Summary: This life gives us a temporary opportunity to trade our old life for a new one in Christ - all because He traded places with us by dying on the cross.
James 1:9-11 9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.
Intro: James writes about the rich and the poor in today’s reading, but it is important to remember that James is writing primarily to Jews who are facing some very serious trials and tests. He tells them to consider it pure joy when they face different kinds of trials because they are learning to trust God and become complete in Him. Some of their trials may have included social persecution for their faith, or possibly living on the short end of favoritism from some of the people in their own church family. So James writes to encourage the poor and to correct wrong attitudes about those who overlook or mistreat them.
-Jesus had a lot to say about poverty and riches. 16 of His parables dealt with money/possessions. 1 out of every 10 verses in the gospels (288) deals directly with money. The Bible has 500 verses on prayer, fewer than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2000 that deal with money/possessions. So the way we use whatever wealth we have is pretty important to God. Even a poor man can be greedy.
-George Barna conducted a survey that showed 50% of Christians consider money to the primary indicator of success. 19% of Christians believe you can tell how successful a person is by examining what they own. It is difficult to avoid being products of our culture. However, the Bible offers us guidance and answers to how we should view wealth and poverty. Some of the richest people on this earth have nothing to show for themselves financially! Some of the most impoverished souls are those who have exchanged what really mattered for what amounts to a temporary permit.
-Maybe you heard about the man who loved his money so much that just before he died, he told his wife, “When I die, I want you to put all my money in the casket with me. I want to take it into the afterlife with me.” She promised him that she would.
At his funeral, just before the undertakers closed the casket, his wife put a box in the casket. The casket was closed and rolled away.
The wife’s friend said, “I know you didn’t put all that money in there with that man. You weren’t foolish enough to do that.”
The wife said, “I promised him I would put the money in the casket.”
“You mean to tell me you put that money in the casket with him?” her friend asked.
“Yes,” she said, “I wrote him a check.”
-Benjamin Franklin once wrote, "Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature that creates happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and triples that want another way."
-John D. Rockefeller Jr. wrote "The poorest man I know is the man who has nothing but money".
-It is unfair to say that all rich people are selfish and bent on evil. Consider such Godly men as Abraham, Job, King David, Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea. However, it would be fair to say that throughout history, oppression and cruelty have generally slithered down the social ladder more frequently than up. With wealth comes power, influence, and leadership. The poor may revolt but are often overpowered and outnumbered. It seems like the haves usually win over the have-nots.
-Back in the early 80’s a movie came out called Trading Places. Two snobby rich brothers make a bet centered around the question of whether breeding or opportunity plays the greater role in success. They effectively swap the life situation of a successful business manager with a street hustler. The business manager loses everything and his life becomes pitiful and filled with despair. The street hustler becomes successful but overhears the brothers talking about the bet and then works with the former business manager to bring the brothers down.
-Well, the idea of trading places was entrenched in both Jewish and early Christian tradition. However, the reversal of fortunes was not expected in this lifetime, but at the end of time. The poor would enter into eternal joy and the rich would pass away like a wilting flower beneath the scorching Middle Eastern sun. Here is the main thought I hope to get across today: