Sundays: 9 & 11am LATEST MESSAGE

Faith and Finances

Charlie Boyd - 1/8/2023


Why has God given most of us more than we need? The reason God has given us more than we need is to help those in need. When you have been blessed with more than you need, it’s not your need that God has in mind. You have been blessed to be a blessing.

SCRIPTURE: James 5:1-6


James writes to persecuted, scattered Jewish Christians who are going through very hard times. When you go through trials and temptations, there are always temptations that come with those trials. Every trial comes with its own set of temptations. And, all through his letter, James rebukes his friends for giving into temptations that rob them of the “blessed” life God wants them to experience. Remembering this historical background is important to understand 5:1-6 b/c this passage is James’ most caustic rebuke in this letter.

READ 5:1-6 — Ouch! The whole tone of this passage is harsh and condemnatory. It’s a severe, OT prophet-like pronouncement of God’s judgment coming upon these rich people, and there’s no call to repentance and, really, no hope for repentance. It’s a simple statement of fact—“God has seen your sin, and judgment is coming upon you.” The question is: Who is James talking to? Who are these “rich” people he’s so down on? I agree with the commentators who say that James' first target of this stingy rebuke is wealthy Jewish unbelievers who are the perpetrators of the persecution James’s friends are experiencing. To summarize, in vv 1-3, James rebukes these rich unbelievers for hoarding. He’s saying, “You have so much stuff, you can’t even use it all.” They arrogantly think, “My future is secure because of all that I have saved up.” They look at what they have in a purely self-indulgent way and give no thought to the poor and needy. In vv 4-5, he rebukes the “rich” for actively exploiting the poor and needy by not paying them their daily wage. They are enriching themselves at the expense of others. So, in the style of an OT prophet, James pronounces God’s coming judgment upon the unrighteous rich—on those who are making life hard for the poor and needy Jewish Christians that he knows are losing heart because it doesn’t seem like God is working to change their circumstances for the better. 

But now the question is: How is this pronouncement of God’s coming judgment on these unrighteous rich people supposed to help God’s suffering people? Well, first, and we’ll look at this in more detail next week, the first level of application is to assure these hurting Jewish Christians that God sees what’s going on and he hears their cries for help. And, he will, in his time and in his way, avenge the wrongs done to them. He will set right all the wrongs done to them—and that’s why he goes on to say in vv 7ff—"Be patient, therefore, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.” He encourages them to be patient and steadfast and to “establish” their hearts in the rock-solid truth that God is compassionate and merciful. He wants them to know that they can experience God’s mercy and compassion as they put their faith into action in ways that reflect “heavenly wisdom.” which is “pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good works, impartial and sincere.” I also see a second application to believers in this harsh judgment of the unrighteous rich. He’s also saying, “Don’t envy the rich and famous, and don’t emulate their way of life.” The fact is, these hurting Jewish believers are very much capable of envying the lifestyles of the rich and wanting to emulate their lifestyles. It’s true—Christ-followers sometimes do follow the ways of the world in order to better themselves in the world. 

I know, very few of us consider ourselves to be rich, but the fact is, compared to the rest of the people living on planet earth, we are rich. 85% of the rest of the world is much worse off than we are. So, from God’s perspective, you and I are rich. And that brings up the question: What do “rich” Christ-followers need to do to put their faith into action when it comes to money and stuff?” I’ll be honest with you—I’ve been personally convicted as I’ve studied this passage because I know that the heart problem of the unbelieving rich that James denounces here can also become a heart problem for me and for you as believers. The heart attitude behind the actions of the unrighteous rich can also infect your heart and my heart as well. Any time we forget WHY God has blessed us like he has—that’s the road we can go down. Here’s the point—When I forget why God has blessed me with more than I need, I can begin to think it’s for me. I can store up more stuff and enrich my lifestyle to make sure—“just-in-case, just-in-case, just-in-case”—to make ME more comfortable—to purchase more pleasure. That’s what happens when a man or woman forgets why God has blessed them with more than they need. So, the question is: Why is it that so many of us have more than we need? Why has God blessed us so richly? What does God expect from us? (Sorry, I’m not going to give away the conclusion to the sermon.)  :-)

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