“IF YOU’RE SO RICH…” (James 5:1-12)
Series: JAMES July 30, 2017 10:30 AM
FBC Earlville, NY J B Stopford, Pastor
TODAY’S SPECIAL: “The Lousy Sermon”
Dad (on the way out of church): “That was the lousiest sermon I ever heard. I didn’t get a thing out of it.”
Son: “Well, what do you expect for a dollar?”
INTRODUCTION In the section from James 4:1-5:12, James is giving 6 “Warnings against Pride”. Last week, we discussed “Do not judge a brother” and the “Deaver Principle”: “Do not boast about tomorrow.” Remember my good friend Jim who, after hearing a message from this passage, spent the rest of his life making plans centered around the Biblical expression, “if the Good Lord is willing”? He lived what he learned from God’s Word – and so should we!
Today we’ll look at the final two, passages which center around the wonderful ill-fated theme of…PATIENCE! PRAYER
WARNING #5 RICH OPPRESSORS WILL BE JUDGED (5:1-6)
Illustration: when I was in elementary school, I would walk or ride my bike the 4 miles round trip to school. Once a week, it was an anticipated joy to stop at the “penny candy” store and for a nickel, get a really thick packet of bubble gum, about 5-10 pieces of gum 2” by 5” wide. And the highlight was the comic card in the package. One of the cards has always struck my fancy: it read, “if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?”. So, to paraphrase that, for this section of scripture it could easily be entitled, “if you’re so rich, why ain’t you smart?” – sounds like a good sermon title.
I recently read another paraphrase of that: “is your income an indication of your intelligence? OR…is your intelligence an indication of your income?”
Let’s look at our text. What is v. 1 actually saying? “Do your riches own you, or do you own your riches?” In other words, has the Lord blessed you financially and you don’t use those finances for His glory but for your own? OR is the Lord free to use the funds He has blessed you with – whether large amount or small – for His glory? Are you holding hard on to those funds, or do you have a good steward’s heart and seek His glory in all that He passes through your hands?
Scripture backs up what James has to say. James is the NT version of Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 and Ecclesiastes 5:13-20.
Let’s read these two passages now. Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. Many believe he wrote Ecclesiastes near the end of his life – when the Lord had brought him through the pitfalls of all that his life entailed.
Note that the two key phrases here are: “meaningless” (from the Hebrew often translated “vanity; empty”. And the second phrase is “a chasing after the wind”. We learned this word in the NT last week in James 4:14, “a mist” = “a vapor, a mist, a morning fog”. It is kind of like the bottle with soapy water in it that we give to our kids – and have them put a circular tube in it and do what? Blow bubbles – which they can save? NO? Within fun-filled seconds, those bubbles – “a mist, a vapor, a morning fog” – are gone! In both Ecclesiastes passages, Solomon came to the same conclusion that James did – riches had him. And he was left empty in spirit. His life, when all was said and done, was empty, meaningless, a vanity, a sham, worth little or nothing in the eyes of eternity.
Which leads us to ask the same thing: “do our riches – our STUFF – have us, or does everything that the Lord has blessed us with have the freedom to be used for His glory?” Tough question – but a most necessary one which each of us should ask ourselves DAILY.
WARNING #6 PATIENT AND PERSEVERING (5:7-11)
This is a neat passage! In our beloved KJV, we have the origin of a phrase which has become a regular classic in the English language! Did you hear that? The Bible has provided a phrase which we regularly use in our language! And the phrase: “the patience of Job.” We ALWAYS use that phrase for dear people – whether Christian or not – who seem to be able to handle situations in such a wonderful, loving, and persevering way. We say, “why, you have ‘the patience of Job’”. And what was Job’s patience – or “perseverance” as our NIV wisely uses? He endured the obstacles of life – the tests of family and health, the tests of his not so great comforters, and the unseen tests which had been sent to him by the enemy of his faith. God didn’t plan the test – He allowed it under the umbrella of His sovereignty – knowing that His good would be accomplished through the…perseverance of Job.
And the NT has two wonderful passages for us: Hebrews 12:1 (right after the great Faith Chapter): “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” We run with perseverance – with patience, if you will – because God has a plan, a race which He has outlined just like the “Utica Boilermaker” run every July. That race is outlined – the runners run the course planned for their age division. Even so, isn’t it unbelievable to know that the Providential, All-Knowing, All-Wise God has a race marked out for you and me? And note one more thought: Paul was writing to a…CHURCH JUST LIKE OURS! So this race was not only being run by the individuals within that church. It was being run by the church itself! And so are we! Run it with courage and encouragement because God has planned this race for you and me.
And look at 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5: “As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”
We can be obedient because, before we were charged to be faithful and have a long-range obedience, our Savior was faithful and had a long-range obedience! How long did His “perseverance” last? The Bible says (Revelation 13:8) that, in God’s eyes, the Lord Jesus is the “Lamb slain before the foundation of the world”. How can that be? We know that in time He went to Calvary’s cross. That is History. Yet in eternity past, an eternal focus was made for Him to take upon Himself your sin and mine. For all intents and purposes, Calvary took place before eternity began – at least in the mind of our Savior. Can you imagine – that for all eternity our Savior persevered with the focus that He was to become our sin, though He Himself is sinless, so that we might become His righteousness”? (2 Cor. 5:21). Wow.
Now THAT is perseverance.
The Amplified Bible reads, “let your yes be [a truthful] yes, and your no be [a truthful] no, so that you may not fall under judgment.” And The Message wisely translates, “And since you know that he cares, let your language show it. Don’t add words like “I swear to God” to your own words. Don’t show your impatience by concocting oaths to hurry up God. Just say yes or no. Just say what is true. That way, your language can’t be used against you.”
What is the point? Our lessons today concerned not allowing your wealth – or lack of it – to show any evidence that the Lord is not Lord of your life. And may our lives be obedient to Him over a long period of time – regardless of what circumstances life brings us. Verse 12 shows us that the result is that what the world sees, then, will be truthful lives. The world? You know, those people that the Lord has wisely placed in your daily path, who are hungry to see truth, who are fed up with their own world system, who are sick and tired of religion and want to see a real love – the love of Christ on display.
Pilate asked the Savior before sending Him to the cross, “what is truth?” – and Truth was standing right before him. The Lord Jesus on display. Truth. That is what we become when, instead of stuff, the Lord Himself is our riches. And instead of bucket lists, the will of God over a long period of time is our purpose and goal.
James says, “brethren – live for the Lord Jesus! Make a difference where the Lord has wisely planted you and me.”
Close in prayer