Faithlife Sermons

8-27-2017 Crummy Money James 5:1-6

James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:26
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Introduction:
Next weekend is Labor Day weekend. What you might not know is that the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5th, 1882 in New York City in accordance with the Central Labor Union. In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow their example.
Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. Municipal ordinances were passed, state bills and finally Congress passed a bill on June 28th, 1894, making Labor Day an official holiday on the first Monday in September.
Our nation also celebrates Labor Day by marking it as the last official weekend of summer. Many travel and spend time with their families over this extended weekend which will include Monday. As with any holiday, monies will be spent—whether through the cost of travel, food & festivities, fun activities, and so forth.
But here in God’s Word it’s not talking about making more money, or paying off debt, the Bible is speaking to our attitude about money. James says here that how we treat people, fellow workers, and our leisure time, speaks volumes of our character. In other words Money Matters.
Some have the attitude of extravagance. Some have the live within their means attitude. Others have money but live like there are broke:
Transition:
In our passage this morning, while it won’t cost us much, we’ll see James speak strongly about money.
James 5:1–6 ESV
1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 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. 4 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. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
James
Let’s be honest here, we work because we have to make money. We sing the song of the seven dwarfs Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go. Then we display the famous bumper sticker, I Owe, I Owe, so off to work I go.
But here in James, he’s not talking about making more money to provide for family, or for paying off your bills, this apostle is addressing the believer’s attitude concerning money. James says here that how we treat people, fellow workers, and those in our leisure time, speaks volumes of our own character. In other words, money does matter and a bad attitude makes for Crummy Money.
Some Christians have the attitude of lavishness/extravagance, yet without the means to back the lifestyle. Some have the humble ‘live within their means’ attitude, although their means could be stretched further. Others have money but live like there are broke: And still others have money and are happy to let the whole world know about it.
Transition:
What does this all mean then? This really boils down to what James illustrates for us in this passage: namely, the desire for money is worse than the vain things that we buy. Misused money leads to miseries!
There are at least two points he makes about this wealthy attitude:

I. The Misery of Possessions (vv.2–3)

The first is the misery of seeing our possessions rot.
James 5:2–3 LEB
2 Your wealth has rotted, and your clothing has become moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have become corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you, and it will consume your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasure in the last days.
James
James 5:2 LEB
Your wealth has rotted, and your clothing has become moth-eaten.
James
James next points out that riches are worthless when it comes to eternal salvation. The terms used here (“wealth,” “clothes,” and then in the next verse: “gold and silver”) are a fairly standard catalogue of the riches in the ancient world, especially if “wealth” refers to land and its produce. The produce of the land has “rotted,” and the clothing has been eaten by moths.
1 Peter 3:7 ESV
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
2 Peter 3:7 ESV
But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
Job 13:28 ESV
Man wastes away like a rotten thing, like a garment that is moth-eaten.
Now here is a devotional passage to wake up to in the morning! Yet James continues:
1 pe
James 5:3 LEB
Your gold and silver have become corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you, and it will consume your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasure in the last days.
In others words, “Stop hording!” Scripture never tells us that we should not save money. It urges us to be wise, and biblical wisdom includes giving thought to the future and to plan prudently for it.
Hoarding takes place when we continue to accumulate above and beyond that which is necessary—and boy does it become evident when you move into a new home!
Technically these precious metals do not rust (as some translations have it) or corrode here. Likely, James knew this, but is using prophetic language—similar to literary styling—in order to highlight the fact that even our most prized possessions will be destroyed.
Kevin Anderson, my night shift boss, he tells me that when he feels the pressure from upper management and the stress of the workload that he will remind himself then of God’s Word—how it will all burn in the end. What “word” is that?
2 Peter 3:7 ESV
But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
YHWH’s Word! What is this? Proper perspective on our possessions! This is why James is echoing his half-brother:
Matthew 6:19–21 ESV
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matt 6:19-
Jesus adds even more of the piercing truth! Our monies follow our hearts (hearts’ desires)!
YHWH’s Word!
Transition:
But it is not just a skewed perspective on our possessions that cause misery. It is also the selfish indulgence that is the breeding ground for misery:

