Be Patient in the Face of Wealth

Based on: James 5:1-11

The air conditioning in my office hasn’t been working for awhile now, but it should be fixed by Monday. You can be sure I will appreciate it. You can be sure I will understand more clearly that even though A/C is a human invention, it is still a blessing from God and not something to which I am entitled or deserve.

It seems that whenever you don’t have something for awhile, you appreciate it more when you get it back. It is a little easier to recognize it as God’s gift rather than a right owed to you. Perhaps that’s a good reason to come here every so often. It is good to see God’s creation, but we also appreciate the

We have many of these material blessings, don’t we. We are rich. God has blessed us. It is nice to have these things, but there is a danger. What value do you place on these blessings from God? What priority do they have in your life? What influence do they have over you? James warns us against having an unhealthy relationship with God’s blessings. He knows the pain and suffering that will come. Instead, he says, be patient in the face of wealth!

Before we hear the warning James gives us, let’s look at some positive uses of wealth. First, we give back to God. God has given so much to us and we give some of it back, not because he needs it – he doesn’t, but by giving back to God we thank him for what he has done for us. We tell him we want to continue to hear his gospel. God gives us material things so we can take care of our family, another one of his blessings. God also gives us opportunities to help others who are in need. And yes, some of his blessings are for us simply to enjoy.

The difficulty is balancing all those ways of using God’s blessings. Sin comes into play when God is not first, we put ourselves first in some way. Usually, we put our own pleasure first. You know, I have never had someone come to me and say, “Oh pastor, I have sinned. I have given too much money to the church and now I don’t have enough to take care of my family!” No, more often people take care of themselves first and give God only the leftovers.

James warns us not to think about wealth as something there for us to accumulate or something primarily for our own enjoyment. He begins this section with some pretty harsh words.

“Weep and wail!” Be afraid of the misery that comes because of the desire for wealth. Remember what Paul said, “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10). The misery and grief comes in two ways. First, wealth will become worthless. Second, wealth will speak out against those who have misused others to get it and where the love of money has destroyed a person’s faith, their wealth will be a witness before God that they deserve hell.

James makes it very clear that whatever it is you desire to have on this earth, it will not last. Clothes will become moth-eaten, metal will corrode, things will become useless. Certainly at our death or on the last day all that we have will become worthless to us. It will do us no good. In Sweden there is a hotel that is rebuilt every year entirely of snow and ice. Every year much effort goes into the hotel, but then what do you suppose happens in the spring? It melts. It is gone. The pursuit of wealth here on earth is like that. One day it will all be gone.

Even before that time comes things will decay and tarnish. Have you ever had a garage sale and tried to estimate how much you originally paid for all that stuff? Here is another example. I have a computer mouse with me. It is probably 10 years old. It works, but the newer ones are so much better. This one is useful for this object lesson, but after this it will go in the trash. The things we work for and spend money on will all become useless sooner or later.

James points out another problem. The desire for money changes us. When wealth becomes more important than others, we start treating people in a way that is for our own advantage and not theirs. James says the wealth we gain at the expense of others will cry out against us. It will testify to God that you have sinned.

If you have sold something to someone while hiding the less desirable attributes of that something, the money you gained will cry out against you. If you borrow something and fail to return when you really should have returned it, it will speak out against you. If you take something or ruin something that belongs to someone else, it will cry out to God against you.

The words of James are harsh. They are a strong warning, but it is a good warning, a loving warning, because heaven is at stake and hell is a real possibility. James comes to us as a brother in Christ to warn us. That’s what Christians do for each other. We are tempted by the world and sometimes, if not often, give in. We need other Christians to warn us. That is part of what fellowship is about. As we meet with brothers and sisters from another church it is good to talk about how Christians interact with one another.

But there is more. Christians not only warn, but they comfort and strengthen one another. That is why James also tells us to be patient. He is giving comfort Be patient in the face of all the troubles that come because of the love of money.

First, be patient in the face of temptation. We already talked about the sins we are faced with. Be patient, “the Lord’s coming is near”. The times we fail to resist temptation are forgiven. Our Lord came the first time to deliver us from the punishment we deserve. He gave up his wealth for us so that we could have true wealth – life with him. He gives us a trust in God instead of trust in wealth.

Be patient. The Lord who has already given us so much will come to rescue us from temptation.

Second, he will also rescue us from those who seek wealth. Have you ever been taken advantage of by someone who desires wealth for himself? Probably all of us have. There are plenty of people out there like that. They are thinking of themselves and not us. James says, “Be patient . . . the Lord’s coming is near.” All those who have cheated us or who have stolen from us, they will stand before the Lord Almighty and their wealth will cry out against them.

Be patient in the face of their wealth.

Be patient. Like a farmer. You don’t go out to your field the day after you plant and get worried and upset that the crops aren’t ready to harvest? Be patient. The Lord will come at just the right time.

It is good to get away from the nice dry sanctuary that God has blessed us with so that we see some of the other blessings he has given us – fellowship with other congregations, the beauty of nature, and more, but also so that we appreciate what he has given us and realize it came from him.

I will end with these words of wisdom from Proverbs chapter 30.

“Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD ?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

Amen.

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