The Folly of Trusting in Riches Alone (James 5:1-6)

My parents who adopted me as an infant (who actually were my grandparents) were scarred for life by the Great Depression. They had been married for about seven weeks when it happened, and they pretty much lost what little bit they had accumulated in life to that point. For the rest of their days, they were fiscal conservatives in every way, spending money only when necessary, diligently sticking to budgets, ever with a sense that what happened once could happen again.

Even so, they were diligently generous toward God, the church, and varied Christian causes – giving a minimum of 10%, even in the darkest days of the Depression. My folks trusted that God would take care of them, and surely He did with more than sufficient supply.

Being rich is not evil. But hoarding riches as your security in life is wrong. James wrote to such a crowd as this, chastising them for their self-centered approach to life, while warning them of the pending doom for not trusting in God alone …

James 5:1 – Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 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. 4 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. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

You’ve probably looked around at TSF and noticed that we don’t have any particularly wealthy people. We do have lots of people who are more than sufficiently blessed, especially by standards of the majority of folks around the world and of the material condition of mankind over the years. We can afford some generosity, even as what abundance we have is not massive nor guaranteed from being totally lost in some downturn. But even in that event, we can trust God to meet our needs.

Over the years you have probably heard or read some of my comments about the little slice of life that I had during my Dallas Seminary years of living among the rich and serving as a staff pastor for an extraordinarily wealthy congregation. There I encountered two types of wealthy folks: those who held onto it lightly, and those who firmly grasped it in fear of loss (during a time that was an economic downturn). The latter of these rich people were not a lot of fun to be with; they were worried all the time and oppressed by having to guard their wealth. The former type were great fun to be with! They were generous and joyful – knowing that it was only because of God’s blessing that they had what they enjoyed; and even when several of them lost most everything in their businesses, their disposition and character never changed. They believed God could prosper them again, and if not, they were fine with that. And this is the attitude to have.

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