Your Money: A Blessing or A Curse
Introduction: As we continue to probe the very practical book of James, we come to one of those problems all of us face, "If I only had more money, I would be really happy." But as we look around us we find that things do not usually work out that way.
Someone said, "The more money we have, the more we need, and the more we make, the more we spend."
Still another said, "The face of prosperity does not always smile. Many people spend sleepless nights worrying over money as they reach for HIGHER and HIGHER standards of living. It is estimated that about 45% of American families have a hand to mouth existence, from this week’s pay check to the next."
Doctors tell us, "More than half the ulcers in this country arise from emotional and nervous disorders, and more than half of these spring from economic insecurity and money worries."
It appears money is one of the more popular subjects today. Millions of people in our world starve to death every year simply because they did not have enough money to buy food. On the other hand, there are people who have more money than they can possibly use. And yet they, too, are starving, STARVING FOR FULFILLMENT AND MEANING IN LIFE.
Someone described money as "an article which may be used as a universal passport to everything except Heaven, and as a universal provider to everything except happiness."
The Bible does not condemn wealth. There is nothing wrong with being wealthy or owning things. There are at least four general classifications of people and possessions that we can identify.
Number 1, those who are poor without and within. To be poor without means they posses little of this world’s goods. To be poor within means they are unbelievers.
Number 2, those who are rich without and rich within. These are rich both economically and spiritually. We have a number of examples of these in the Bible:
Abraham was a wealthy man and a man of faith.
Job was a rich man, who also found his peace in God.
Joseph of Arimathea who buried Jesus in the Garden tomb was a rich man and a man of faith.
Number 3, those who are poor without and rich within. These people have little in the way of worldly possessions, but they are rich within because they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Number 4, those who are rich without and poor within. This is the group James addresses, the unbelieving plutocrats.
James was dealing with “the Rich and the Famous” in James chapter 5:1-6,
“Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. (2) Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. (3) Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. (4) Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. (5) Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. (6) Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.”
These rich men, against whom James was speaking, had become corrupt by their wealth. He is going to point out that wealth can so easily eat away like a canker, and make us lose our sense of priorities.
In Mark 8:36-37 Jesus said, "For what shall it prophet a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus warned the disciples concerning the transitory nature of wealth. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
In I Timothy 6:7-10, 17-19 Paul gives us several practical lessons. God’s concern is not with actual wealth, but with our attitude toward wealth.
In verse 8-10 we read, “(8) And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. (9) But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. (10) For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
In verses 17-19 we read, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; (18) That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; (19) Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
Perhaps you are thinking, “Pastor, I am not rich. I am just an average middle class American.” Lest you get any thoughts of going to sleep on this one or letting your mind wonder, let me bring you back to reality. There are many average, middle-class Americans saying to themselves: "I need more and more MONEY. I am very materialistic with no time for God." How do you handle your money and materialism? Do your possessions possess you or are you mastering them?
One of the Hebrew words denoting "to be rich" means heavy. Riches and possessions are a burden. Consider this:
"There is a BURDEN in acquiring them. There is a FEAR in keeping them. There is a GUILT in abusing them. There is a SORROW in losing them, and then there is the BURDEN of giving an account for them."
To lay a foundation for the context of this passage, let me share something that is well worth your attention. Someone wrote:
"Before the Lord God made man upon the earth, He first prepared for him a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. In the Genesis account of the creation these are called simply "things." These were made for man's use, but they were always meant to be external to the man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within him was God, without a thousand gifts that God had showered upon him.
But sin introduced complications and made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin in the soul. Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and things were allowed to enter. Within the human heart things have taken over. Men by nature have no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer… There is within the human heart a tough, fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets things with a deep and fierce passion.
The pronoun MY and MINE look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. …They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God's gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution."
