James 5:1-20 (Pastor Brian)
Warning to Rich Oppressors
1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your 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. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.
Patience in Suffering
7 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! 10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. 12 Above all, my brothers, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.
Last time, James gave warnings, and here again, more warnings – straight from the heart – no “beating around the bush” – no room for any excuses.
We must not be partial, must not withhold love from others. Our outer conflicts come from our inner conflicts – wars, fights, murders, adultery, proceed from our own hearts.
These conflicts come from an unsurrendered heart.
Also, don’t forget the “sin of presumption” saying, “Oh, of course we can go and do this or that because I PRESUME that everything will go smoothly and the Lord will bless it.” We must rather pray, “if the Lord wills…” because the Lord guides a man’s way.
James 5 – scolding the rich.
James 4 – “you kill” (metaphorically) – he’s writing to Christians abroad – this is what he sees in their hearts. It’s the spirit of murder in a person when in hostility toward another person. “If you harbor hatred in your heart, you harbor murder – without repentance, it may one day manifest into murder.” James here is warning the Christians against this kind of spirit.
James 5 – covetousness and speaking to the rich. Sounds like he has some real anger issues against the rich. Why?
Should we be embittered against the rich?
Not necessarily, there’s nothing inherently evil about money – it’s just a THING. “The (LOVE OF) money is the root of all evil.”
We must own the money, not allow the money to own us. We should use money and love people but most of us use people and love money…
James is writing here to rich people in general – later he will speak to the “brethren.”
These are practical and prophetic sayings to the rich Christians. This was written before the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus in 70 AD. At that time, there were no rich Jews remaining. Everything they had stowed up for themselves was gone.
Lesson: Stockpiling money isn’t God’s will for your life.
It is good to have savings, but not to just stockpile and do nothing with it.
Story of a man in Oregon – rode around on a bike, looked like a beggar, picked up cans and took them to the stores to get bottles. When he died, it was found that he had $10,000,000 and he’d never used it. He even got free meals from the town in which he lived at the soup kitchen.
That money did NO good for anyone, even himself until after he died.
Bible “The wealth of the wicked is stored up for … the righteous?”
Wealth is often used as leverage to gain more wealth. Millionaires may hire people at minimum wage and not actually pay them.
Microsoft for example, for 9 years, hired “perma-temps” which were “permanent full-time employees” who were classified as “part-timers” – so they worked the same as the full-timers with NONE of the benefits…
Eventually, they sued Microsoft, and MS needed to pay.
Ever encountered that? Employ them as full-time, but give the pay/benefits of part-time.
Leviticus : “The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you until morning.”
The men needed their wages – they needed to LIVE.
This wealth was not only used as leverage, but also as power?
Rich criminals sometimes get off completely free, but the poor get blamed. Truth? Not necessarily. The best Lawyers = “truth” and freedom for many.
Thank God there will someday be JUSTICE.
Leviticus: “You shall show impartial justice – don’t be partial to the poor, don’t defer to the rich.”
Illustration from Billy Graham:
A group of the world’s most successful financiers met in a hotel in Chicago? in 1920s. CEOs, Presidents of companies, Presidents of banks, heads of monopolies, etc.
Collectively, these men controlled more wealth than in the entire US Treasury.
For years, newspapers had been singing their praises and encouraging the youth of the US to follow suit.
But 25 years later, many died BROKE – on borrowed money, convicted felons, and committed suicide (3 of them).
They’d made money their god, and when their god fell, they fell.
When they lost their money, they lost their gods, they lost their souls, they lost their lives.
Their end was shocking.
We all have a little bit of envy of those who are better off than us – not even just celebrities – next-door neighbors…
Asaph in the OT, who wrote the Psalms wrote:
2-3 “As for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped, for I was envious as … I saw the prosperity of the wicked…
“They are not plagued like other men…
“Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence…
“For I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning. I may have become a stumbling block to others if I spoke thus.
“But then, I saw their end… destruction. Destroyed in a moment, utterly swept away by sudden terrors…
It’s easy to look as someone TODAY and be envious, but if we consider their TOMORROW, we’d be better to be patient waiting for the day of the Lord.
- Do you invest in the world’s system?
- Or do you invest in the Kingdom of Heaven?
2 Peter “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief when the world and its works will be burned up…”
The hope that the rich are holding onto will be destroyed – they will be without power, without prestige, without friends, without a checkbook.
But for those who have been trusting in the Lord, will find themselves to be very rich – eternal peace, life, love, joy.
Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you or persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you on account of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven will be great. For this is how they persecuted the prophets as well.”
What about those who are wealthy?
If they are good STEWARDS of the wealth that GOD has given to them, they will be well off.
Luke “Make yourselves purses which do not wear out – treasures in heaven – where moths do not destroy. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
- “Yes, trust the Lord, have enough, provide for your family, and have enough to bless others as well.”
- “If he can get it through you, he can get it TO you. But why would he give it to you if it stopped at you?”
The world revolves around money, but we don’t have to.
Be PATIENT – like the farmer who works hard NOW for the crop and the promise that is to come. Wait for the heavenly reward that is not subject to corruption and destruction.
Let’s meditate on this Word and pray.
The Prayer of Faith
13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. 19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.