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A Warning for the Wicked Rich and Strength for the Saints

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Christianity Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Part 11: A Warning for the Wicked Rich and Strength for the Saints

James 5:1-12

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - April 29, 2012

*George Barna did a survey that showed the average American adult thinks their finances would be great, -- If they just had an extra $8,000-$11,000 per year.

*Then they tracked these same people, and when some of them got a big increase in income, you know what they said? -- “Things would be great, if we just had an extra $8,000-$11,000 per year.” (1)

*Have you ever wanted to be rich? -- God warns us against that in 1 Timothy 6:9-10. There the Apostle Paul said:

9. . . Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.

10. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

*God warns us about loving money. And tonight we are going to see that being rich not always what it’s cracked up to be.

1. In tonight’s Scripture, God gives a warning to the wicked rich.

*And we see God’s warning starting in vs. 1, where James said: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!”

[1] Now the problem here was not that these people were rich.

*There’s nothing wrong in itself with being rich. God is rich! In Psalm 24:1-2, King David said:

1. . . The earth is the LORD's, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.

2. For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters.

*Then in Psalm 50:9-12 we hear God speak to the wicked of the Children of Israel, and the Lord said:

9. I will not take a bull from your house, Nor goats out of your folds.

10. For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills.

11. I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine.

12. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness.

*In Haggai 2:8, the Lord said, “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine. . .”

*God is rich! In Revelation 21:1, the Apostle John saw the new heaven and the new earth. Then in vs. 2, he began to describe “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” And in Rev 21:21, John talked about the gates of the city, and said: “The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. . .”

*What an oyster! -- God is rich beyond measure!

*Some of his most faithful servants have been rich too: Abraham, David, Solomon, Joseph of Arimathea. In 2 Chronicles 1:11-12 in the New Living Translation, God said to Solomon:

11. . . "Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king

12. wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who have been before you, nor shall any after you have the like.''

*Proverbs 10:15 in the NIV says, “The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and He adds no trouble to it.”

*Then Proverbs 22:4 in the NIV says, “Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life.”

*The truth is that ALL of us are rich compared to most of the people in the world. And there’s nothing wrong in itself with being rich. The problem in James 5 was not that these people had money.

[2] Their first problem was how they got their money.

*In vs. 4, see that they stole it by fraud. James said, “Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.

*Then in vs. 6, we see that they even resorted to murder. Here James said: “You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.”

*So the first problem with these wicked rich people was how they got their money.

[3] The second problem was what they did with their money.

*Verse 3 tells us that they hoarded their money. As James said, “You have heaped up treasure in the last days.”

*And what good is that money going to do them? -- No good at all! James described their horrible future in vs. 1-3:

1. Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!

2. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.

3. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. . .

*The remarkable thing is: Not only is the money not going to help them, it’s actually going to hurt them, because in vs. 3, the money is both a witness against them, and fuel for the fire that burns them.

*Those wicked rich people don’t stand a chance, unless they repent, because they are accountable to the “Lord of Sabaoth” in vs. 4. That phrase means “the Lord of Heavenly hosts” or “the Lord of His armies.” And there is no way to escape His judgment. So a day of slaughter is guaranteed in vs. 5.

*An extremely important question is: Why does God bother to warn these people? -- We find the answer in 1 Timothy 2:4. Here Paul says that God our Savior “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

*2 Peter 3:9 also tells us that “the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

*God warns these wicked rich people in James 5 out of His love and desire to see them saved. The Lord wants them to know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead. The Lord wants them to know about the forgiveness and eternal life they can have, if they will turn their lives over to Jesus and trust Him as Savior and Lord.

*H.L. Hunt was a rich man who found out about God’s love and the cross of Jesus Christ. Hunt was an aggressive businessman who made millions of dollars as a Texas oilman.

*Then one night at two in the morning, H.L. Hunt called his closest friend, and said, “John, I just made the greatest trade of my life. I traded the here for the hereafter.” (2)

*That was the night H. L. Hunt had become a Christian. He listened to God’s warning.

-Here in the Book of James, God gives a warning to the wicked rich.

2. But He also gives strength to the suffering saints.

*We see some suffering saints in these verses. In vs. 4, God’s followers were the robbed workers crying out to the Lord of Hosts for help. Then in vs. 6, God’s followers were the just ones who were condemned and murdered without resisting their wicked attackers.

*We’ve never had to go through anything like that. But Christians from Nigeria all the way to North Korea are certainly suffering like that today. And until the Lord comes back, all Christians will suffer persecution to a greater or lesser degree.

