Step Towards Transformation
So far, we have examined
Today James is going to tell us –How To Be Wise With Our Wealth.
Many people wrongly believe that the Bible teaches that it’s wrong to be wealthy. They think that the Bible says: “Money is the root of all evil” But the Bible does not teach this. What the Bible says is:1 Tim 6:10 (NASV).. “The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.”
God is not opposed to wealth. In fact, many people in the Bible were extremely wealthy.
It is not wealth that is evil. Money is a necessity for living; but the love of money, being money focused, is the root of all evil. “The love of money”. You see that is where the real problem arises. It is the misuse of money – the love of money – that causes all kinds of problems.
God is concerned about our attitudes on money and God is watchful with what we do with money! Did you realize that Jesus had more to say about money than any topic other than the Kingdom of God?
So why did Jesus focus so much on money and possessions? because Jesus wants us to be wealthy and financially prosperous. Both James and Jesus devote so much attention to financial issues because the way we handle our finances is a spiritual issue. The way I acquire and use wealth is a good measure of my spiritual health.
James lashes out at the wrong use of money by the wealthy. Clearly James hasn’t written his letter to rich people… So who are these “rich people” who should “weep and wail” because of the misery coming. James identifies these people with 3 characteristics…first:
He gives a rebuke – probably one of the most negative passages in the Bible against the misuse of money. He looks at three specific areas we need to be aware of when it comes to money. James gives his listeners a healthy warning of how they should handle their wealth. In other words – How to be Wise with Money.
Let’s look how God wants us to handle our money in three areas:
The way we get our money is as important as the money we receive. The first question I want to ask you today is – Where does your money come from? Do you get it by honest means? Look at what James is telling his readers – about the dishonest way they have accumulated their wealth:
James 5:4 (GN).. “You have not paid any wages to those who work in your fields. Listen to their complaints! The cries of those who gather in your crops have reached the ears of God, the Lord Almighty.”
God is very serious about how you get your money. Don’t fill your pockets by cheating people out of what you owe them. Don’t be dishonest with people. Don’t rip them off. When you get a bill in the mail – pay it. When you owe someone something – pay what is due.
Employees – treat your employers fairly also. Give an honest days work for an honest days pay. If you sell used cars – do it with honesty. If you’re get paid by the hour – don’t sit around wasting time. How you get your money – matters.
There are a lot of ways that we can “steal” from others and benefit financially without putting a gun to someone’s head. Let me share just a few:
Psalm 37:21 ESV..The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; • Stealing time from your employer.
If you work for an employer who is paying you to work for them and you use that time to engage in personal activities during work hours without making up that time, you are stealing from your employer and acquiring wealth by robbing others.
This could include everything from taking home office supplies to using your employer’s internet connection to conduct personal business without permission.
Although they aren’t addressed directly in this passage, let me briefly mention two more principles that we find throughout the Scriptures that ought to guide how we acquire wealth.
Proverbs 13:4 ESV ….The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
Proverbs 14:23 (GW) says:“In hard work there is always something gained, but idle talk leads only to poverty.”
The idea that we are to work hard leads directly to the third and final principle:
Proverbs 13:11 ESV …Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
Before we go on, I want to encourage all of us to take just a moment to think about how we acquire wealth. Am I doing that through hard work, or am I benefitting by robbing others or am I trying to accumulate wealth through some kind of “get rich” scheme? If God brings something to mind, take some time to address those issues later.
“To gain wealth at the pain and sacrifice of another human being is sin” whether you cheat your server at a restaurant or treat people as slaves.
James next shows us that there is a wrong reason to save up money. Let’s look at verse three:
James 5:3 (NKJV) ….“You have heaped up treasure in the last days.”
He is saying don’t stockpile your money just so you can have more of it – in other words – don’t hoard it. Hoarding is ‘the excessive acquisition of possessions (and failure to use or discard them)’,
A more simplistic definition of hoarding is:
In essence James is saying, “You’re hoarded your wealth for your own pleasures in the last days. But who knows when the last days are? You put your faith in money rather than in God.” God says that money is not to be stockpiled just for the sake of stockpiling money. God wants His money to circulate. What James is referring to here is the desire to get more money – just for the sake of having more money. That is not God’s plan of how you should save your money. You need to save your money so that it can be used for God’s Kingdom.
Let me say right up front God is not opposed to saving money. In fact look at what Jesus said:Luke 14:28 …”Suppose you want to build a tower. You would first sit down and figure out what it costs. Then you would see if you have enough money to finish it.”
Jesus was talking about having enough resources in hand – to finish the project that you started. You see God encourages saving – there IS a legitimate place for saving. But if you are saving money – just to have more money – that is wrong.
Illustration: A very wealthy man was once asked, “How much money is enough?” His answer was, “More than I have.” Saving money just to have more money is a vicious cycle? It never ends!