II. The Misery of Indulgence (vv.4–6)

James 5:4 LEB
Behold, the wages that were held back by you from the workers who reap your fields cry out, and the cries of the reapers have come to the ears of the Lord of hosts.
James 5:4–6 LEB
4 Behold, the wages that were held back by you from the workers who reap your fields cry out, and the cries of the reapers have come to the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived self-indulgently on the earth and have lived luxuriously. You have fattened your hearts in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned, you have murdered the righteous person; he does not resist you.
Depriving workers of their rightful wages? where does that come from? well, in the context, James just addressed (as we saw last week) the businessmen with their arrogance so now James exposes their selfishness.
Depriving workers of their rightful wages
Depriving workers of their rightful wages (v. 4)
The Old Testament—especially in the major and minor prophets--has much to say about the oppressive treatment of workers. But some were ignoring those prohibitions from the prophets.
It was not as if the rich were unable to pay fair wages—they simply chose not to because they had the power to withhold the money. The laborers, however, lived from day to day and from paycheck to paycheck, and were severely hurt by not getting fair pay.
James vividly portrays the seriousness of the matter in terms of two cries going up to YHWH. The first is the cry of the unpaid wages. It’s as if these workers are in the bank and crying out to YHWH because they have not been paid yet.
The second is the cry of the workers themselves. It is the cry of anguish, as they sit down with their families to eat a piece of bread or maybe nothing at all when they could have been eating a nourishing meal.
James assures us that these cries do not go unnoticed. They are heard by ‘the Lord of hosts’ The Father! The Bible has many titles for YHWH. He is so transcendent that no one title can describe the triune God. The name James uses here ‘Lord of hosts’—the hosts are the angelic beings that surround and worship YHWH, and this title communicates that He is greater than all of the heavenly hosts. He is LORD of all.
This God, who is greater than all the hosts of heaven is certainly great enough to administer justice to these evil businessmen who oppress their workers!
The third misery of wealth is …
Wallowing in luxury and self-indulgence (v. 5)
James 5:5 LEB
You have lived self-indulgently on the earth and have lived luxuriously. You have fattened your hearts in the day of slaughter.
Here, James is talking about believers who use their wealth to spoil themselves. Needs still existed, needs that could be easily alleviated by some generosity. But these people are oblivious to the needs. Thinking only of themselves and their comfort, they go on buying and hoarding.
Roger Ellsworth points out:
James has a devastating word for all such. They are fattening themselves for God’s judgement. As a calf eats and eats without realizing that it is fattening itself for the day of slaughter, so the pampered gorge themselves without realizing that there is ‘a day of slaughter’ coming (v. 5).
So too, are the hearts of these rich selfish men. Now the judgment that he’s talking about considering that these are likely rich believers that he is addressing cannot be the Great White Throne Judgement, but rather the “Bema” Seat judgement. It is very important to not confuse the “Bema” Seat with the Great White Throne judgment. describe the Great White Throne which deals with eternal salvation (or the lack thereof) and In contrast, the Bema Seat is for believers whose salvation has already been secured by faith in the Christ. We should not focus on the Bema Seat as Christ judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us according to our lives. Yes, we will surely have to give an account of our lives.
Romans 14:10–12 ESV
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
but the best view of the “bema” seat is ,
2 Corinthians 5:10 LEB
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, in order that each one may receive back the things through the body according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
At the Bema Seat, Jesus will bring to light every deed-good or bad-that each believer has done on earth since he or she became a Christian. Every Christian will be rewarded based on his words, deeds, and faithfulness.
Pastor Kimbrough loved using an illustration of the ‘bema’ seat of a projector displaying your whole life before you and before God in heaven and that projector will show everything! every good thing and every bad thing!
A final misery of indulgence James mentions is …
Murdering the innocent (v. 6)
James 5:6 ESV
You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
This verse presents difficulty if taken literally; but apart from the shock factor, there is little reason if any, grammatical or otherwise, from seeing it in any way other than literal. None of us should leave today thinking James’s readers had a habit of going out with swords to hack people to death. James is referring to something a little more subtle—however just as deadly! The death referred to here may be the result of starvation caused by the withholding of wages. Their workers did not oppose them, probably because they could not. They suffered and died.
Kent Hughes explains:
‘James is referring to judicial “murder”—primarily referring to taking away the means of making a living. The [wealthy] controlled the courts. The poor could not oppose them because they had no way to use the system, and thus were helpless.’ There is more than one way to murder!

