Summary: Selfish and dishonest gain invites God’s judgment and leaves a person in ultimate poverty.

If Money Could Talk…

James 5:1-6

-Most of us have probably heard the saying, “Money talks.” Words are one thing, but when someone slaps down their money or writes the check, their words take on new meaning. Sometimes money produces results that seemed slow in coming with any other approach. This might be due to greed, or it might relate to how serious a person is about what they say they will do.

-A well-worn one dollar bill and a similarly distressed twenty dollar bill arrived at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired. As they moved along the conveyor belt to be burned, they struck up a conversation.

The twenty dollar bill reminisced about its travels all over the county. "I’ve had a pretty good life," the twenty proclaimed. "Why I’ve been to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the finest restaurants in New York, performances on Broadway, and even a cruise to the Caribbean."

"Wow!" said the one dollar bill. "You’ve really had an exciting life!"

"So tell me," says the twenty, "where have you been throughout your lifetime?"

The one dollar bill replies, "Oh, I’ve been to the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, the Lutheran Church ...." The twenty dollar bill interrupts, "What’s a church?"

-Did you know money can be hazardous to your health? Two medical researchers at the University of Louisville have been looking into the question and have found that "13% of the coins and 42% of the paper money carry disease-producing organisms." Small denomination coins and bills are more dangerous because of their rapid turnover. Percentage of all paper money in the U.S. that contains traces of cocaine: 97%. (Don’t go sniffing your money!)

-So in today’s reading, James takes on the wealthy who have not played by the rules as they have accumulated much and shared very little. His words appear to be directed to wealthy unbelievers, showing his readers the fate of their oppressors. But he also shows some wrong attitudes and actions that have to do with money and the lengths people will go to in order to attain it. If money could talk, here is one of the main things we might hear from it:

Prop: Selfish and dishonest gain invites God’s judgment and leaves a person in ultimate poverty.

-TS: Let’s look at some of the issues James raises as he confronts the rich and speaks comfort to the poor. If money could talk, what would it say?

1. Money speaks about the misery of the miserly (5:1-3)

1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 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.

-The corruption of the possessions of wealthy people witness against them. People who hoard and set out to accumulate great amounts of money and possessions fail to recognize that God gave them wealth for a reason.

-For many years Hetty Green was called America’s greatest miser. When she died in 1915, she left an estate valued at $100 million, an especially vast fortune for that day. But she was so miserly that she ate cold oatmeal in order to save the expense of heating the water. When her son had a severe leg injury, she took so long trying to find a free clinic to treat him that his leg had to be amputated because of advanced infection. It has been said that she hastened her own death by bringing on a fit of apoplexy while arguing the merits of skim milk because it was cheaper than whole milk.

At one time, she was the richest woman in America. Her estate was valued at from 65 to 100 million dollars. Her income from real estate, stocks, bonds, etc. was $5 a minute or $300 an hour. Yet Hetty lived her life on a lower scale than her scrubwoman did.

For example, she padded her thin, worn clothes with newspapers to keep the biting New York City cold from chilling her too badly. She was sole owner of a couple of railroads, she never indulged in the luxury of a Pullman berth. Instead she sat up all night in the day coach.

-One hot, sizzling day, someone found the world’s richest woman in the stuffy, hot attic of a warehouse that Hetty had inherited from her father. For hours and hours she sweated away doing what? sorting white rags from colored rags because the local junk man paid a cent a pound more for white rags.

-Realizing that if she had a permanent address the tax collector would swoop down upon her and claim $30,000 a year, Hetty Green drifted from one cheap lodging house to another, dressed in rags, and with so little baggage that suspicious landladies often made Hetty pay for her night’s lodging in advance.

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