Saving money for unexpected expenses is wise and prudent. Occasionally a major appliance will break down. Saving money for a future, major expense is much better than borrowing the money when the time comes. The Bible does not discourage saving, or investing; but it does condemn hoarding.
Illustration: Once in a while you will read in the newspaper about an elderly person who has died. They seemed to live a very simple lifestyle – but in their house they will find money hidden away. They were hording the money. Why? Because they were afraid of loosing it. They wanted to feel safe and secure – and they thought the more money that they had would make them feel more secure. They died living a life of poverty – with all their riches hidden. Getting more money just so you can have more money is senseless.
Hoarding is not saving, there is a difference. I know someone who will buy 10 items of something when they only need 1 because they are on sale. Do you know anyone like that? We call that planning ahead, James calls that hoarding. Having more than you really need.
God does not want us to get wealth – just for the sake of getting wealth. He wants us to put our wealth into circulation – for His kingdom. Don’t hoard it!
Here is a question, does hoarding show a lack of faith in God? When we hoard, we are saying, we don’t trust you enough God, I need to make sure I have everything I need.
Illustration: In the book of Exodus, when the nation of Israel was wandering through the wilderness, God said he would send food from heaven every morning. They were to take what they needed for a day. Some took more than they needed for a day because they were unsure if God would send food the next day. After one day though, the food was rotten and filled with maggots. Don’t hoard, don’t have more than you need.
James also says that riches will corrode.
Illustration: A Narration By Brian Bill…..When I was about 12 years old I was contacted by our pastor to see if I would be interested in cleaning out the house of a woman who had passed away. I eagerly agreed, thinking that this would be an easy way to make some money. I wasn’t prepared for what I found. The entire house was filled with so much stuff that it was almost impossible to get the front door open. Amid stacks of newspapers there were filthy clothes and boxes of brand new items stacked almost to the ceiling. The only way to get around was to follow a narrow path on top of the newspapers that meandered to the kitchen and the bedroom. The kitchen was jammed with dirty dishes and food. The smell was horrible. But I was motivated to do what I could to help. My memory is that we started in the living room, using shovels to scoop everything up and then we’d go outside and throw it all in a huge dumpster. After we had filled one dumpster and it was hauled away, we found a bunch of un-cashed checks and expensive jewellery that was covered with dust. We realized too late that we had already thrown away many checks and valuables.
When I called my mom this week to make sure my memory was accurate, she told me that this woman who hoarded her possessions was extremely wealthy as she was the widow of a bank president. I’ll never forget this visual lesson about how worldly wealth can rot, get mouldy and corrode…and then be thrown into a dumpster when we’re gone.
James 5:2-3 (NKJV) …“Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire.”
James is telling them – what you accumulate will deteriorate. 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.
That gold and silver will corrode. Which we know that gold and silver do not corrode, but James wants to show how long riches actually last. Last week we talked about planning ahead and how we can make plans for the future if we don’t know what lays ahead tomorrow. It is the same question here, how can you hoard and load up on stuff, when you have no idea what is coming. How long our stuff will last.
Illustration: We just recently cleaned out the cupboards and reorganized what we had. Do you know how many things I found that I had that I did not know I had? Do you know how many things had to be thrown out just because they were old and rotted and had gone to waste? Our kitchens suffer from a similar fate. We just accumulate and accumulate to the point that we do not even know what we have any more. We have so much stuff that we lose it. We have so many possessions that we forget we have them.
Illustration: Her 25,000 square home alone is valued at more than `100 crores. And let’s not even talk about her kilos of gold and diamond jewellery, her over 10,000 silk sarees and 750 pairs of sandals. And this is a small part of the laundry list. Amma, was clearly a hoarder. Well… where is the hoard? Who gets it?
Giving is the opposite of hoarding. When you tithe the first 10% of your income you’re saying, “God I trust you first…Here’s the first priority in my life. I will not give you the leftovers…or a tip…
Are you hoarding money & possessions? Are money and possessions more important to you than things of the Lord? Are you going to die with a whole bunch of money & possessions that have been doing no one any good for years & years?
III. The Way We SPEND Our Money
The way we spend our money is very important. James tells his readers that they are spending their money wrong:
James 5:5(NKJV) ….“You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.”
We are not to waste our wealth. We are not to be – overly self indulgent. The more money you make the easier it is to waste it. We tend to say, “I deserve it. I’m worth it – I might as well enjoy myself.” Just because you can afford something – does not mean you should buy it. The Bible tells us not to waste our money.
Christmas, one of the most important religious holidays of the Christian calendar, has turned into the consumer event of the year for most businesses. There are millions of ways to spend and squander your money on yourself. But is that pleasing to God?
The Bible tells us that we are to spend our money wisely. We are to plan how we spend our money. Look at what it says in Proverbs:
Proverbs 21:5(NKJV) …“The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.”
