Summary: How I steward my wealth reveals my spiritual health.
The Dangers of Self-Indulgence
Rev. Brian Bill
March 30-31, 2019
When I was about 12 years old I was asked if I would be interested in cleaning out the house of a woman who had passed away. I eagerly agreed, thinking this would be an easy way to make some shekels. I wasn’t prepared for what I found. The entire house was filled with so much stuff that it was almost impossible to get the front door open. The front room was filled with stacks of yellowed newspapers, filthy clothes and boxes of brand new items stacked almost to the ceiling.
The kitchen was jammed with dirty dishes and festering food. The smell was horrible. We started our clean up in the living room, using shovels and pitchforks to scoop everything up before throwing it all into a huge dumpster parked in the driveway. After we filled one dumpster and it was hauled away, we uncovered a number of uncashed checks and expensive jewelry covered with dirt and dust. Then we realized we had already thrown away many checks and valuables without knowing it.
I found out later this woman was extremely wealthy because she was the widow of a bank president. I’ll never forget this visual lesson about how worldly wealth can rot, get moldy and corrode…and then be thrown into a dumpster when we’re gone.
Last week we were challenged to live each day as if it’s our last. In light of eternity we should live differently today. One of our action steps was to forgive those who have wronged us.
On Sunday afternoon I received this email: “I also have a few people in my life who have hurt me or they have felt hurt by me. Today I came home and called my sister whom I have not spoken to in three years and asked forgiveness. I did as my Lord wanted me to do today and you know what, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”
We come today to James 5, where we’ll hear a stinging indictment upon unrighteous rich people. Pastor James has been preaching in the first four chapters but now he assumes the role of prophet. As one commentator puts it, “James’ words are, to be blunt, blunt.”
Listen as I read James 5:1-6: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.”
It’s easy to think this passage doesn’t apply to the majority of us. After all, most of us don’t think of ourselves as wealthy, especially compared to Bill Gates. But rich is a relative term, isn’t it? According to Gallup, one third of the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day. Compared to them, most all of us all rich. In ancient Israel, there were some really rich people at the top and a whole lot of poor people at the bottom. Those with money often mistreated those who lived on the margins.
Here’s a one-sentence summary of the sermon today: How I steward my wealth reveals my spiritual health.
Have you heard the phrase, “money talks”? I’m reminded of something a comedian said, “If money talks, all it ever says to me is good-bye!”
If money could talk this is what it would say.
1. Money can lead to misery. We see this in verse 1: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.” The phrase, “come now” also appears in James 4:13 and is a call to “listen up and pay attention.”
Some think when James writes to the rich he is referring to non-Christians. That may be the case but there’s certainly application for each of us. He calls them to “weep,” which means, “to burst into tears with wailing and lament.” The word “howl” is an onomatopoetic term like “splash” or “grumble.” The Greek is “o-lo-luzo” meaning, “to shriek and cry aloud.” The Greek literally reads, “Burst into weeping and howl with grief” because they were about to be thrown into the dumpster, or worse.
I wonder if James was thinking of Isaiah 13:6: “Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come!” We came across a similar idea in James 1:11: “So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.” Proverbs 11:28 says, “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall.”