There is something about being too comfortable, too secure…Money can change a person.
James challenges the “rich.” This is the 3rd time in this short book money is the topic. The “rich” must mean me? Nobody here is the richest around, but most have a higher standard of living than the wealthiest of the folks James was speaking…. The key to understand: the amount of money is not important, it is our attitude. I like the wise words of Andrew Murray: “The world asks, ‘what does a man own?’ Christ asks, ‘How does he use it?’”
Attitude is everything. James includes an attitude towards money and resources as part of this letter emphasizing Christian discipleship. The way to thrive as a Christian is to get our attitude right towards money. The way to survive as a Christian in an unchristian world is to not be sucked into the temptation of money, but to see money as a gift from God to be used to his glory. What we do with what we are given is the key. The word we use is stewardship ~ all that I have belongs to God and he calls me to be faithful in using His resources wisely.
The Lord cares about our attitudes towards money. Why is James negative? We need to hear the unembellished truth. Children need to hear the word NO. James sets high Standards! God is complimenting us when he holds us to high standards of discipline. God wants the best for us. When God speaks to wealthy people and points out failures it is because He expects more of us than we require of ourselves. The rich men in the days of James thought they had it all because of what they could do with their money, but God is saying your attitude is more important. The words are challenging because God believes we can change…
James 5:1-6 can be summarized with three principles. James says them negatively, but implied is a positive counterpart. The three principles said negatively:
- vv. 1-3, Don’t hoard money greedily,
- v. 4, Don’t withhold money deceitfully,
- Vv 5-6, Don’t spend money selfishly.
- The short version: Don’t be greedy, deceitful or selfish.
- 1-3 Manage Money Wisely,
- v. 4, Earn Money Honestly,
- 5-6, Share money generously.
- The short version of attitude towards money: Be wise, honest and generous.
You need all three. Awesome to be generous, but must do it with wisdom and consistency. We all know people who are generous but sometimes give their money away in ways that don’t seem to help the person…think of the homeless asking for help on the street…. I will not tell you to give or not give in any instance, but when you choose to give or not give, do it with eyes wide open, wisdom. Attitude is everything. The healthiest recipe is Wisdom, Honesty and Generosity. Leave out anyone of them and it is like forgetting the salt in the soup ~ you can eat it, but something is missing. Following Christ with your whole heart includes your attitude with the resources entrusted to you, be wise, honest, and generous.
James 5:1-3 ~ Don’t Hoard money Greedily – Manage it Wisely READ
The Bible never condemns the accumulation of wealth, only the abuse of wealth. It is not a sin to have riches; it is a sin to hoard riches. There are many examples in the Bible of godly wealthy people – Abraham, Job, King David, Solomon, Nicodemus, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Joseph of Arimathea and Barnabas. Abraham was a rich man and he is a man of faith and character. However, when Lot, Abraham’s nephew, became rich, it ruined his character and family. Some people don’t quite get money…..
James 5:1-3 paints a picture of the person who hoards money and does nothing noble with it. It is rotting. God gives to us that we might have the joy of giving. The person in James accumulates for his own gain. I think of the boy that catches a butterfly. Wanting to keep it to himself, he clutches it tightly. At last when he takes a peak to gaze on his treasure, the butterfly wings are torn and wrinkled. Hold tightly onto money and it changes you… the moths eating away your clothes, the corrosion, like a battery that is not used, money becomes toxic when it is hoarded. The wording of the Bible is well chosen when it says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” It’s not the money. It’s the attitude.
God never intended the accumulation of money/wealth to be a goal in itself. We are to use our money wisely, not hoard it.
James 5:4: Don’t Withhold Money Deceitfully – Earn it Honestly READ
The wages you FAILED TO PAY implies the wages will never be paid. James is speaking of complete dishonesty. James 5:4 is a simple case of theft. God wants us to pay our bills. He wants us to be honest with our money. For a short time when I went to Fuller Seminary I worked in the loan collections department. My job was to record payments of students that had taken out loans from the school. One woman, month after month, sent in a note explaining why she could not make her payment or only a partial payment. She explained every month her calling from God was to work among the poor, so she didn’t have the money to pay her debt. That sounds noble, but I call shenanigans! God wants us to fulfill our obligations. If the women wanted to ask Fuller Seminary to rework her payment schedule or ask for forgiveness of the loan she could have done that, but just to declare God told her to not pay her bill is not the God I know!
God calls us to be faithful to our commitments, especially not taking advantage of those who have needs. In the days of James, there was a class of people who were poor: day laborers…. His wage was small. If the wage was withheld, even a day, he and his family likely could not eat. That is why the mercy laws of Scripture insist on the prompt payment of his wages to a hired laborer. That is the system of the day.
Deut. 24:14-15 spells it out as clearly as any scripture: “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy….You shall give him his hire on the day he earns it, before the sun goes down (for he is poor, and sets his heart upon it; lest he cry against you to the Lord, and it be sin in you.”
Be honest with your money…fulfill your commitments. In the example of James, at the end of the day the landowner said he didn’t have the money to pay those he hired to work in his fields for the day, saying, "come back tomorrow." But tomorrow was too late. The last phrase in James 5:4 is haunting: READ.
It is never in keeping with God’s principles to manipulate our money withholding here or there so we maximize for our own gain, but we are to fulfill our commitments. Over the decades Sally and I have discovered that somehow money works out…there have been times we’ve had little. The rules of math don’t change, but somehow God has always brought us through…. If you want to know the truth, I am the one that would be more likely to cheat on our taxes, but there is something about my wonderful wife that just believes in doing what is right, and believe me, I would rather have less and be able to face Sally with an honest ledger, than more and have to have a secret from her. How much more God! I might have a chance to keep a secret from Sally…. But with God, no chance. If I am dishonest, he knows…the cries of the harvesters have reached the throne of God! Whoever it is that I have cheated, God knows….
Don’t Withhold It Deceitfully – Be honest with your money. BTW…a standing invitation. If anyone wants basic budgeting lessons, there are people in this church who are able and willing to help teach you…. Budgeting and faith go together!
James 5:5-6 Don’t Spend Money Selfishly – Share it Generously. READ.
God will bless you as you give. The saying is true, "You can’t out give God." Listen to what it says in Proverbs 11:24-25 (NLT): “It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV): "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Generosity is a godly character. The richest investment is to invest in other people. The most satisfied people are those who are generous with their time and money in building other people up. I’ve had to learn that when I see somebody who has little want to give, my passing thought is sometimes, “you can’t afford it, keep your money…. But generosity is what God wants from us, and giving is a privilege, and I end up scolding myself for being judgmental for wanting to take that privilege away from them…. Attitude is everything. We so easily get entangled by the stuff we own. The way to get out of the stress is to be generous. You be generous by valuing other people. Instead of putting the emphasis on me, care about others. As the hymn says, God will take care of you.
Be wise. Be honest. Be generous. All three are needed. To be a disciple of Christ means to be wise with the resources he gives us, be honest as we faithfully fulfill our obligations and commitments, and be generous as we look to help others as a priority of our calling. Attitude is everything. Amen.