James in the preceding paragraph of 4:13-17 appears to be dealing with believing businessmen. In chapter 5:1-6 James is dealing with unbelieving businessmen with the obvious omission of the word "brethren or Brother" which is used other places in this epistle 14 times. He returns to the use of "brethren or Brother" in verse 7. This is what James has to say to unbelievers:
FIRST: Worldly Wealth is Temporary, verses 1-3a, “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. (2) Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. (3) Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire.” Now with his usual frankness, James confronts wealthy unbelievers with their doom. The first point James makes is that material things do not provide ultimate happiness. A person can be wealthy, but still miserable. Notice, would you, verse 1, “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.”
One millionaire said, "The poorest man I know is the man who has nothing but money.
Another said, "Never possess anything, have it and use it, but never lay claim to it as yours."
These individuals were simply echoing what James wrote when he warned that the rich would "weep and howl."
Weep is an expression of a bitter sob, such as the wailing for the dead.
Howl is an expression of grief. It creates a picture of one in agony.
Let me pause to say there is a note of prophecy in James’ message.
Verse 1, "that shall come upon you"
Verse 3, "shall be a witness against you"
Verse 5, "you have nourished your heart as in the days of slaughter"
James was echoing the Lord's prophetic words as He laments over Jerusalem from Luke 19:43-44, "For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee around, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in the one stone upon another; because thou knowest not the time of thy visitation."
What Jesus and James said was literally fulfilled in 70 AD when the Roman army led by Titus besieged Jerusalem for 143 days and finally destroyed it. One million lives were lost including many of the wealthy Jews who had rejected their Messiah and instead had put their hope in their riches. These people were counting on all their prosperity to keep them happy.
James is warning us of the subtle sinfulness of idle wealth. Remember this, "THE LAW OF LIVING IS GIVING." "IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE."
If our RICHES are to be useful they must be used.
If our TALENTS are to be useful they must be used.
If our TIME is to be useful, it must be spend for others.
If the Gospel we believe is real it must be given out to others.
Jesus said to us in Luke 6:38, "Give and it shall be given unto you…For with the same measure that literally you have given out it shall be given back to you."
Now the problem James points out in verses 2-3 is of UNUSED MONEY. Your wealth has gotten you nowhere, if you gather it just to hold onto it. Listen to this concerning possessions,
HOLD ME, and I will dry up your soul, and leave you barren and destitute. KEEP ME and I will destroy you. SPEND ME for self and I will become your master, you my slave. GIVE ME and I will become your slave, you my master. And I will return in streams of spiritual resource to your soul.
These phrases in verse 2-3 describe the three basic kinds of wealth in the ancient world.
Verse 2 "Riches" would no doubt refer to the commodity of "grain." While the word "corruption" would refer to the idea of "rotting", indicating the grain stored is now spoiled.
Verse 2 Fine clothes were another measure of wealth. But because of the extreme heat in the Middle East without even moth-balls to preserve them, their rich clothes became full of holes.
Verse 3 Here James speaks of gold and silver being ruined. In the ancient world these were often buried. When left in the ground for a period of time, they would corrode, thus losing their value.
And just as riches spoil, so does the spirit of those who hoard. Time and disuse turn people’s attitudes toward life into bitterness and disappointment. God never intended for us not to use the TREASURE, TALENTS and TIME He gave to us. We are to let God have access to them.
What happens when we don't use what God has given to us? Here is a principle that applies to our physical talents, our mental and emotional attributes, our possessions, and our time. This principle can also apply to everything that we are.
God never intended anything he gave us to be WASTED, either by ABUSE, MISUSE, or LACK of USE. Therefore, either use it or lose it.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:25, "For whosoever will save his life will lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." We only really have what we give away. WHAT WE GIVE, WE RECEIVE BACK.
SECOND: Worldly Wealth is a Temptation, verses 3b-6. “Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. (4) Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. (5) Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. (6) Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.” Here James gives us a graphic picture of the behavior of wealthy people:
To accumulate more and more, verse 3c, "Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days." Another way of saying this would be, "They never had enough to satisfy them." They were the perfect example of the rich fool Jesus spoke of in Luke 19 who tore down his barns to build bigger ones. Unfortunately, that very night he died leaving it all behind and he went into eternity without God.
