"A Sermon to the Rich"
There is nothing wrong with money. Money is neutral in the Bible, but about how we use money, there is much said. James addresses the rich people. Who are these rich people?
A Sermon To The Rich
A. The prophets we read are often dramatic. They illustrate sometimes with their very body. There was a time when Paul was heading to Jerusalem, a prophet name Agabus, comes, takes off Paul’s belt, and bound his own hands and feet saying, “the one to whom this belt belongs will be bound and handed over to the Gentiles.” There is a reason for the dramatic stories, they get your attention.
B. James tells a dramatic story to people who are rich. With the power and passion of the prophets he tells them that their riches will perish with them. Their money and business practices will testify against them. He pulls no punches because he wants them to see what this particular “sin of omission” is doing.
C. If you ask the question, “Who are ‘the rich’ in America?” you will get different financial answers. When people are surveyed, the answer often comes back, “People who make more than I do.” Not very definitive. Tim Noah said, “think of the top 10 percent as the “sort of rich,” the 1 percent as the straightforward “rich,” and the 0.1 percent as the “stinking rich.”
D. James doesn’t go by a number as to who is rich, he really goes by what money does to a person and how some who trust in their riches treat other people. Money, itself, is neutral – not good or evil. What we do with it can be good or evil. So let’s think about how we use our resources of time, talents, and finances to hear what James is teaching.
I. Riches Won’t Save You
A. We have all hear it before, “You can’t take it with you.” But sometimes it is easy to think of talents and time the same way people think of money. “It’s mine.” But if God has gifted you with an ability/talent, scripture says it wasn’t simply for your benefit, but to use it for His service.
B. James makes a strong and accusing statement (READ James 5:1-3). The clothing often “made” the person in their society. Remember Joseph and his “coat of many colors?” Or Jesus’ story of the father putting a ring on the prodigal son’s finger and a robe on his back.
C. The charge against these people is that in the last days (probably meaning the days in which they were living) that what they possessed and hoarded would be their undoing. They would die with their things.
D. It is not that they had riches – Abraham, Job, and many of the patriarchs were very wealthy men. It is not having things or abilities that are wrong; the sin is not using them for God’s glory, especially if we let others suffer.
E. James continues on (James 5:4-6). The cry of people who have been harmed by our actions, or lack of action, goes up to God as a cry for help. And the phrase James uses is “the Lord of hosts.” That OT phrase is connected to armies. The idea is that God’s army, God’s power, will come against those who mistreat the worker. That power will leave the sinful rich condemned.
A. We can understand this teaching through a parable that Jesus told. Tell, dramatically, the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).
B. We are but stewards of what God has allowed us to possess. As stewards we are responsible for what has been placed in our care – again, that is your time and talent as much as your money. But money helps us to see the working of our heart. It tells our story for us.
C. Most of us would not consider ourselves rich, nor would we be accused of harming or defrauding other people. You live out your faith in ways that touch the lives others. You give generously and without strings attached. You seek to find way to help others and for that, God is glorified.
D. When a woman poured expensive perfume on Jesus the people were upset and said it could be sold and given to the poor. Jesus replied, “The poor you will always have with you and you can help them anytime you want, but you will not always have me.” I can give all that I have to the poor and become poor myself and that will not stop poverty. My challenge is to be such a steward for God that my blessings are a testimony of my love for Him and seen in how I am fair with all those around me.
A. I don’t condemn the rich. Brethren, we are the rich. We are blessed people. We have been financially blessed, emotionally blessed, and spiritually blessed. We are rich. But if we trust in our riches we will simply die rich – not die right. “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
B. Open your wallet, your check book, your bank accounts and look at what they say. Do they testify that you bless those who lack; that you do good unto all men, especially those of the household of faith; that you share in the support of the gospel
C. “All to Jesus I surrender. All to him I freely give. I will ever love and trust him, in his presence daily live.” I trust you are using what God has given to you – your time, talent and money – for His glory. I trust that you have surrendered it all to Him. But there is something that you need to give to him so you can live in freedom, then do that now as we stand and sing.