LIFE APP – Using Things, But Loving People
James 5:1-6 (p. 849) October 12, 2014
[They called him “Trey” even though his real name is William. He was a bit of an underachiever. He was the class clown in school...somewhat of a rebellious “goof-off.” It got to the point that Trey’s parents felt it necessary to send him off to a private school which would provide a more strict and structured environment for him. He visited a psychologist for a while to help him better understand how to focus his concentration. When Trey was 13 he met a friend who had similar interests. As these two “nerdy” friends grew older, they went off to college, but quit after a couple of years to form their own company. They had some interesting ideas and a little bit of money, about 15 grand. But they made the right decisions with Trey’s first simple product, and received the attention of a business giant. They paid Trey to develop something they needed. He did...and he continued to build on that success...and 10 years later at the age of 35 he became the youngest person in America to reach Billion (that’s with a B) status. Now in his late fifties he was one of the richest private individuals in the entire world with a net worth of over 81 billion (yes that a Big B).
You know young Trey as William (Bill) Gates III, the founder of Microsoft. He returned as CEO in 2008 and spends his time working for his foundation.
But Bill Gates has already told his children he will not be leaving them a vast fortune. He is only giving them a miniscule (10 million each) part of his empire...Why: His response “I will pay for my children’s education and health care but I expect them to be a contributing part of society...I expect them to become independent enough to support themselves.”
Most of us don’t have to worry about vast wealth or being “billionaire trust fund babies” or having to make it on our own with a measly 10 million.
But as James opens up Chapter five he writes “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery coming on you.” (v. 1)
Who’s he talking to? Is it the “rich guy in Chapter 2 who comes into the church meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes?”
In fact...early in his letter James mentions that “The rich should take pride in their humiliation – since they will pass away like a wildflower.” (1:10)
Clearly James hasn’t written his letter to rich people...His letter has been addressed to the 12 tribes scattered among the nations...the recipients of this letter are poor Jews, scattered and persecuted all over the place throughout the world. So who are these “rich people” who should “weep and wail” because of the misery coming. James identifies these people with 3 characteristics...first:
I. THEY HOARD THEIR WEALTH
Right now in my pantry I have 2 giant supermarket cases of Donut Days Coffee...
SHOW PICTURE OF RICK WITH COFFEE
for our Keurig Coffee Maker. Kari has a hard time finding it...so when she found it on clearance at Krogers she bought all they had. I have become a coffee hoarder. A selfish collector of my Java riches....Why? Because I love it, and I was afraid someone else would come along and get it!
(“It’s mine I say...my precious!!!) – Lord of the rings voice imitation)
James describes individuals who love their wealth like Gollum
SHOW PICTURE OF GOLLUM
...loves the ring in J.R.R. Tolken’s trilogy. It’s obsessive, it’s their primary focus and love...It’s their security...it’s their “precious” God.
I’ve got to hold onto it...store it away so I can selfishly take care of my wants and needs. And if I have more money, I’m even more set for this life. (By the way I’m not talking about saving money and being free from debt I’m talking about “Loving Money.”
1 TIMOTHY 6:9-11 (p. 831)
When James says, “You have hoarded your wealth in the last days” he is echoing the parable of Jesus in Luke 12
LUKE 12:15-21 (p. 727)
Hoarding is that attitude that stores up things for ourselves, but is not rich toward God.
This isn’t about retirement or a college fund...It’s about our gratitude towards “riches.” Who’s in charge or your life? What motivates you? There are only two.
“I am the master of my fate! I am the captain of my ship” or
“Father, I work for your kingdom...I seek it first in my life...I love people and use things, not the other way around.”
There is accountability for how we view our stuff and how we use it. If we claim to be Kingdom dwellers...who want to seek it first.
It’s no coincidence that Jesus follows the Parable of the Rich Fool with these words: “Don’t worry about your life. What you’ll eat, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Life is more than food and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens. They don’t sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn: yet God feeds them.” (Luke 12:22,23
In that same interview where Bill Gates talks about not leaving his vast fortune to his children he says, “It’s a ridiculous amount of money and it’s not good to hold onto things like that because it’s easy to get spoiled by things that alienate you from what’s important.”
You don’t have to have 81 billion to know that truth. It’s easy to get spoiled by things...things that separate you from things that are really important.
That’s the Modus Operandi (method of operation) that Satan, the god of this world uses. Replace God Almighty with a desire...a thing...whether it’s an apple, sports, a relationship, money, or something else.
Giving is the opposite of hoarding. When you tithe the first 10% of your income you’re saying, “God I trust you first...Here’s the first priority in my life. I will not give you the leftovers...or a tip...
God, I believe your storehouses are bigger than mine, so as Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring the whole tithe into the Storehouse that there may be food in my house, test me in this says the Lord God Almighty and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
John Maxwell said it this way “Here’s the bottom line: God says “You give me everything and I’ll take care of you or you keep it all and take care of yourself.”
