Summary: This is the final part of James’ sixth test of faith—the pride test. This third part of the pride test deals with our pocketbooks--greedy pride.
1. The first example of greedy pride is hoarding treasures
2. The second example of greedy pride is defrauding measures
3. The third example of greedy pride is indulging pleasures
A story is told about a rich man who was in the hospital on his deathbed. The doctors had only given him a short time to live, but there was something he felt he needed to take care of before he died. But he also knew it wasn’t something he could take care of for himself. So he called his three closest friends in by his bedside. He called his pastor, his doctor, and his business partner. As they all gathered around his bed, the old man began to talk to them about his money. He said, “I know that everybody says that you can’t take it with you. But who really knows? What if they’re wrong?” All his life he had prided himself in preparing for every possibility. Just because he was dying didn’t make that change. So here was his plan. He told his friends, “I’m giving each of you an envelope containing $100,000. After I die, I want each of you to slip the envelope in my jacket pocket at the funeral service. Then if I do need the money in the afterlife, I’ll have it. I’m giving each of you an envelope because you are my most trusted friends.” Well, it wasn’t long until the old man died. Just as expected, each of the three men slipped something into the man’s pocket as they passed by his casket at the funeral. After the service, the three men met up to talk about the parting of their dear friend. As they were talking, the doctor said, “Guys, I have a confession to make. You know with the cost of medicine and insurance and other expenses, my clinic is broke. We desperately needed repairs on our equipment, so I took $20,000 out of the envelope to pay for them.” The others were quiet for a minute. Finally, the pastor broke the silence. He said, “I’ve got a confession to make too. As you know, the church hasn’t been able to make our budget for a while now. We need to start a new mission, but haven’t had the money. I just couldn’t see burying all that money that could be going for the Lord’s work. So I took $50,000 out of the envelope for the new mission.” The businessman looked down his nose at both of them. He said, “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I can’t believe you would betray our friend’s solemn trust like that. I want you both to know that I placed the full $100,000 in his jacket pocket just like he asked. As a matter of fact, I wrote him a personal check to cover the full amount. When he cashes it, it’s his. Money does funny things to people, doesn’t it? Actually, money doesn’t do anything to people. Money is an inanimate object. It’s a thing. It can’t do anything. It can’t really change people. But what happens is, money reveals who a person really is on the inside. It removes many of the barriers that keep people from acting like they really want to act. From showing who they truly are. From uncovering their innermost self. Over the past two sermons in James, we’ve seen who we really are in our innermost self, haven’t we? Apart from Christ, we are all full of ourselves. That’s called pride. Pride is placing our selfish nature and desires in the place where only the Lord should be. A few weeks ago, we saw what happens when we place our selfish desires above God’s desire. Last week, we saw what happens when we place our personal plans above God’s plan. This morning, we’re looking at the final part of James’ sixth test of faith—the pride test. This third part of the pride test that James covers in our passage this morning deals with our pocketbooks. What a way to start the New Year—talking about money. More specifically, talking about the greedy pride that can come from using our money the wrong way. This morning, I want each of us to avoid greedy pride. I want us to avoid greedy pride by using the resources God has given us the right way. By using them the way that He expects us to. By using them in a way that honors Him. In order to do that, we’re going to look at the wrong way that James highlights in this passage. We’re going to look at three examples of greedy pride. The first example of greedy pride is hoarding treasures. Look with me at verses 1-3:
The first example of greedy pride is hoarding treasures. James starts off this part of the pride test the same way he started the last part of it back in verse 13. He says, “Go to now.” He’s basically saying, “Listen up—this is important.” Now, here’s what’s odd. He says, “I want you rich people to listen up.” Remember way back when we started our study in James, we learned who James was. James was the pastor of the local church in Jerusalem. Of course as a pastor, he was a public speaker. Even though speaking styles have changed over the years, certain key principles haven’t. One of those principles is that for a speaker to be effective, he has to know his audience. Do you remember who James’ audience was? Well, the whole reason he was writing this letter was because a large part of his congregation was no longer attending his church. They were no longer attending his church because they had been scattered throughout the Middle East by persecution. Starting with the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7, and Saul’s persecution of the church in Acts 8, the Jerusalem church members scattered for their lives. But James was still their pastor. And as their pastor, he wrote to them. But did he all of a sudden forget who his audience was here? Why in the world would he start this passage by saying, “Listen here you rich people?” How would you respond if I had started my message this morning saying, “All of you rich people need to listen to me this morning.” Most of you would have automatically tuned me out. “He’s not talking to me.” After all, what is the classic definition of a rich person? Somebody who’s got more than me. People who we would think of as being rich don’t see themselves that way. Why? Because somebody else they know always has more. So why would James address these poor scattered Christians as rich men? These people who had lost their homes and jobs and savings through the persecution? These people who many of them had even lost their families? Why would he call them rich? To make a point. See, no matter how much or how little you have, you can still harbor greedy pride. As a matter of fact, I know poor people who obsess more about money than well off people. But to these people that we would consider dirt poor, James says, “Your riches are corrupted. Your gold and silver is cankered.” Why? Because even though they didn’t have much, they greedily hoarded what little they did have. Verse 3 says they heaped their treasure together for the last days. Does that mean that we shouldn’t save money? No. What it means is that we shouldn’t selfishly pile up our money. There is a difference between saving and hoarding. What are you saving for? What are you investing for? Are you saving and investing as a way to bring honor and glory to God? Or are you saving and investing as a way to bring comfort and ease to yourself? Are your purposes self-centered or God-centered. Are you hoarding because you want to live a life of ease and comfort? Or are you saving because you want to plan for future kingdom work? That’s the difference. Saving and investing in order to lay back and do nothing during your waning years is the type of hoarding James is talking about. I’m reading a book by John Piper right now called “Don’t Waste Your Life.” In the book, he recalls a story he read in Reader’s Digest: “A couple took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.” Then he goes on to say, “Picture that couple standing before Christ at the great Day of Judgment, saying, ‘Look, Lord—See my shells.’” What a tragedy. What a wasted life. Or as James puts it—weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. How do you plan on honoring God with the money you’ve saved? Or are you just heaping together corrupted, moth-eaten, cankered, rusty treasure? The first example of greedy pride is hoarding treasures. The second example is defrauding measures. Look with me in verse 4: