The Wretchedness of the Rich

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

James 5:1-6 | May 16 - Sunday Evening,

Sunday Evening,
May 16
The Wretchedness of the Rich | James 5:1-6
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor
View Series: James Download Audio Printable Transcript

Father in heaven, we come, not simply because we usually do so at the beginning of a sermon, but because we need Your help, for to hear Your Word we’re prone to wander. Lord, we feel it. I need Your help if I’m to speak with the power of Your Spirit, and to do so humbly and carefully and helpfully, winsomely. So we pray, Father, that You would send Your Spirit upon us, both to the preacher, to the listener, that we may be changed, and built up in Your Word, that we would not be hearers only but doers also. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Just over a month ago on April 14 you may have caught this in the news. Bernie Madoff died. He actually died here in North Carolina, at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina. I meant to ask one of you natives if I’m saying that correctly, you can tell me. Butner sounds better than Butner to me. He died there at the age of 82. Madoff was in the first several years of a 150 year prison sentence for orchestrating the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. Over the course of four decades, if you remember the story, Madoff defrauded as many as 37,000 people in 136 countries. Like every Ponzi scheme, it works by sort of moving around the shells and you take money from this person and as long as you’re paying off this other person for years and years and years there were enough people who could testify that investing with Bernie Madoff gave them unbelievable return on their financial resources, and as long as people didn’t all call for the money at the same time, nobody knew that all of the receipts he was giving them, all of the supposed security exchanges, all of it was a gigantic lie.

Madoff’s crimes were simple in some ways. Simply took a massive amount of effort to cover it up. Take money from investors, he’d pretend to invest it in stocks and securities. He’d pay off the others in hopes that they never came at the same time. At the time of his arrest, he had as much as $60 billion invested in fake accounts.

This is from the AP at the time of his death: “Like many of his clients, Madoff and his wife enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. They had the Manhattan apartment. They also had an $11 million estate in Palm Beach, Florida. A $4 million home on the tip of Long Island. There was yet another home in the south of France. Private jets. A yacht. It all came crashing down in the winter of 2008 with the dramatic confession. In a meeting with his sons, he confided his business was ‘all just one big lie.’ After the meeting, a lawyer for the family contacted regulators who alerted the federal prosecutors and the FBI. Madoff was in a bathrobe when two FBI agents arrived at his door unannounced on a December morning. He invited them in, confessed after being asked, ‘If there’s an innocent explanation,’ Madoff responded, ‘There is no innocent explanation.'”

When we think of villains in popular culture, we often think of the rich, and of course when we do so, we think of other people, not us. We think of Ebenezer Scrooge, Cruella DeVille, to get all of those puppies. Or if you remember from about 10 years ago, if you had kids at the time and that new Muppets movie came out and the villain was Tex Richman, how evil, and he was a greedy Texas oilman.

These are caricatures obviously, but even in real life how often do we hear politicians railing against the one percent, or against the millionaires and billionaires, and if it’s found out that they’re millionaires then they just change it to billionaires. The rich are so often the bad guys. They oppress the poor. They cheat their way to the top. They live embarrassingly lavish lifestyles.

Here’s the uncomfortable part, though, for us. It’s also the way the Bible often talks about the rich. Some of the harshest warnings in the Bible, and certainly some of the harshest words in the book of James, are directed at the rich. And so we need to ask ourselves some hard questions and we need to ask some hard questions of the text and find out just what and who James is talking about. If you’re not there already, turn to James chapter 5, the first six verses.

We’re going to hear what James has to say and then try to understand it and apply it.

“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.”

Our outline is simple. Three questions of the text and then we’ll finish with three questions of us. Here’s the first question for the text: Who are the rich? Who does James have in mind?

Well, James does not simply mean a certain amount of money. He does not mean if you reach a certain level of income, if you have a house that is a certain amount of square feet, if you have X number of dollars in the bank, if you make X amount of money each year, then you’ve tripped over into this category called the rich and all of these horrible things are going to happen to you. It’s not that simple.

To be sure, there is a reason that the rich in Scripture are often synonymous with the wicked, and the poor are often synonymous with the righteous. The rich can be a shorthand for a powerful oppressor, and the poor can be shorthand in the Bible for the humble believer who trusts in God.

Part of the reason is that oftentimes in the ancient world, before we have this sort of economies that really we’ve had in the world only in the last 200 years or so, that if you were rich you tended to be rich at the expense of the poor. An income and wealth tended to be a zero-sum game. If you have a lot, it’s because they have a little. If you get more, it’s because they have less. They didn’t have the capability of creating wealth in the same way. When James says “you rich,” he has in mind, however, more than simply a certain dollar amount. He has in mind the wicked rich.

Now, you say, okay, I was sort of expecting you to say that, Pastor, but are you just saying that because you want James to say that? Because you don’t want south Charlotte to feel bad? Or you don’t want yourself to feel bad? Are you just making these things up so that we don’t feel too bad about this text?

No. And there are reasons we’ll get to at the end to consider where we have fallen afoul of this text. But there are reasons for thinking that James does not have in mind simply the rich as a matter of income alone.

Why do I say that? Two reasons. Look back at chapter 2. Who is the great example of faith in chapter 2:21? Was not Abraham, our father, and we have this complicated passage which we looked at weeks ago, justified by works, and we saw what he means by that. Verse 22, you see that faith was active along with his works, scripture was fulfilled. Verse 23, Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness and he was called a friend of God.

So there’s an example in this very book. Who was the great man of faith? The man who was so intimate he was called a friend of God? It’s Abraham. And if you’ve been here in the morning with Genesis, you know that Abraham was, by the standards of the say, fabulously wealthy. He had servants. He had a large retinue. He was given great wealth and possessions from Pharaoh, so he was just by income and material possessions, rich. So there’s one indication that James doesn’t have in mind simply a certain dollar amount.

And here’s the other example. Go to chapter 5, Lord willing, which we’ll come to next week, and look at verse 11: Behold, we consider those blessed who remain steadfast, you have heard of this steadfastness of Job.

So in chapter 2, the great man of faith is Abraham, and in chapter 5, the great man who’s the example of steadfastness in the face of suffering is Job. And Job was also, according to the standards of the time, unbelievably wealthy. And he, even after he loses everything in a test of faith, at the end of Job he is given even more. He loses family, but he’s given even more in terms of material possessions.

In other words, two of the richest men in the Old Testament, and probably the richest of all of God’s people prior to the monarchy, are given by James as godly examples; one of faith, one as steadfastness.

So we should not think that when he speaks to “you rich” in verse 1, he has in mind just an automatic dollar amount, as if it were that simple, as if you would just be counting up your assets and like you might do at the end of the year to try to lower your tax burden and start putting money in different places, start giving money to charitable organizations, that there’s just a dollar amount where suddenly you become the rich and you’re facing punishment, “Okay, God, how much? I gotta get a little bit under that and then I’ll be okay.” It’s not simply a matter of the money in your back account.

So who are the rich? Well, again, we pay attention to the whole book and we have clues. Go back to chapter 1. We see who James has in mind when he mentions the rich. The rich he has in mind are proud. Look at chapter 1, verse 9: “The lowly brother boasts in his exaltation, the rich in his humiliation.” So they’re trading places. The lowly brother, he’ll be exalted; the rich man should be humbled. So the poor [sic] are those who are proud. We saw in chapter 2 they expect special treatment, that when they come into the assembly they should be given special honors.

What else do we see? Look at chapter 2, verse 6 and 7. The rich are oppressors. We see in verse 6: “But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich,” so here’s who he has in mind, “the ones who oppress you and the ones who drag you into court.” And then look at verse 7, because this is important, “are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?”

So the rich that James has in mind are not a part of the covenant community. Not that these warnings don’t have anything to say for us as a part of the Church, we’ll come to that, they do, but when James says “the rich” he’s thinking of these oppressors, these people who drag the Christians into court, and verse 7, those who blaspheme the honorable name by which you are called. So in this particular instance, these were not believers. These were those outside of the covenant community.

So they’re proud. They’re oppressors. Outside the covenant community. And go to chapter 4. What Nathan preached on so well, verses 13 through 16: “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life?”

It’s no secret, it’s no coincidence, that on the heels of this warning at the end of chapter 4, James turns his attention to the rich in chapter 5, because they are the sort of self-assured ones who think, in verse 13, they’ll go and they’ll trade and they’ll make profit and life will be just as they planned it, everything will come up roses for them.

