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The Honest Addict

James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We are all addicts. We all have something that we think we cannot live without. Some of our addictions are “harmless”. Others are more harmful.
I’m addicted to ice cream. I cannot say no. Very few nights go by where I do not have ice cream. Harmless addiction. I have other addictions that are not as harmless.
Anytime we have an addiction, we are saying: I need something and the only thing that will provide what I need is this thing. The tragedy is: with all addictions, we are saying that this thing will provide what Christ will not. We put our hope in the thing, rather than in Christ.
James has told us about different people who are friends of the world, rather than followers of God.
Here, James turns his gaze closer at non-Christians who are rich. They are addicted to wealth. We caught a glimpse of these men in
James 2:6–7 NIV
But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
These are people who have been persecuting the original readers of this letter because of finances.
This is parallel probably with 2:6-7. These are probably non-Christians who are persecuting Christians b/c of finances.
James is writing this portion to encourage the persecuted Christians that the persecutors will be punished by God, and to encourage the Christians not envy these rich in their wealth.
James will segue from this discussion into patience during trials, again in our next passage.
This is a judgment passage with no redemptive options in it. It is a sobering passage. While we can also be encouraged that God will punish all persecutors, and though we can also be encouraged to not envy the rich in their wealth, we as American “Christians” can take this passage as a warning. All of humanity can place their hope in many things, but if their hope is not in Christ, destruction awaits them.

1A. Humans can place their hope in many things

Many people look at this verse and see money at the forefront. This is certainly within the scope of the riches and wealth referred to here. However, James is referring to so much more than just money. These words can be applied to anything that is transitory.
The rich people in this passage are hoarding things. They have riches, clothes, gold, silver, and who knows what else.
James says that they have
James 5:5 NIV
You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.
They are people who only cared about getting. They did not care about who was living around them. They did not care about the God who blessed them with all things. They just wanted stuff.
Their desire for stuff meant that they merely hoarded. They didn’t use the things that they had, not for themselves and definitely not for others.
James
James 5:2–3 NIV
Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.
Who knows why? We aren’t given any reasons why these people pursued all kinds of transitory things. Except that, they thought it could do something for them. They placed some sort of hope in this wealthy. That’s why they hoarded it.
The things they stockpiled fell apart because they were not used.
Who knows why they hoarded things? We aren’t given any reasons why these people pursued all kinds of transitory things. Except that, they thought it could do something for them. They placed some sort of hope in this wealthy. That’s why they hoarded it.
They wanted wealth so much that they cheated those who worked for them.
James 5:4 NIV
Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.
They also decided to play God, because they believed that their wealth made them equal with God, judging, condemning and ruining those less fortunate who could not resist them.
Humans can place their hope in many different things. We turn to so much to escape pain and suffering, to give us worth, to give us identity. In America, we turn mostly to material things, like these people that James is writing to.
We live a life of self-indulgence, indulging ourselves beyond the bounds of propriety. Sometimes, we actually do it in the name of godliness, though we are far from it.
Due to our desire for indulgence, many times we are just hoarding stuff. We all have something that gives us pleasure, escape, and perhaps hope.
We place our hope in wealth, successful business, technology, electronics, movies, music, video games. We place our hope in clothing, hairdos, make-up. We place our hope in houses, cars, guns. We can place our hope in friendships, lovers, and so many other things.
Whatever we place our hope in we hoard. We keep wanting more and more. We don’t use these things for God. We don’t use these things for others. We just want to indulge in them.
This is not a sermon against having things. This is not a sermon against improving our lives. This is not a sermon against capitalism. This is a sermon against a selfishness that is tied to any economic philosophy.
The problem here is not wealth or things. The problem is their use. The problem is the why.
We as Christians here in America should seriously ask ourselves: when do we have too much?
What are we placing our hope in? For those of us who have placed our faith in Christ, he is ultimately our hope. But, sometimes, we let other things supersede him in our daily living, our daily reliance, our daily desires.
Just hoarding without using it for God (when do we have too much?)
Ways to escape pain and suffering
Ways to escape pain and suffering
Just hoarding without using it for God (when do we have too much?)
Capitalism is not bad, but the selfishness that can be paired with it and any economic philosophy will damn anyone
Remember condemnation is not for wealth, but for their use of wealth
These people play God, thinking that they can judge and condemn
Remember condemnation is not for wealth, but for their use of wealth
We can place our hope in wealth, government, successful business, technology, friendships, guns, etc.

