“We are not rich.” Would you say that statement applies to your family? I would and I am willing to place a hefty bet that you would too. (And if I am right and won the bet, that means I just got a little richer! 😉 ) No matter our living conditions, financial stability, the # of vacations we take or the kind of cars we drive, no one EVER seems to consider themselves “rich.” There is a haughty, negative connotation that goes with that word, isn’t there? So to admit that you are rich seems conceded and prideful. And when we compare ourselves to others, there is always someone we can point to that has more money, a nicer car, a bigger house, etc. America is full of “not rich people.” HA!
Why do I bring this up? Because God does.
In fact, in the book of James, we read one of the harshest accusations and warnings in all of the New Testament!
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.James 5:1-6
Now, you are very likely thinking, “Those Bible verses don’t apply to me! I just told you I am not rich!” That was my initial reaction too.
Read on, friend…
We know all good things come from God and we are told in the Bible that a worker is due his wages. So what is wrong with enjoying the monetary blessings God has given us? Most of us recognize that we are extremely blessed simply to be Americans and have the freedoms that go along with that. My husband works hard to make a living. I work hard to maintain a budget that meets the needs of our family of 7 without excessive waste. We are good stewards with what He has given us.
Besides being grateful for and responsible with our money…my family tithes, we sponsor a child through Compassion International, we make a monthly contribution to CHOICES Life Resource Center. Nevermind the money that we give to friends going on mission trips, donations to food banks and other organizations during the holidays…blah, blah, blah. I could go on, but to what end? So that I could make it sound like our family of 7 lives in a state of constant sacrifice for the benefit of others?! Because that would be very misleading. We don’t!
Can you relate?
So now you are thinking, “Ok, maybe I am rich compared to others, BUT I don’t live in luxury and self-indulgence. I have never committed fraud towards anyone and certainly haven’t murdered anyone! Those Bible verses STILL don’t apply to me!”
Yup, you may be pretty sure James isn’t talking to you. I didn’t think he was talking to me either. BUT I have to ask…
Do you give, but not to the point of going without yourself?
Do care, but not to the point of actually getting involved to cause real change?
Does the suffering of others matter, but not to the point you are willing to give up your own comfort for the comfort of another?
U-G-H!! Don’t you just hate conviction?
So what does that mean? Do I have to sell all my possessions and give them to the poor? Do I have to move to a Third World country and starve along with those who are starving? Am I not a “good enough Christian” if I have money and cars and clothes?!
The verse that comes directly before these extremely harsh words is this…
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.James 4:17
In the orginal manuscripts, there were no chapter separations. So this last verse of ch 4 is really a precursor to what James is getting at here in ch 5!
It is not about the exact amount you drop in the offering plate on Sunday. It is not about how many charities you support with time and money. It is not about how many mission trips you have been on. It is not about comparing ourselves to what others have or don’t have. It’s not wrong to enjoy God’s blessings. This is not about legalism!
IT IS ALL ABOUT YOUR HEART!
Has God called you to do something and you have ignored Him? Maybe He has asked you to give monetarily, give of your time, or give of your possessions. And maybe you have given, but only out of your abundance. Or maybe He is asking you to share your “other riches.” Does He want you to disciple a new Christian? Be a part of an organization/group that may create a lot more stress in your life in an effort to evangelize? Perhaps, right now, He just wants you to give up a bad habit that you love more than Him so that you are more available to serve in His kingdom!
James is writing to Christians that “follow the rules” well. They appear to be good people who love Jesus and follow His commands, yet are still missing the mark in a very BIG way. They aren’t really following Him with their hearts.
He is writing to YOU & ME.
Perhaps we are not as rich as our neighbors. Perhaps we are not committing fraud. I am going to go out on a limb here and just assume you haven’t murdered anyone! (But then again, Jesus equates murder to anger, so perhaps we both are a little more guilty of this than we care to admit.)
But James tells us that are 2 kinds of faith:
Living Faith that DOES good works for the glory of God.
Dead Faith that believes, yet DOES NOT act!
(“For even the demons believe – and they shudder.” vs 19b)
What kind of faith do you have? Ask God to answer that question for you and be ready to act on whatever He reveals.
(For a peek at just how RICH you are, check out this documentary. Living on One Dollar a Day – I am not affiliated with Vimeo and your choice to watch this documentary does not benefit me financially. 🙂 ).