So who are the rich? They are the proud, they are the oppressors, they are outside of the community of faith in James’ mind, and they are the self-assured.

So that’s the first question. Who are the rich?

Second question of our text: What is coming upon the rich?

The picture here is bleak. It’s every bit as dramatic and hellish as the judgment we saw on Sodom and Gomorrah this morning. Isn’t a bit amazing how often over these months, it’s not at all my planning, that God seems to line up something in the morning sermon and something in the evening sermon that complement each other or reinforce one another? If nothing else, it’s a reminder why you should come to the evening service. But I know you’re already here, so I’m preaching to the proverbial choir.

But we saw this morning lest you think, well, judgment and fire and brimstone, that comes upon sexual sinners only. Well, here we see the same kind of fiery language coming upon the rich, the oppressors.

Look at verse 1, miseries are coming upon you. Verse 3, your flesh will be eaten like fire. Verse 5, your heart has been fattened for a day of slaughter.

That’s what’s coming: Miseries, fire, slaughter. In other words, your riches will not help you on the day of judgment. It will be of no use to you, how poor you are will certainly not keep you out. And how rich you are will do nothing to get you in. It’s just the fact of the world, and it always will be, for good or for evil, that riches help you get things. They help you buy things, they help open doors for you. They sometimes help other people who want to be around you.

I once heard a man quip that money can’t buy you happiness, but it can help you look for it in more interesting places. Yes, that’s the way of the world. That’s the way that money works. But when it comes to eternal dwellings, it is of no value. You cannot slip a check under the table. No one will pay attention to your bank account except insofar as it shows your heart’s devotion.

When I was putting together this opening illustration about Bernie Madoff, I googled “Bernie Madoff” and you know how Google fills in the blank and starts answering questions that they think you might have, and one that came up was, “How much is Bernie Madoff worth?” And I thought, not very much anymore. I didn’t think, his soul is of eternal value, but I thought he’s not a billionaire anymore. He was worth something on paper, but all of that wealth has not helped him, did not help him when he had to cross over from this life to the next. You cannot take it with you. It’s the old preacher joke that you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul.

Except one time a year ago a friend sent me a picture of actually a hearse pulling a U-Haul and said, “Sorry, preachers, your favorite illustration’s gone.”

It’s like that joke about the man who comes to the pearly gates and St. Peter meets him there and he’s lugging behind him a giant heavy sack and St. Peter says, “What’s in the bag?” and he opens it up and he says, “Well, this is all of my golden plates and golden bricks that I’ve accumulated,” and Peter says, “You brought pavement?” Think about it.

You can’t take it with you.

You see this language in James. Look at verse 2. Look at what happens to the riches. They rot. Their garments are eaten by month. There’s corrosion. He’s telling in vivid language it will not last. They laid up the wrong treasure. You see at the end of verse 3? You have laid up treasure in the last days.

There’s an explicit contrast, no doubt, with Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount: Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven. Send it ahead of you. Store up for yourself that which is truly going to last. He said, “Oh, you stored up treasure, but the treasure that you’ve stored up, your homes, your clothes, your cars, your second homes, that will not last.” All of it. It will rust, it will be dilapidated, it will fall into disrepair.

And even more than that, here the wealth of the wicked cry out against them. You see verse 3, their gold and their silver is evidence against them.

Verse 4, fraudulent wages cry out against them.

Verse 5, the cries of the harvesters are against them.

In other words, James says not only will all of the wealth that you accumulated be of no value in getting you into heaven, it actually is going to be a demerit to your account. Why? Because this wealth that you’ve accumulated you’ve done it by fraud and swindling.

And so when you want to stand before God an in a moment of vain glory say, “Well, but look at the house. Look at the yard. Look at the awards. Look at the car. Look at the wardrobe.” And for these rich, the Lord says, “And how did you get that rich? The cries of the poor are crying out against you. You have gotten fat on ill-gotten gain and you only serve to fatten yourself for the day of slaughter.” You see that at the end of verse 5.

It’s like the old fable, and you see this in all sorts of stories, where you encounter some strange creature, maybe it’s a giant in the forest or maybe it’s an alien on another planet, and however the story or the fable goes, initially when you are captured by this strange group of people, they treat you as royalty and they feed you everything you could want, and they stuff your belly full and you think that this is paradise that you’ve found. All you can eat, all you can drink, and then at some point the story turns and you realize that these creatures, or these behemoths, they are fattening you that they can feast upon you.