How do you spell “PLAN”? B – U – D – G – E – T Have a budget. What is a budget? It is planned spending. It is telling your money where to go and when. A wise man – plans how to use his money. Proverbs tells us: Proverbs 23:4-5 (MSG) …“Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich; restrain yourself! Riches disappear in the blink of an eye; wealth sprouts wings and flies off into the wild blue yonder.”
This is a very true statement unless you plan – unless you budget. Do you remember the scripture we read earlier from Luke – let’s read it again: Luke 14:28 …”Suppose you want to build a tower. You would first sit down and figure out what it costs. Then you would see if you have enough money to finish it.” This is planned spending.
The Bible clearly teaches that God is concerned with how we get our money, how we save our money and how we spend our money. God is concerned with every aspect of our lives – and that includes our finances.
Conclusion: Now what are you going to do about these warnings of the Word of God? Are you going to give heed to them, and live accordingly? Or are you going to ignore these warnings, and walk out no different from how you came?
Illustration: In Georgia there is a well-known tourist attraction called “Stone Mountain.” It is literally a large, rounded mountain of stone that can be seen from miles around. They have a cable car that takes you to the top of the mountain, and you can walk around on top. But there is a fence all around the top. Now the fence is not at what would seem to be the very edge. Without the fence, you might think that you can go much closer to the edge because of the gradual slope. But the fence is there where it is because many in that past have underestimated the danger, and have slipped on the rock, and once you slip, you can keep sliding until you fall to your death. Friend, God gives warnings and limits to protect you. Don’t underestimate the danger of sin. If you try to see how close to sin you can get without getting hurt, you are going to find that you will slip, and start sliding beyond where you want to go.
In v.1 James calls upon rich sinners to weep & howl. James tells the rich sinners that they better get ready to weep and wail, not because they had money but because they hoarded it and took advantage of those who had less. Wealth is not the problem; the misuse of it is. “Burst into weeping and howl with grief” because they were about to be thrown into the dumpster, or worse. Sorrow over sin and the prospect of judgment should lead to repentance. James is forcefully making the point that wealth is temporary and that judgment and eternity are ahead.
In v.3 When James says, “You have hoarded your wealth in the last days” he is echoing the parable of Jesus in Luke 12
Luke 12:15-21 ..15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” 16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
Hoarding is that attitude that stores up things for ourselves, but is not rich toward God. James gets more specific about the problem for the rich. He says, “You have hoarded wealth in the last days.”
Greed is the logical result of the belief that there is no life after death. We grab what we can while we can however we can and then hold on to it hard. To be rich without God is to be short-sighted in light of eternity.
Illustration: A businessman once had an angel visit him, promising to grant one request. The man asked for a copy of the stock market page one year in the future. As he was studying the numbers on the future exchange and gloating over how much he would make because of his knowledge of the future, his eye glanced across the page. His picture was in the obituary column. Suddenly his new wealth faded into insignificance in light of his own death.
The rich are unaware 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.
You have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter—v.5
Illustration: Russian author Leo Tolstoy once wrote a story about a successful peasant farmer, Who was not satisfied with his lot. He wanted more of everything. One day he received a unusual offer. For 1000 rubles, he could buy all the land he could walk around in a day. The only catch in the deal was that he had to be back at his starting point by sundown.
So early the next morning he started out walking at a fast pace. By midday he was very tired, but he kept going, covering more and more ground. Well into the afternoon, The man realized that his greed had taken him far from the starting point. So he quickened his pace and as the sun began to sink low in the sky. Then he began to run, Knowing that if he did not make it back by sundown, Then the opportunity to become an even bigger landholder would be lost. As the sun began to sink below the horizon he came within sight of the finish line. Gasping for breath, his heart pounding, He drew upon every bit of strength left in his body; And he staggered across the line just before the sun disappeared. He immediately collapsed, blood streaming from his mouth. And in a few minutes he was dead.
Shortly afterwards, the man’s servants dug a grave. It was not much over six feet long and three feet wide.
Greed so often motivates wrong motives and wrong behaviour.
The selfish rich mistakenly think that they are relieving themselves and their families from hardships through their wealth and possessions. But James says that they are storing up misery and hardship for the final judgment! The very thing that they trust in for comfort now will result in their final ruin- A day of destruction—This is just adding more & more condemnation for the coming day of judgment.
Romans 2:5-6 ..5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring[storing] up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”
You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you—v.6
James reminds us in verse 6: Some people may live in luxury on earth; They make their money by exploiting people; And they seem to experience no guilt and no consequences for their actions.
The selfish-rich do not like to hear, “Give to the poor and needy to meet their needs”. Therefore, the selfish rich reject & condemn the righteous and yet the poor commit themselves to God who will judge.
1Peter 2:23—who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously
What is James telling us this evening?
Place God at the centre of your life. Make Him Lord of your life. Ask Him to be the centre of all that you do – to include your finances.