Life Lessons from Hard Times – Studies in James
Yea. Right. The danger of Wealth. Bring it on! We are some blend of cynical, cavalier and greedy when it comes to wealth. Some current spokesmen have looked beyond this cultural and western world phenomenon, but the general pattern of we, as American,s earning all we can and living beyond our means is painfully with us at present. I can’t tell you how many people I have met, for example, that have over $100,000 in credit card debt, unpaid! Unreal.
James addresses this danger straight on, without hesitation, understanding the warnings of Jesus: No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot service both God and money. Matthew 6:24.
James 5:1-3 1Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.
- Wealth always provides false security. Few things are more misunderstood than that wealth provides no security. Certainly having money to pay your monthly bills provides a continuity and lifestyle that we all appreciate. But not only does it not ensure business success (see chapter 4) or extension of life, it cannot stop the miseries and vicissitudes (a change of circumstances or fortune, usually not welcome) of life, it guarantees a special kind of misery. In other words, it sets up the wealthy person to misunderstand God and life circumstances, such that misery rather than success is guaranteed! The point is that human wealth is transient. James speaks here as a prophet, telling the wealthy they should be repentant and in tears, not arrogant and self-sufficient.
- Wealth is always short-lived. Didn’t the events of this last month demonstrate that? How quickly can fires and economic reversals show us that everything we own ends up owning us. These treasures and wealth that we chase are corrupt, temporary, and set us up for or will set us on fire. James here uses the analogy of fire and destruction to remind us that we are not invincible with wealth, quite the opposite. And it creates a life independent from God, to our own demise.
Each of us has our stories of the last month. Neighbors who left their homes rapidly, taking what they could grab or carry as to value or possessions, family members, and, of course, our precious family pets. But so much was either lost, or could be lost or almost was lost, showing how quickly the riches that we value are just stuff – they are with us for only a short time, and they have no long-term value or benefit to us.
So much for our personal lives. God gives us the grace to reorder our budgets and financial priorities. Next week we will take that into the realm of our workplaces, as employers and employees. More great direction from James coming! Stay well.
– John Moore