James says, oh, you have been fattening your hearts, but you’re doing so just like a pig fattens itself as the farmer feeds and feeds and feeds that one day they may bring the animal to slaughter. You have become plump in order that you may be the main course for the feast of God’s judgment.

I told you this is harsh language. That’s what’s coming upon the rich.

Which leads to our third question of the text. Okay, that’s who the rich are, that’s what’s coming, that’s bad. What did the rich do to make them so deserving of judgment?

If you’ve said, “Pastor, that it’s not automatically that if you’re rich, like Abraham and Job, that you’re going to be fattened for the day of slaughter, what’s the line of demarcation? What is it? If you’re saying it’s not a simple dollar amount, what is it that led the Lord to give such harsh warning to the rich? What did they do?”

Several things. First, we can see the sin of idolatry. A breach of the second commandment. Where so we see idolatry? Well, in their presumption. They’ve trusted in the wrong treasure. They were like the rich fool, and ultimately that’s a sign of their unbelief.

Isn’t that a theme throughout James’ book? Abraham was the man whose faith showed itself in works. Don’t be hearers only, but doers. And so these are the people whose lives demonstrate that their trust never really has been in God. They were trusting in their resources, trusting in themselves. It’s ultimately unbelief. Presumption. Just because everything seems to go their way in life, and they always have a little bit more than somebody else, and they always have a check that can get them out of a jam, and they always have a few extra zeroes to pay for what they really need. They get their kid into the school or to get the test or to get the help that they need. They always seem to have it. Well, now the Lord says, you’ve been trusting in all the wrong places. So there’s the sin of idolatry.

Even more pronounced here is the sin of theft. So a violation not only of the second commandment, but the eighth commandment. They cheated their workers. Now we all know that the two words “social justice” are big words in our world. There’s lots about social justice. One of the difficult things is there’s a right kind of social justice and then there’s the social justice which becomes something very different than biblical kind of justice.

The Bible is very, very concerned about justice. There are three classic kinds of social injustice in the Bible.

Number one: Not respecting property rights. We see this in the Old Testament as the powerful, very often kings, get away with moving boundary stones or you think of the sin of Ahab and Jezebel as they stole Naboth’s vineyard. So that’s one kind of sin.

A second is not rendering a just judgment. This is all over the Old and the New Testament. Cheating scales, false balances. You know, you put rocks in this bag over here to outweigh this money over there. Not rendering a just judgment. We see all over the places, judges, kings, magistrates, those officials, they are not to take a bribe but they are to do just as the law said. In fact, the Old Testament Mosaic law says you are not to give favoritism to the poor or to the rich. You don’t look at one or the other. Justice is supposed to be blind.

And then the third example of classic injustice in the Bible is not paying your workers an agreed upon wage. And that’s in particular what James has in mind. Think about the parable of the laborer in the vineyard, and this will give you a good idea, though this is stretched across the Bible over thousands of years, it’s basically the same kind of idea in the Old and the New Testament.

You remember Jesus’ parable? There’s a landowner and he goes out at the beginning of the day and he wants to get some people to go work in his vineyard. So you could work in a vineyard and maybe you’re picking grapes. Or you might work in some other kind of field and you mow the field and you have threshing or maybe you have planting or maybe it’s harvest time. But the landowner would go out and he’d say, “I’ll give you a denarius,” that’s a day’s wage, sort of a sustenance wage, “I’ll give you a day’s wage” and they go out and then later he goes out at different hours of the day and he commits to all of them a denarius. Then at the end the foreman comes and he gathers and he pays them all a denarius. That’s the way that those who had, the rich, would often employ those who had not, the poor.

And one of the classic examples of social injustice in the Bible is when those sort of landowners would not pay the workers, because you notice in Jesus’ parable, they did the work before they got paid.

Now how did this happen? Well, it could have happened in any number of ways. You know, they don’t have the equivalent of small claims court. They don’t have legal defense funds. It could be simply that the rich made an excuse and said, “That wasn’t good enough. Come back tomorrow.” Or maybe the rich man said, “You know what? Uh, wow. Where did that go? I don’t have the money with me. You’ll have to come back another time.” Any number of excuses he could have made so that he would not pay the agreed upon wage for his laborers.