They are mistaken, as I think, who consider that James here exhorts the rich to repentance. It seems to me to be a simple denunciation of God’s judgment, by which he meant to terrify them without giving them any hope of pardon; for all that he says tends only to despair. He, therefore, does not address them in order to invite them to repentance; but, on the contrary, he has a regard to the faithful, that they, hearing of the miserable end of the rich, might not envy their fortune, and also that knowing that God would be the avenger of the wrongs they suffered, they might with a calm and resigned mind bear them.

We need to ask ourselves, when do we have enough?

Those who place their hope in things other than Christ will be judged

2A. Hope not placed in Christ results in a destroyed life

James calls for everyone who has placed their hope in things other than Christ to weep and wail because two major things will happen.
First, their lives will be destroyed. Everything that they thought would give them security ultimately cannot. Everyone who places their faith in something that is transitory will see those things decay and disappear. They will not get any pleasure from the things that they indulge in. They will want more and more because what they have will not satisfy.
Matthew 6:19–21 NIV
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Anything that is stockpiled and hoarded will decay, with that decay comes the decay of hope.
Anything that is stockpiled and hoarded will decay, with that decay comes the decay of hope.
James uses some pretty graphic language here.
James 5:2–3 NIV
Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.
The word rotted is used of a vine that is growing along the ground, which causes the fruit to rot while on the vine. Think tomatoes. It is also used for flesh that is rotting on a dead body. Riches are going to rot, in fact they might already have.
Moths eating the most costly clothes that one might have. Holes all over the place. Can you imagine?
To add insult to injury, their gold and silver, the basis for their wealthy, is corroded. This is interesting, because true gold cannot corrode. James is telling the rich: “that which you put the most faith in, that which you think cannot be touched, even that will fail you.”
Jesus said:
Luke 6:24–25 NIV
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
We who look outside and see people who have their hope in things other than Christ and think that they seem fine. Sometimes the most wicked people seem to be prospering and all that they put their hope in seems to satisfy. We are tempted to be envious and follow them in their hopes.
We who look outside and see people who have their hope in things other than Christ and think that they seem fine. Sometimes the most wicked people seem to be prospering and all that they put their hope in seems to satisfy. We are tempted to be envious and follow them in their hopes.
We could reflect the words of Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 12:1 NIV
You are always righteous, Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?
The Psalmist had this same temptation:
Psalm 73:2–5 NIV
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills.
James tells us: We don’t have to be envious of these men, because their riches, etc., have become worthless because they were just hoarded. They were not used for good, and now they can’t be used at all!
These riches, etc., have become worthless because they were just hoarded. They were not used for good, and now they can’t be used at all!
Psalm 73:18–20 NIV
Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
These riches, etc., have become worthless because they were just hoarded. They were not used for good, and now they can’t be used at all!
Anyone who places their hope in things other than Christ will see their hope destroyed. Their life as they know it will be worth nothing in their eyes.
James Explanation of Text

not even the gold, which the rich think they can count on to save them and provide them with the security of wealth, will last to safeguard them.

3A. Hope not placed in Christ results in a destroyed eternity

Not only will their lives be destroyed, but their eternity will be as well.
James uses eschatological terms in this passage: he is referring to events that happen at the end of time.
The weeping and wailing that will be done by these people who have placed their ultimate hope in things other than Christ is not just because of the transience in this life, but it is because of something that will happen in the next.
Jesus said
Matthew 19:23 NIV
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Those who have placed their hope in things have a hard time taking that hope and placing it on Christ. They like their stuff because it gives them comfort.
James tells these rich people to weep and wail. These words, weep and wail, are used mostly for judgment day.
Ezekiel 30:2 NIV
“Son of man, prophesy and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “ ‘Wail and say, “Alas for that day!”
Ezek
Why should they weep and wail in the day of judgment? James tells us that they have “hoarded wealth in the last days.”
In the viewpoint of James and the rest of the New Testament writers: the last days are not necessarily what we think of the last days.
Many of us would speak of the last days as those days immediately leading up to when Christ comes again. So, you hear many prophecy gurus telling us that the time is close, that we must be living in the last days.
Well, James and the New Testament writers would agree and disagree. They would insist that we have been living in the last days ever since Christ ascended into Heaven. That event ushered in the last days, for we don’t know when Christ will come back. We don’t know when the judgment will be.
In these last days, when all humanity should be turning to their savior to escape coming judgment, many are turning to other things to provide hope, solace, and salvation. Those people should weep and wail because their judgment is coming.
I have to reiterate: the problem is not wealth. The problem is why someone has wealth and what they are doing with it. The people the text placed their hope in wealth, not in Christ. Consequently, they did not use their wealth for kingdom purposes.
The question is: “Where is our treasure? Are we laying it up on earth so that we might live in comfort, planning for a long life here (see cf. ), or do we focus more on amassing treasure in heaven with God, being merely grateful for the blessings he has given us here and now?”
James speaks of these with their flesh being eaten like fire and them fattening themselves in the day of slaughter. Both terms are used for the final judgment throughout the Old Testament.
Before the final judgement seat, three things are testifying against these people who have placed the wrong hope. Their wasted possession, their wages which they did not pay, and their defrauded workers.
All of which point to the fact that they were not hoping in Christ, but in other things.
First, wasted possessions. These people are getting stuff to have stuff, but they have never used them for anything of use. What are we buying more and more of, but never are using for good?
They might have been content on this earth, but they won’t be in the next.
Second,
wasted possessions are a testimony to the coming judgement
James Explanation of Text