So What? (v.1)

The “so what” is found back in verse one:
James 5:1 LEB
Come now, you rich people, weep and cry aloud over the miseries that are coming upon you!
Misplaced desires leads to miseries! James could see those miseries coming towards his readers, and he assures them that those miseries are of such a nature that they should even now begin to weep and howl. What are they to cry about? The miseries, yes, but also weep over the power and peril of wealth. But why? well because wealth spurs on bad habits. To list just a couple:
weep over the power and peril of wealth. But why? well because wealth spurs on bad habits. To list just a couple:
We ignore God. James asks of us an important question: Has our wealth blinded us to God? Archbishop Oscar Romero commented on the same point when he said:
How many there are that would better not call themselves Christians, because they have no faith. They have more faith in their money and possessions than in the God who fashioned their possessions and their money.
We ignore our sisters and brothers. James has consistently taught that our relationship with God shapes character, and character influences and even determines our actions, perhaps especially how we treat others.
We incur judgment. James pronounces a stern warning to the wealthy. James warns us that our bent to ignore God and others while enjoying material goods and that our desire for money exposes us to misery and judgment.
He does not condemn wealth as such. Rather, he condemns an attitude toward wealth that deadens the wealthy towards others and causes them to live in excess even as their brothers and sisters are in need. Jesus offered a similar warning of judgment when he spoke of the sheep and the goats in
Matthew 25:31–46 ESV
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
David Nystrom reminds us
James does not condemn riches per se, but rather the fact that the wealthy have not sought to use their wealth to alleviate the sufferings of the poor. American evangelicals are wealthy, and at ease. So the appeal of James resounds across the centuries to our ears. We must open our eyes to the Scriptures and our ears to God, and we must prayerfully consider how best to use our money. Our failure to act, says James, is a sin more grievous than we have imagined.
[...]
Most Christians in the Northern Hemisphere simply do not believe Jesus’ teaching about the deadly danger of possessions. We all know that Jesus warned that possessions are highly dangerous—so dangerous in fact that it is extremely difficult for a rich person to be a Christian at all. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” [].… But we do not believe Jesus. Christians in the United States live in the richest society in the history of the world surrounded by a billion hungry neighbors. Yet … we insist on more and more.
And finally, James’s words about murdering the just who are not able to resist (v. 6) forces us to think about the Lord Jesus Christ. Although he was just in every way, he was murdered. And although he certainly had the power to resist, he did not do so.
Conclusion:
Well, where’s the hope in that?
Jesus willingly submitted to unjust treatment so he could provide eternal salvation for sinners. All sinners are now beckoned to come to Christ. The rich are urged to become poor, recognizing that their riches cannot save them. They are told to come to Christ, saying,
All sinners are urged to come to Christ. The rich are urged to become poor, recognizing that their riches cannot save them. They are told to come to Christ, saying,
James has consistently taught that our relationship with God shapes character, and character influences and even determines our actions, perhaps especially how we treat others.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
(Augustus M. Toplady)
And the poor are given the assurance that there are riches in Christ Jesus that this world can never offer.
But all must come to Christ! And all who come to Christ will be truly changed, and that change will show up even in how they use their money.
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