James is talking to people who believe they can take care of themselves better than God if they hoard their riches.
James lists a 2nd characteristic of these rich people who ought to weep and mourn
II. THEY CHEAT OTHER PEOPLE
The principle in James’ day was “pay the worker at the end of the day because it was how he provided for his family’s needs. If you didn’t pay him he’s demoralized, depressed and does not have the resources he’s hoped for...Don’t cheat the worker!
But apparently there were rich landowners who would not only defraud their workers telling them they’d pay them at the end of the week, but at week’s end would stiff them and hire new workers [like a company fires you right before Christmas so you don’t get a bonus, but then immediately hires new workers] Pretty lousy, huh?
James says you want to get God’s attention...and not the kind you want...cheat the poor...get rich off a worker’s back without treating him fairly.
James says, “The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Almighty...literally the Lord of Sabbaoth, “THE LORD OF ARMIES!!!”
Marissa Castellanos can tell you about harvest workers and farm workers who are abused, even had their work Visa’s and papers held as blackmail so the most profit could be gained...she helps rescue these folks...But I promise you The Lord of Armies doesn’t overlook the Rick person who puts money above people either.
“To gain wealth at the pain and sacrifice of another human being is sin” whether you cheat your server at a restaurant or treat people as slaves.
Why do I believe the lottery is inherently wrong? Because vast wealth is accumulated from those who can scarcely afford it...with the promise....the false hope of a lie...buy this ticket and your problems will all go away...even if you win (it’s a lie).
When money becomes more important than people you have become one of these rich people who should wail and weep in repentance.
James makes a third accusation:
III. THEY LIVE SELF-INDULGENT LIVES
“Your life on earth has been all about luxury and self-indulgence.” (v 5) James even says “You’ve fattened yourself for the day of slaughter.”
The two Greek words he uses are “Truphao” and “Spatacao” to live delicately, softly... “to gratify to excess your desires.”
Your resources are spent to make yourself comfortable and happy...“Eat, drink & party because tomorrow we die.”
And before we think that James is only addressing the Bill Gates and Donald Trumps...52% of our dogs in America are overweight while 2 billion people exist on less than 2 dollars a day.
When Jesus says in Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive” he’s sharing a truth many in the world and the Church reject.
Jesus says behind door number 1 is blessed...and behind door number 2 is “more” blessed. Which would you rather have? Well, I’d rather have more blessed than just blessed. Jesus says, “Really?” then give more than you get.
[Tony Compollo is a Christian Sociologist, author, and speaker. He was sharing with a leadership convention in Chicago. For the 3 day convention he was staying at the Hyatt, downtown. The first night of the convention he couldn’t sleep so he went for a walk, in downtown Chicago...at 2 a.m. (Maybe not the brightest idea) but he ended up at a corner diner and had some milk and cake. As he was there a group of local “ladies of the evening” came in...as well as some cops and cab drivers...Tony started talking with them all only to discover that one of the prostitutes Judy’s birthday, was the next day. After she left...Tony said, “Let’s throw Judy a birthday party tomorrow. He got the cook to agree to make a cake...and he said he’d get all the other decorations and presents. And even though he shared the next day with hundreds of church leaders, his mind was on Judy and the diner on the corner...after his last session he purchased presents and decorations...and when he got to the diner...people were already there to help set up the party...the cook had made an amazing cake...streamers were put up, hats were distributed...and when Judy walked in with the other ladies at 2 am she was met with “Surprise!” and a joyful “Happy Birthday!” With tears running down her face she opened the presents and blew out the candles. When they got ready to cut the beautiful cake she shouted Oh no...don’t cut it...It’s too beautiful...I’ve never had a birthday party before. She grabbed the cake and ran out into the darkness...Someone asked Tony what he did, and he said he was a preacher...and one of the cops said, “What kind of church do you preach at?” And Tony said, “I preach at the kind of church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes.”
Who do you think was more blessed at that party...the giver or the receiver?
The unrighteous rich killed and murdered Jesus because He made them uncomfortable and threatened their status...Their riches...But for those who had never had a birthday party before...sinners, tax collectors, fisherman, zealots...He gave them a wedding feast. What will I leave you with today?
Give your life to God...surrender ownership to Jesus. Be baptized and receive His Holy Spirit, as you die to self and are resurrected to new life.
And then start listening when the Holy Spirit speaks...when He opens a door so you can use your life and resources for an eternal impact.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to humble your heart and open your spiritual eyes so you want to throw birthday parties for prostitutes...or cook dinner for ladies who dance...or believe that potheads can become a useful “tool” in God’s garage.
Our earthly wealth will rust and corrode, this earthly body won’t last through eternity...but people who have been loved into the Kingdom through your life and your resources are an eternal treasure. Let’s Pray.