To be unfair and dishonest, verse 4, They were selfish to the core. They were unfair, unethical and dishonest in failing to pay their employees. James goes up on his toes and shouts out, "you have robbed the workmen, but "The Lord of sabaoth (the Lord of Hosts), has heard their cries."
To be self indulgent, verse 5, This should not surprise us, as we live in a society that is attempting to satisfy itself with more and more things. But this gathering of things will only lead to "the day of slaughter." Another way of expressing this action is "we are only preparing ourselves for a bitter end." Remember this, “The unjust acts of the unsaved are not forgotten, for a lack of judgment today does not mean a lack of judgment tomorrow.”
To be unethical and immoral, verse 6, Money causes some to kill. James rebukes the rich for taking advantage of the righteous.
In 1923 a group of men who were considered the most successful financiers of their day met at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Collectively these tycoons controlled more wealth than there was in the United States treasury at that time. For years the newspapers and magazines were printing their success stories and urging the youth of the nation to follow their examples.
Three decades later in 1950, a follow-up study discovered all seven success stories ended tragically. To which someone said, “It may take intelligence to make a lot of money, but it takes even greater wisdom to handle it.”
All of these men had learned how to make money, but not one of them had learned how to live. Indeed James was right when he penned verse 5 to lower the boom on those who are rich in this world, but who have turned away from God and rejected Jesus Christ. They were not merely HEADED for serious trouble, they were ALREADY in serious trouble.
You may be thinking, “Pastor, I am not rich and wealthy. I am a struggling, middle-class American, trying to make ends meet, living from paycheck to paycheck.” However, since "not all Scripture is written TO US, but all Scripture is written FOR US," there is a message for every Christian in this passage. For what happens to our TALENTS, TIME, and TREASURES is but a symbol of what is happening in our soul. Let me give you Three Keys from these thoughts.
One: The Key of Contentment, is found in I Timothy 6:6-10, "But having food and raiment let us be therewith content."
Contentment brings a thankful heart for what you have, against what you desire and cannot have.
Contentment enables you to live within your present level of income and not on the level you could live on if you received more money. It's your attitude that makes the difference. The psalmist sums it up in Psalm 127:2, "It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep."
Two: The Key of Discipline
It takes discipline to live within your means.
It takes discipline to thank God for what you have.
It takes discipline to build up sales resistance.
There is nothing wrong with having money, nor is there anything wrong with having and enjoying things. It's when material things get between you and God that your whole sense of values goes haywire, and God cannot get through to you.
If you are SULKING over what you cannot have, you are limiting what God wants to give you.
If you are SETTING your heart only on the material things you do have, you are passing up the kind of riches that count for eternity.
Three: The Key to Getting is Giving. Jesus said in:
Matthew 16:25, "For whosoever will save his life will lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."
Acts 20:35, "It is more blessed to GIVE than to receive."
My friends, how we use what God has given to us is a direct testimony of what is spiritually true in our lives.
If we misuse the talents God has given to us,
IF we misuse the riches and possessions God has given to us,
If we misuse the time God has given us to live,
We are simply showing that there is a basic disorder in our souls. We are not to try to hang on to what we cannot keep, but to be good stewards using our talent so that God can use and bless it.
Jesus said we can lay up treasures in heaven. How do we do that? We do it by bringing what we possess under the Lordship of Jesus and letting him use it. Our part is to make wise investment with what God has given to us so that it can be paying eternal dividends. I challenge you on the authority of the Word of God to SURRENDER all you have to Jesus Christ with eternal values in view.
Let me close by asking, “What happens when we do not allow God access to what He has given to us?” Jesus said in Mark 8:36-37, "For what shall it prophet a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
For just a moment, forget about your bank account and consider your soul’s account. My friends, money and things can't buy you heaven or eternal life. Jesus with His own blood already paid that price for you at Calvary. I challenge you on the authority of the Word of God to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon “Your Money: A Blessing or A Curse” then right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior let me know? Please send an e-mail to, pdmikBBM@aol.com and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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In His Amazing Grace,
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