"The Misery of Money" is the title that my pastor, Peppy DuTart of Crossroads Community Church in Summerville, SC, gave his sermon this week. When I first saw it, I groaned. (I believe everyone else did too.) However, it is exactly what I needed to hear and a theme that has been following me lately. I would like to share with you his basic message and what God showed me through his guidance.
James 5: 1-6 (ESV)
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. (2) Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. (3) Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. (4) Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. (5) You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. (6) You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
Peppy proposed four indictments to the ungodly wealthy:
Indictment #1: The misery of hoarding wealth.
During ancient times, there were three standards of wealth: harvested grain, clothing and precious metals and jewels. These showed a sign of riches among the people and could be used to bargain and trade for other goods. However, James shows in verses 2-3 that those possessions that show you to be rich are temporary and will fade away in times if unused.
Your riches have rotted (James 5:2a)
James is referring to harvested grain when he says "riches." Those who had lots to store away for the winter months were considered rich. However, if grain was not distributed and used it would rot and be good to no one.
Your garments are moth-eaten (James 5:2b)
In the ancient times, many people did not have more than one or two sets of clothes. The ones considered rich would have many and flaunt them in front of others so everyone would know of their wealth. However, in time these clothes would reduce to rags and be eaten by moths. This is temporary wealth because it will ultimately fade away.
Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days (James 5:3).
James is showing the worthlessness of storing treasure. He is referring to God's judgment of their hearts. Instead of sharing their wealth to help others to benefit their brethren, they kept it to themselves, not using it on anything at all.
There is something to be said for savings, it is important to have enough to cover the unexpected things that life throws at you. However, there is no reason to sit on your riches. This goes for all types of wealth. There is no reason to keep food until it will be no good to anyone, no reason to keep a bunch of clothes that you will never wear, and no reason to keep a bunch of money lying around serving no purpose at all.
When we give these things to others, we help out our brothers and sisters in this world. When we share our food with the hungry, we are helping to sustain life. When we give clothes to ones who don't have it, we offer a since of security and protection for someone who doesn't have any. When we share our money, we help those in need.
Even when we buy goods to feed or clothe ourselves we are keeping our economy, circulating money so everyone can get the opportunity to earn for themselves. When we sit on our riches, we stale our entire community. Our things are meant to be used, not hoarded. It is even greater a deed when we can help the lives of others in the process.
This is the one that really stood out to me in light of us moving across the country to Seattle. I am one who loves to hang onto things. I like stuff, it makes me feel comfortable. However, I have been convicted in the past couple years to stop relying on being comfortable, to stretch my limits a little and live outside of my comfort zone. It has been scary, but God is also teaching me to be brave in the process.
As I am packing our house to move, I have been looking at everything we own and deciding whether it is coming with us or going to someone else who could use it. I am excited to say that I have gotten rid of quite a lot of things that we don't use or we have aplenty of. On the other hand, I am still a little sad because I feel like I should be able to get rid of more. We are still moving a lot of things, probably more than we need. However, I just can't part with everything. Also, it is challenging to teach my daughter what I am only now truly learning. Thankfully, we are learning together. I try not to beat myself up to much about it because God is still working on me, and I will continue to learn and grow.
Indictment #2: The misery of illegally obtained wealth.
Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts (James 5:4).
James is speaking specifically of those who do not pay employees fairly for good work. Unfortunately, this still goes on today. It is not always technically illegal (though sometimes it is absolutely illegal), but it is unfair. God will deal with unjust treatment of others in time with His judgment. When this type of unfair treatment occurs, both the money itself and the workers call out to God, letting Him hear of the discrimination that exists in the transaction.
Indictment #3: The misery of self-indulgence
You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter (James 5:5).
This is another one that I deal with, though not as intensely. I believe it is a difficult one for most people, especially in America. We feel it is our right to get whatever we want for ourselves. Sometimes even at the expense of others or putting ourselves in debt. I have written before [From Consumer to Contributor] about how much I like to get things for myself, little things but nonetheless, it can easily get out of control. It is much more rewarding to give things to others as opposed to thinking only for yourself.
I have a heart to give things to others, but I feel limited by my own interests and the little money I have to cover it all. I do not like to admit that I have often not given to someone else because I wanted something for myself more. It is selfish and wrong and I am trying to do better, praying for God to give me a generous heart and the courage to follow through.
Self-indulgence really does cause misery because things do not make us happy. It is only a temporary relief to the desire in us to know others and the joy of helping them. It is the love God and of others that brings us joy, not stuff. That is an easy concept in theory and a hard one to practice.
Indictment #4: The misery of ruthlessly required wealth.
You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you (James 5:6).
This is not one that I have much familiarity with, but there are a lot of people who will stop at nothing for money or possessions. They will kill and steal to get what they want. It reminds me of another thief...the devil himself.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).
Satan is alive and present on the earth and his desire is to recruit people who will kill, steal and destroy just like himself. Thankfully, there is one greater than he. Jesus Christ came, sacrificing himself, so that we would have life and have it abundantly.
There can be great misery in money when we handle it selfishly. However, money itself can be a great thing and can be used to advance God's Kingdom.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (1 Timothy 6:10).
It is when the love of money overrides our love for God that we encounter problems. That is when it becomes idolatry.
I just finished reading a chapter in a wonderful book by Derwin Gray called "Limitless Life" about this same subject. The chapter was called "From Consumer to Contributor;" it was eye opening. I never realized how much I was a consumer or how much I desired to be a contributor for God's Kingdom. Gray writes, "For where your heart is, your money will be also." He also states how important this subject is to Jesus because sixteen out of His thirty-eight parables are about money and possessions. In addition, there are three items as many verses on money in the Bible as on love.
It seems this struggle with money and possessions is as old as mankind itself. It is a subject that ancient civilizations dealt with and one we continue to deal with today. I am learning to simply not spend so much on things I don't need and to help others in any way I can with what I do have. I pray that God continues to put on my heart the needs of others.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).