With all of the unrest around the economy, it can be easy to preach against the rich. In this sermon, Greg takes a look at the book of James to see what he says about wealth, and he finds that there is more to the story than fairness.
Christmas is right around the corner, and with it comes the shopping and gift buying associated with the holiday. 70% of all purchasing in America happens at this time of the year, which is a little ironic because if we didn’t have Jesus’ birthday to celebrate, the economy would collapse. That’s why it is such a good time to take a look at what the Kingdom thinks about wealth. The book of James appears to have a scalding review of the rich, but in reality, there is something much deeper going on in this passage.
James is delivering a very passionate message to the wealthy. At first glance, it looks a lot like the current Occupy Wall Street or OWS protests. He says their possessions are corroded, the cries of the harvesters have reached the Lord, and that they have fattened themselves for the day of slaughter. OWS protestors protest against the wealthy hoarding their money while the poorer people lose their life savings, homes, and jobs. While sympathy is easy to give in this situation, James’ message is not the same as OWS, and it applies to all people more than we know.
While we might be inclined to think it’s about other people, it can easily be about us. If a family of four makes $50,000 a year, they are in the top 10% of wealth globally. And by historic standards, most housing provides more luxury than ancient kings had. While we may not feel wealthy because we always seem strapped for cash, we are wealthy by global standards. However, when it comes to wealth, people want to compare themselves to the richer people and never the poorer people.
However, the Occupy the Kingdom movement shows that wealth is dangerous, no matter how much of it you have. The pull of gaining more stuff affects everyone because we live in a fallen world. James isn’t preaching against the top 5% of the wealthy, telling them that God will slaughter them. Instead, James is warning the rich of what their wealth is doing to them.
James’ warning isn’t motivated by class envy or jealousy, it’s motivated by a love for the rich. He says that this hoarding is killing you/fattening you for the slaughter, but it’s not God that will do the slaughtering, it’s their own possessions. He’s warning them to stop because their wealth is destroying them. He’s not saying “Share so I can get some” but rather “Share to save yourselves.”
Wealth has a polluting force in this world. There are principalities and powers that try to suck us into the wealth race and pollute our lives. Jesus identifies this as the demonic god Mammon. Mammon wants us to find our security and happiness in wealth and possessions. It is not the Kingdom way to find these things in wealth. Rather, we should live in a way that fights against this demonic corruption.
The only way to prevent this corruption is to live with outrageous generosity. James wasn’t telling the wealthy to give their money away so that things would be fair and equal. James did not confront the rich to make his own life better. Instead, he was telling the wealthy to be outrageously generous so that they could fight against the demonic power of Mammon. James is calling people to give up on the demonic pull and embrace the Kingdom weaponry of generosity and love. James’ command is not given just for the sake of the poor; it is given for the sake of the rich as well. He cares for them and wants to warn them of the dangers of wealth.
It’s ok to have wealth. Just don’t let that wealth pull you away from God. Give generously and never hold onto your possessions for safety or happiness. That will only fatten you for the slaughter. Many people experienced this over the past few years, as their lives were taken from them because they lost jobs and homes. The only way not to be destroyed by the wealth of this world is to never cling to it. Instead, cling to God and give generously. Stay free by giving generously of your mind, heart, and wallet for the poor.
Hide Extended Summary