It was all too easy to get the work done first and then think of a reason not to pay your workers. You changed the terms, you find the work unsatisfactory, you insist on more work, or you simply refuse to pay. What are you going to do about it? I’m rich, I’m powerful, what are you going to do to force me to pay?

Several times if you are someone who takes notes, you can jot down some of these verses.

Leviticus 19:13: You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall to remain with you all night until the morning.

So there in Leviticus in the Mosaic law, you don’t wait until the next day even. You pay your worker on the spot.

Deuteronomy 24:14-15: You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your town. You shall give him his wages on the same day before the sun sets, for he is poor and counts on it, lest he cry against you to the Lord and you be guilty of sin.

You see the same language here in James 5. Or Job 31:38-40: If my land has cried out against me and its furrows have wept together, if I have eaten its yield without payment, and made its owners breathe their last, let thorns grow instead of weeds and foul weeds instead of barley.

Here’s another one. Jeremiah 22:13: Woe to him to builds his house by unrighteousness and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbors serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages.

Malachi 3:5: I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages.

Oftentimes in the Old Testament this is given as a quintessential example of oppression, to not pay the one who works for you.

So it is a sin of theft, a violation of the eighth commandment. However they did it, they did it, and there were plenty of warnings in the Old Testament to say you’re ill-gotten gain will cry out against you, if this is how you have gotten rich.

And also likely we have here the sin of bearing false witness, a breach of the ninth commandment. Look at verse 6 in James chapter 5: You have condemned and murdered the righteous person.

Surely James does not mean they’ve committed actual homicide, that they took a sword and rammed it through, but rather judicially they have condemned and murdered the righteous person. So this puts together two of those classic examples I outlined for you of perverting justice with perhaps a bribe, and robbing the poor of their deserved wages.

Exodus 23:6 and 7: You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. Keep far from a false charge and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked.

It’s that sort of law which is in the background here in James chapter 5. So you put it together and you can imagine what the rich may have been doing. They have the poor who depend upon a denarius this day. They need it to live, and instead they’re robbed of their rightful wages.

And then perhaps when they present their case in court that this person has robbed me, then the rich present false witnesses. Just takes two of them and they can come and they say, “No, no, he didn’t show up on time. I saw how lazy he was all during the day. He did not do this. No, other people did the work for him.”

And so in lying against the poor man, they have condemned and murdered him. That’s what the rich are doing. That’s what makes them deserving of God’s judgment.

So as we try to apply this, here are three quick questions for us.

Number one: Are any of us counted among this kind of rich person?

Here’s where we need to make sure that we say what the Bible says, no more, no less. Because what often happens is you have these sort of passages against the rich and if the preacher wants to make sure he’s really prophetic, sort of makes it apply to everyone who has two cars. You’re all in danger of hell.

Well, then instinctively people think, “Well, I don’t know that that’s really going to be the case.” And so they soften what the text is. In order to make it apply to everyone, they soften what the real warning is, and that doesn’t do good for anyone. Because on the one hand it can put the condemnation upon persons where it doesn’t belong, someone who’s truly generous with their wealth, but it also can remove condemnation where it does belong. In other words, if we are all rich in the James 5 sense, then we’ll end up thinking no one is. We’ll say, well, that’s for all the rich people, but we don’t really think that they’re going to hell because of it. We’ll end up making the text say more to some people than it should, but less to others.

So we ought to ask ourselves the very hard question: Does this description of the rich fit any of us? Not simply a dollar amount, but it is possible anyone here, anyone listening online, have you cheated someone out of an agreed upon wage? Have you gotten what you have by swindling? By cheating? Have you convinced yourselves because those around you do the same things, in your practice, in your place of business, and it seems very normal to you, that there’s nothing wrong.

You think about this morning. Sodom and Gomorrah and the sins there, and then the ugly sin at the end with Lot’s daughters. Well, very likely Lot’s daughters were just thinking this is how things are one. At some point or another, they probably knew some other hapless circumstance where some daughters had to do something like that, and so in their mind they probably weren’t thinking, “Well, we know this is a terrible, horrible evil.” They were probably thinking, “Well, we’ve seen it done like this before.”

