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The Blinding Deceiption of Riches

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Text:  James 5:1-6


            “If only I had a little more money, then I’d be happy.”  “If only I were out of debt, then I’d be satisfied.” 
“If only God would make me rich, then I could do all kinds of things for Him.”  “If only I didn’t have to work, then I would serve God.”

            The “If onlys” will never bring satisfaction if we seek wealth outside of the riches God plans for us to have!  Riches will never bring satisfaction because they can’t.  God designed us that way.  Money isn’t evil.  The love of it is.  God designed us to have a hunger to search for more of Him, not the things of this world. Mat 5:6 says: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  So to search for something outside of righteousness to satisfy the soul is going to always leave emptiness.  Hasn’t the world learned anything from Solomon, the one who had it all? 

            Eccl 5:10-16  “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.  When good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on?  The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much. But the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep.  There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt.  When those riches were lost through a bad investment and he had fathered a son, then there was nothing to support him.  As he had come naked from his mother's womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand.  And this also is a grievous evil-- exactly as a man is born, thus will he die. So, what is the advantage to him who toils for the wind?”

            He who chases the wind will in the end clutch a bag of air…and will still be hungry, exhausted and unsatisfied.  And guess what?  He will meet his Maker with nothing in his hand with which to present as an offering.  And the Owner of it all will then present him the prize of his pursuit…a bag of air!

            Here’s the understatement of the year:  Nothing is as deceitful as the promise of happiness and satisfaction that the world has to offer with “things” or “riches!”  Be it a beautiful home, vacation property, clothes, cars, chocolate, tools, computers or an investment portfolio…all this world offers is but a square peg for a round hole in our soul in this life…and a bag of air on the other side of grave.

            To this end, our text in James has a strong warning.  Read Text.

1.      What do you think was James’ goal in writing these verses?  (To show the ultimate worthlessness of worldly riches, and to show the character of those corrupted by it.)

2.      If the rich knew what they were doing to themselves, what does James say they should do in verse 1?  (Wail and weep for the terror of the judgment that is coming.)

3.      James describes the outcome of worldly riches.  He’s actually referring to the three ways people could become rich in their day.  Can you guess what those three ways are?  (Grain = rotten; garments = moth-eaten; gold & silver = rust.)

4.      Since gold and silver do not actually rust, what point do you think James is trying to make here?  (By inactivity and exposure, metallic things rust.  Gold and silver that is not put to use, or used to flaunt…will have the same end.  Those things thought most precious and indestructible are doomed to decay in God’s eyes.)

5.      How is desire for these things like rust?  (It eats into your body and soul.)

6.      What does James say is the real treasure they are storing up for themselves?  (A fire that consumes.)

7.      How are riches a temptation and snare according to these passages?  Prov. 11:28;  Lk. 18:24-25;  1 Tim. 6:9-10

8.      Comment:  Let us be clear here to note that to be rich does not mean you are unrighteous.  There are those who are rich and good stewards of it for the Lord.  The Bible just warns that such a combination is difficult. 
Question:  James condemns the unrighteous rich for an impure motive in verse 4.  What is it?  (Selfishness.  He withholds wages from his laborer when it is due.  In their day laborers were poor.  To withhold a days wage meant that he went hungry.  That’s why laws were made to protect the laborer.)  Deut. 24:14-15;        1 Tim. 5:17-18

9.      James says in verse 5 that to choose a life of luxury is to choose a potential destiny.  What does he say it is?  (The end of pleasure is grief, and the end of luxury is death.  Selfishness has always lead to the destruction of the soul.)

10.  Verse 6 seems out of place here.  In its context, what do you think it means here?  (The selfish rich will abuse anyone they can to obtain more riches.  The righteous do not resist such moves.  Therefore, the rich destroy the righteous.)

11.  Men with evil in their hearts hate men that are good.  Why is that?  (Every time they see them they are reminded for what they are.  They are reminded of what they are not, but should be.)


            All this points to the inescapable fact that we will all face the Lord on Judgement Day.  What do you imagine that day to be like?     What does Isa. 13:6-11 have to say about that day?


Do you have a tendency to feel more secure when you have more money, and less secure when you don’t have it?

            How do you think God feels about such feelings of security/insecurity?

            If you had the opportunity to give advice to the world’s richest person, what would you say?

            How can we keep what wealth we have from becoming a corrupting influence?

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