Here is where it becomes essential to understand the eschatological worldview of the NT. We live in the last days and have done so since Pentecost (cf. Ac 2:17). Christ can return at any point. Where is our treasure? Are we laying it up on earth so that we might live in comfort, planning for a long life here (see cf. Lk 12:13–21), or do we focus more on amassing treasure in heaven with God, being merely grateful for the blessings he has given us here and now? The condemnation is not for owning wealth per se, but for hoarding rather than using it for kingdom purposes. As Johnson observes, “ ‘the last days’ … are not the anticipated retirement years of the rich, but the time of God’s judgment.”

James Explanation of Text

In some ways these people have experienced their “heaven” on earth; they have received their reward in this life. Thus they may arrive at the judgment day content but condemned.

James describes the coming king who will judge as the Lord Almighty, or the Lord of Hosts. Literally, James is using a Hebrew word but in Greek: Lord Saboath. The Lord of Armies.
Chris Tomlin wrote a song about this name of God: The God of angel armies is always by my side.
The people of God use this name for our God who wreaks judgment on those opposed to Him and His people. He is the God who avenges. He is the God who gives eternal punishment. And, He has the power to match the threat.
Those who don’t place their hope in Christ will have a destroyed eternity.
How does this apply to us who read this letter.
First, what is our hope in? Is our hope in Christ and Christ alone? There are many people who come to church for the sake of coming to church, thinking that it can provide something for them. They hope in church. Others hope in works, prayers, the faith of their family. Some people hope in all sorts of other things, except for Christ. What is your hope in?
Nothing on earth can provide what we need. We were designed to have a relationship with our creator, enjoying his creation forever. But, we chose otherwise, seeking all these other things to provide what only He can provide. But, none of those things satisfy or provide what we need, as we have seen. The only way back into a relationship with our Creator is through Christ, faith in him and his sacrifice for us. He is the all-sufficient one. He provides everything that we need. We don’t have to turn to anything else.
Those of us who have turned to Him in faith, do we believe that he is sufficient for everything that we need. Or, do we have a desire for stuff. The question to ask ourselves: What are we buying more and more of, but are never using for good, for God?
What is our hope in?
Second, who are we envying? Is there someone we wish we were? Why? Is it because of what they have? Do we think that if we just had what they had, we would be good? That’s the problem the Psalmist had. That is an indication that we think Christ isn’t enough.
Third, where are we trying to play God? The Lord of Hosts is Christ, leading an army of Heaven to defend his people. Realizing that Christ is this Lord should encourage us to not play God in vengeance. God has already heard the pain and stands ready to act. We who have placed our hope in Christ don’t have to bring judgment on people who hurt us or oppress us. If we think that we do, that is an indication that we think Christ isn’t enough, that we are placing our hope in something else.
Lord Sabaoth is Christ leading an army of Heaven to defend his people: encourages us to not play God in vengeance. God has already heard the pain and stands ready to act
Christ is enough for anything that we need. Our hope should be placed in Him, and Him alone, for life and godliness.
The righteous ones do not resist! Foreshadowing of the next verses in how we should respond to people. Provide caveats!
We who have our hope placed in Christ don’t have to bring on the judgment
What are we buying more and more of, but never are using for good?
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