And so it is here. We can be used to the way things are. The rich probably had convinced themselves they had a reason for doing what they did. Maybe they told themselves, well, it was to give their children a better life, or to provide for a wife, or that somehow they were deserving of it, or that the poor really didn’t deserve to be treated any better. For whatever reason, they had convinced themselves that this was ordinary, this was acceptable, and God says clearly that to cheat and oppress the poor will render you liable to the very fires of hell.

Here’s a second question for us: Are we in lesser ways putting profit over people and principles?

We’ve established we don’t want to misinterpret the text and make it say more or less than it does. At the same time, we might conclude, well, okay, praise God, I don’t think I’m guilty of this kind of flagrant sin, cheating, swindling, fraud, I’m not Bernie Madoff. It’s still worth asking ourselves and probing our hearts to see if we have gotten or priorities out of order.

When I think of priorities in the workplace and business, I think of three things. You have principles, you have people, and you have profits. And it’s not wrong to seek profits. The capitalist system is built upon profit-seeking that at its best, if you believe in the invisible hand, can actually lead to many people being better off. But, but only if it is kept in its place.

When we allow the pursuit of profits, in whatever line of work we are, to trump the valuation of people, or our principles, then we are putting ourselves in a dangerous predicament.

Think of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke chapter 16. The picture there is of the rich man as he sees Lazarus day after day and then Lazarus sees the rich man suffering in Hell. The picture of the rich man is of a man with only one singular purpose in life, his main objection in life had been his own personal ease and satisfaction. That’s all he was thinking of, just more, more, more.

Here’s a question for us. When you think about your wealth, of whatever kind, and you may drive around different parts of Charlotte and think, “Well, I don’t have that kind of wealth.” But we all know compared to most people in the country, certainly on the planet, we are fabulously wealthy.

So here’s the question for us: Do you use your wealth, and are you with that wealth, a kind of vessel or a kind of vault? A vault just hoards, just build a big money vault for Scrooge McDuck to swim around in. That’s what we need. You’re just a vault, just take it. Or are you a vessel? Meaning it flows through you to others. It flows through you to help the poor. Through you to help kingdom ministries. Through you to bless the church, to bless others. Are you a vault or are you a vessel?

So are any of us counted among this kind of rich? Are we in lesser ways putting profits over people and principes?

And here’s a final question: Are we trusting in our riches?

Jesus tells the parable in Luke 12 of the rich fool who builds bigger barns and bigger barns because he thinks, he says to himself, “Soul, you’ve made it. Your life is secure.” And Jesus tells the story to say what a silly, stupid man. He’s a fool, of all the things Jesus could say about him, He says he’s a fool. Why? Because he’s not smart. He thinks that the accumulation of these bigger barns gives him the security that his heart craves for.

We all want security. That’s what we’ve seen with, especially COVID over the last 15 months, and we all gauge our level of risk and our level of how much of a threat the virus is, but every single one of us wants safety. We want security. We want to know that things are going to be okay, and Jesus says, “If you think riches give you eternal security, you are a fool.”

The picture here in James is of those who live upon the earth, underline earth, in luxury and self-indulgence. Again it relates to the sermon this morning. Don’t be enamored with the city of Sodom when the Lord will soon lay it to waste.

You may have heard, many years ago, a famous pastor was giving the message in his book, Your Best Life Now. Well, the message of the Bible is actually “your best life later.” That’s the way of the wise person. Not to think you get your best life now. You get it later. That’s why verse 7 will transition to the coming of the Lord. Are you living your life with an eye to the future?

So brothers and sisters, if you believe Jesus rose from the dead. If you believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior. If you believe Jesus is preparing a place for you in glory. You believe all that? Would anyone guess that you believe all that by the way you make your money? By the way we spend our money?

Faith, works, hearers of the Word, doers of the Word. There ought to be something different in the way we conduct business with the honesty, the integrity, putting principles and people above profit, and then there ought to be something different about us in the way in which we are a vessel, to let God’s resources flow through us to be a blessing to others.

Let’s pray. Father in heaven, You have surely given us so much. You have given us riches in this life to many of us. You have given us most of all eternal wealth. We pray that we would be good stewards. Oh, Lord, we want to hear this warning seriously. We do not want to be counted among this kind of rich, so search our hearts, O Lord. Make us a people who obey Your commands, who trust not in all that You have given to us in this life but trust all that You have promised us for the next life in Jesus. In His name we pray. Amen.