*The Apostle Paul told us this in 2 Timothy 3:12, where he said, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Jesus told us why on the night before the cross. In John 15:18-19, the Lord said:

18. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.

19. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

*Then as the Lord prayed in John 17:14, He told His Father, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

*Somehow, someway, all true Christians are going to suffer. But God gives strength to the suffering saints. And in this passage, the Lord shows us 4 tactics that can help when the bad guys seem to be winning.

[1] First: Keep your perspective.

*It can be hard to keep your perspective when the bad guys in the world seem to be winning. And many times they certainly do seem to be winning. If you talked to those wicked rich men on the day James wrote this letter, they probably would have said they had it made. And you might have thought they had it made.

*It can be hard to keep your perspective when the bad guys seem to be winning. That’s what Asaph talked about in his own life when he wrote Psalm 73. Here’s part of what he said:

1. . . Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart.

2. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped.

3. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4. For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm.

5. They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men.

6. Therefore pride serves as their necklace; Violence covers them like a garment.

7. Their eyes bulge with abundance; They have more than heart could wish.

12. Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches.

13. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence.

*Asaph lost his perspective. But God helped him get it back, and Asaph went on to say:

16. When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me—

17. Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end.

18. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction.

22. I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.

23. Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand.

24. You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory.

*God helped Asaph to keep his perspective. And that’s one of the ways the Holy Spirit wanted to help us when He led James to write this passage. Yes, it was a warning for the wicked rich to repent. But the Lord was also helping His people to keep their perspective.

*When the bad guys seem to be winning, keep your perspective.

[2] But also keep your prayer life.

*James reminds us of this in vs. 4, where he said: “Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”

*Now it is true that some prayers are not answered. James told us that in the last chapter. Steve Brown told about a little girl who was praying when her dad walked into room. And he heard her say over and over again: “Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo.”

*Dad was curious and asked her: “What kind of prayer is that?” His little girl replied, “I had a test in school today, and I was praying that God would make Tokyo the capital of France.” (3)

*Some prayers are not answered, but God doesn’t want us to give up on prayer. And He wanted those persecuted believers to know that “the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”

*Sometimes we may feel like our prayers are not being heard. But we shouldn’t go by our feelings. We should go by the Word of God! And God says, “The cries of the reapers HAVE REACHED the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”

*When the bad guys seem to be winning, keep your prayer life.

[3] But also keep your patience.

*James stresses our patience in vs. 7-11, where he said:

7. Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.

8. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

9. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!

10. My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.

11. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord -- that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.

*Here James gives us 3 examples of patience:

<1> The farmers in vs. 7.

<2> Then the prophets in vs. 10.

*We read about some of the prophets who suffered in Hebrews 11:35-38:

35. . . Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.

36. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.

37. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—

38. of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

<3> James’ third example of patience was Job in vs. 11, -- Job who suffered so much, but famously said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

*James gives us 3 great examples of patience: The farmers, the prophets and Job. But in vs. 8, James also gives us a great reason for patience: “You also be patient. Establish your hearts.” Why? -- Because “the coming of the Lord is at hand.

*When the bad guys seem to be winning, keep your patience.

[4] But also keep your peace.

*James first stressed keeping our peace up in vs. 9, where he said: “Do not grumble against one another, brethren. . .” The KJV says, “Grudge not one against another. . .”

*Don’t hold grudges. Don’t murmur or grumble or complain against each other. And in vs. 12 don’t curse each other or swear oaths. There James says: “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment.”

*The commentaries I read about this verse said that James was not talking about taking oath before a court, although there are some who do take it that way.

*The context is:

-Don’t lose your patience.

-Don’t lose your temper.

-Don’t lose control and start cursing or swearing to make your point.

*You see, God wants to give us strength. But He also wants us to give strength to each other. And one of the best ways to do that is to keep our peace.


*In tonight’s Scripture, the Lord covers a lot of ground.

-First, He gives a warning to the wicked rich.

-But the Lord also gives strength to the suffering saints.

*So when the bad guys seem to be winning, and sometimes they will.

-Keep your perspective.

-Keep your prayer life.

-Keep your patience.

-Keep your peace.

1. “Pastor’s Update,” July 1991, p.2 - “Source: McHenry’s Quips, Quotes & Other Notes” by Raymond McHenry - Copyright 1998, Hendrickson Publishers, p. 102-103

2. “Bi-vocational Ministers” by Paul Powell - (“Source: McHenry’s Quips, Quotes & Other Notes” by Raymond McHenry - Copyright 1998, Hendrickson Publishers, p. 80)

3. “Approaching God” by Steve Brown, Moorings, Nashville, TN Copyright 1996 - p. 179

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