Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. ~James 5:1
Is it wrong or a sin to be rich? Does God despise rich people? When we read James’ epistle, we see that he had to address many things that were wrong about those who were rich. These rich people were being warned so that they would repent of their behavior. James gave them a stern warning about coming judgment if they did not repent. In effect, he told them that they would be rich men who would become poor men. Let us see, this morning, God’s Word concerning riches.
We see the understanding.
A rich man is someone who has much more in accumulations, money, and wealth than others. He is someone who we could classify as being financially independent. He has arrived financially at a point in life where his money is working for him instead of him working for his money. Many of the people of that day were successful business owners and land barons. First, we must recognize that all wealth is from God. No man is truly self-made. Deuteronomy 8:18 reminds us that God is the One Who gives us the power to accumulate wealth. Second, wealth and riches should be used to meet our living needs, but when we have substantially more than enough, we should see riches as a tool to help others and advance the cause of Christ. We want to be careful to not be possessed by our possessions.
We see the ugliness.
God calls out the rich men of James’ day. First, He calls them out for being covetousness. They were greedy, rapacious, and predatorial. They took advantage of others in their quest to get ahead. Second, they were fraudulent to those who worked for them. There were no labor laws in those days. The rich withheld paying their laborers. They took advantage of their laborers to advance their cause. Third, they were condescending to those who were less advantaged and, especially, to the poor. They were oppressive and looked for ways to squeeze everything they could get out of the poor, including suing them in a court of law. They lived for their own benefit and were very selfish. These things demonstrate how riches can be evil. Paul said that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” It was very ugly in how the rich got ahead at the expense of the poor.
We see the usefulness.
In spite of the ugliness, we must come back to the usefulness of riches. Paul said, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate” (1 Timothy 6:17-18). First, if you are blessed with riches, be modest and humble. Second, make faith and trust in God a priority of spiritual living. Have a vision of things you can do financially that cause you to exercise faith. Third, be rich in good works and ready to give and share. Sometimes, a rich person will use the excuse that they have restricted assets and cannot participate in an endeavor. However, God commands that they be ready to distribute and willing to communicate. They should be the ones who help underwrite a faith endeavor that God places on the heart of the pastor. They should be ready to underwrite the financing of a project that will result in many souls being saved.
James told the sinning rich men that if they did not repent, God would make them poor men. Solomon said, “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty” (Proverbs 11:24). Truly, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Have a giving God Morning!
Bible Reading Schedule: Numbers 18-20