountering trials
2. Divine Insight – Knowing testing produces endurance
B. Life instruction #2 with insights
1. Instruction: Continue enduring
2. Insight: endurance produces maturity and stability
C. Life Instruction #3 with insights
1. Instruction: Ask God for wisdom
a. God gives generously without scolding to those asking
b. God gives nothing to those doubting
The testing of faith in view next has to do with attitudes toward material goods. Both the lack of and position of material wealth can be an occasion for spiritual wavering and double-mindedness. One’s attitude toward money can be a source of all kinds of evil. Some have said that money is the root of all sorts of evil.
The accurate quotation is…
Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10
Money can present a problem whether you have it or not. It can derail poor and rich alike. The key is one’s attitude toward it. Those who have it can desire it and love it. Those who don’t have it can desire it and love.
The craving, reaching, striving and coveting draws away from the life of faith. Since James is about testing the genuineness of our faith, our response to the subject of money serves as a pretty potent test.
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. James 1:9-11
James recorded instructions to both the poor and the rich. He will revisit the subject in chapter 2, 4 and 5.
The Bible times views rich and poor differently than we do today. You were considered rich in the Bible times if you had resources at the beginning of the day and more than one change of clothes. Many worked all day just for enough food to eat at night.
The 2017 federal poverty level for a two-person household is just over $16,000.
The median American income 2013 was $52,000.
Half the world’s 7 billion people survives on $913 annually
At the time James wrote…
Many of the Jewish Christians that were scattered across the Roman Empire had lost almost everything and were very poor. James says that in our poverty, we are to still rejoice because we have been exalted to the position of a child of God and a joint-heir of Jesus Christ. God has given the believer genuine, unfailing riches in the kingdom of God. Men may consider Christians as "trash," but God values us as His own. Mattoon's Treasures
D. Life Instruction #4: Let the poor boast in their exaltation 1:9
James did not include a corresponding insight with this instruction. A literal translation would be to “let the lowly rejoice in his height.” The poor here includes humble in material means as well as social standing.
You may feel low in this life but in Christ you are high.
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. Mark 10:29-30
Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? James 2:5
Jesus clearly maintained the eternal perspective on material goods.
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
But God said to the rich man, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared—whose will they be?’ That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God. Luke 12:20-21