Summary: Judge Jesus Is At The Door 1) Be content 2) Be patient
Last week we learned that our God is like the next door neighbor who loans you his lawn mower and gives you fresh snap peas from his garden. Whatever you need (though not whatever you want), he’s happy to give it to you. Just ask – even if it’s the middle of the night! But our text today says that God is even closer to us than a next door neighbor. Yes, he’s closer in the sense that he loves and cares for us more than your next door neighbor does, but he’s also closer in another way. James, the author of our text, says that Jesus is at the door! How would you like to have a neighbor like that – one who stands outside your door all day long? You wouldn’t appreciate that invasion of privacy. But with God nothing we do, say, or even think for that matter is private. He knows it all doesn’t he? James reminds us of this fact because he doesn’t want us to forget that this world and our lives as we know it are coming to an end. Judge Jesus is at the door ready to burst in on humanity. Therefore James teaches us to be content, and to be patient. Let’s find out why James would encourage these two attitudes.
Listen again to how James, the half-brother of Jesus, starts our text. I’ll read to you from the Message translation. “And a final word to you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You’ll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment. All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger. You’ve looted the earth and lived it up. But all you’ll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse” (James 5:1-5).
Whenever we longingly look at the lives of the rich and famous and wish we had what they did, it would be good to dig out these verses and read through them. Of course James isn’t suggesting that all those who are wealthy are evil. We know that wealthy men like Abraham and King David will stand with the believers on Judgment Day. Therefore James is speaking of those who take pride in their riches like the farmer in our Gospel lesson this morning (Luke 12:13-21). He’s also speaking against those who have taken advantage of others to get ahead, and who have used their riches to make their lives more comfortable without any thought to the less fortunate. You won’t want to be one of those people come Judgment Day. James says that their wealth won’t count for anything then. In fact all it’s going to do is make them a bigger target for God’s wrath.
Since we’re not rich I guess we don’t have to worry about the judgment that James speaks about, right? You know that’s a foolish way to think. First of all, we are very rich. I’ve shared these figures with you a couple of years ago when we studied James in Bible class but I think they’re worth sharing again. Did you know that if you earn $50,000 a year, you are richer than 99.7% of the world’s population?! (globalrichlist.com) Still a student and only have a part-time job? Let’s say you make $3,000 a year from that job. You’re still richer than 82% of the world’s population! And the thing is you don’t live on $3,000 if you still receive food, housing, and medical care for free courtesy of Mom and Dad. Add those benefits to your annual “income” and I’m sure it would boost your “rich” status into the 90% range.
The fact that we don’t think we’re very rich shows just how big of a problem the sin of greed is in our lives. We don’t think we’re rich because we’re not content with our homes, our clothes, our cars, or our toys. We want more. We want bigger and better. And we think we can pursue such wealth without any effect on our spiritual health. A Chinese pastor over a decade ago saw this mentality among his members. They had for so long lived under communism which did not allow for private businesses. But once it did, these people ran as fast as they could from the grip of communism into the jaws of consumerism! The pastor made this observation. “Consumerism makes you think…you can have lots of things and Christ as well. In reality, you just end up with lots of things, and most of the time you don’t even realize Christ has gone” (Li Tianen).