Summary: The tenth in a series walking through the book of James. This message contrasts the temporary nature of worldly wealth, with the eternal hope found in the coming day of the Lord. It is intended to provide hope for those in financial struggles needing to
There is no doubt that James is a book of tough teaching. In fact, I can just imagine there were probably recipients of this letter that were going through some really hard times. Maybe they had endured some persecution. We know that many of them were suffering financially. Life was not easy. And for a brief moment, upon receiving the letter, they may have thought, ¡§Man, this is just the pick-up I needed, right when I needed it.¡¨ Then they started to read.
As they read, some of their elation may have turned to frustration. ¡§Doesn¡¦t he know what we are going through? What is he doing beating us up like this? Talking so harshly to us. Acting like this whole Christian thing is so easy when it is so radical. Can¡¦t he just encourage us a bit?¡¨
I know there are probably people that feel that way on given Sunday mornings. You have had a hard week. Things are not falling in place financially. Relationally, everyone seems to be at odds with you. And you come to church looking for a pick-me-up only to feel like the teaching is hard, and the screws are tightening down harder, and harder.
But all is not gloom. All is not hopeless. Despite how difficult, arduous, and frustrating the battle may seem. . .there is always that hope of that magic day. . .that is only a day away.
(Play video clip from "Annie" showing her signing "Tomorrow")
Annie is the eternal optimist. Her reoccurring promise is that, ¡§The sun will come out tomorrow.¡¨ And while real life is not always as promising as little orphan Annie viewed it, there are times when we just need to take a step back, see the bigger picture, and be reminded that the Son will come out tomorrow, and the future is full of eternal hope.
So we come to James chapter 5, and it is at this point in the letter that James seems to set aside his pastoral robe, and puts on the mantle of a prophet. We will see in a moment that he starts with a harsh rebuke to those who misuse their wealth and the power associated with riches, and then will transition and wrap up this section with the promise of the coming of the Lord.
Remember, being financially well off is probably not the category that most of James readers fall into. In fact, from the perspective of most of his readers, James is talking about those people out there. Those rich elite who are mistreating and manipulating these young believers. Those financial rulers who know who they are, and as a prophet James wants to make sure his readers know, they are going to get theirs. James chapter 5, verse 1 (read through verse 6).
Throughout this letter, James has addressed this issue of money. This reality of the lure, the lust, the desire for financial gain that existed in the world back then, and exists in the world today. Look back with me to chapter one. James 1:9 (read through verse 11).
Remember that passage? James talked about the temporary nature of money. How even the lowly, the poor brother should be able to rejoice in his financial state because the riches of the world are all temporary anyway. In contrast, the lowly believers reward, an eternal reward, will last forever.
Look to chapter 2 (read through verse 8). Remember those verses? James talked about the issue of partiality and favoritism, and gave the ever common example of how we treat those who appear better, who have more, who seem more financially well off, better. And he talked about how that is contrary to the law of God.
Chapter 4 (read through verse 3). James says, ¡§God knows our hearts. He knows that we are motivated by the almighty dollar. He knows we often ask for things for reasons that are not in line with His plan for us, His purpose for us. So we don¡¦t get them.¡¨ James says that this unquenchable desire for things, for financial gain leads to lust, and coveting, and even murder.
Throughout this letter we see this underlying theme of money, and whether we will control it or it will control us. And one more time James wants to make it clear what can happen to those that are rich. To those who have gained wealth, and become consumed with it. It is really a very grotesque and gruesome picture that he describes. First he says. . .
A. RICHES WILL DEVOUR YOU PHYSICALLY
Back in Chapter 5 (read verses 1-3). Look closely at those descriptions. He isn¡¦t saying that this is what will happen. He is describing a present tense state. He says your riches ¡§are¡¨ corrupted. Your garments ¡§are moth-eaten¡¨. Your gold and silver ¡§are¡¨ corroded. Not will be, but currently are.