Summary: Wealth is only a problem if hording becomes a way of life

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The Truth about Rich People

James 5:1-6

Watching all the financial news this week, I heard names of wealthy people mentioned that I did not recognize. One of the people mentioned had thrown his support behind one of the hurting financial companies. The said that he was putting up “9 billion dollars” of his own money for them to invest. Can any one her tell me in a way that I can understand how much 9 Billion dollars is?

Not that I plan to purchase one, I decided to look up that a 2009 Mercedes – Benz E – class cost $52900. So I divided that into 9 billion and it equaled – 170 – Thousand 132 cars. I don’t know where I could park that many cars so I need something else to help me understand something that big.

I looked for ideas on the Internet. I found a site that tried to explain how much a billion is.

First, a billion is 1000 Million that is a 1 with 9 zeros after it.

A billion seconds ago it was 1959.

A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.

A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate Washington spends it.

That last one stings a little. The world’s richest man, Warren Buffett, the 9 Billion dollar investor, has a net worth of 62 Billion dollars. (His wealth could run the Federal Government for 20 days.)

Today’s scripture does not seem to be directly addressing believers. It mentions rich people and there could be some Christians that were on the wealthy side back then.

James says, “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.”

I sort of like the way that starts out. James is warning the rich to watch out. He does not call for repentance he just tells them to weep and wail because misery is coming.

Since I am obviously not rich, I can’t invest enough money to impress anyone or stabilize the economy. My yearly income won’t even run the Government for even a 10th of a second.

I will guess that most of us are in the same boat. We can safely assume that James is talking to someone else. So, we can sit back and try to hide that little …you tell-em James smile that comes to our faces as James tells them that those rich people are going to get it. They’ll be sorry when judgment comes!

Maybe that is James’ intent, to encourage the people that were not rich and probably really poor and oppressed and abused by rich people.

- James continues by talking about three mainstays of wealth in the ancient culture; commodities like Grain and Animals, clothing and precious metals.

There are lots of wealthy people in scripture that God approves of and even blesses; Job, Abraham, and David are three quick examples. So, if being wealthy is not the problem, then what is?

He writes, “Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.”

He does not flatly state that being rich is bad. I can live with that.

It is not having the riches themselves that is the problem. He is saying that the things that make a person wealthy have a limited shelf-life.

They go bad, spoil and decay. Grain and meat rot, clothes get eaten up by moths and gold and silver corrode or in other translations rust.

It is not having the wealth that is a problem; it is the spoiling of the resources that God does not like.

- Years ago I had an old pickup truck that I used to haul trash and to move larger items. It seemed like the longer I let the truck go unused the faster it rusted and the harder it was to start. But the more I used it the better it ran.

- I found a similar thing with older clothes. The longer I leave them in my closet the smaller they seem to get. They shrink up when I don’t wear them.

Having wealth is not a problem…the problem is not putting wealth to proper use.

James gets more specific about the problem for the rich. He says, “You have hoarded wealth in the last days.”

Hoard – to accumulate, to gather, to keep private. The rich are oblivious to the coming judgment. They don’t know how short their time really is. And yet they store up the materials of wealth as if they would live forever.

James says that the rich are keeping everything for private use and ultimately wasting what they have. Foods are wasted when there are hungry people living not too far away. Clothes are destroyed when winter is just around the corner.

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