Few of us view ourselves as rich. But many of us have some form of riches. As those who hold the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, this requires us to consider the connection between love and money.
James 5:1-6 is a hard word of denunciation toward “the rich.” Whether or not we think we fall into this category, from this passage a question is put before us: Do we love our money, or do we love with our money?
The sin of “the rich” that James condemns is not that they were rich, but that they loved their money to the extent that they violated love for God and people. These words are a warning of judgement on those who live this way, and a lesson for disciples on the use of riches.
Here are four questions to ask yourself about love and money that come from this passage:
1. Do I view money as something to be stored up because I don’t trust God, or do I save money because it is God’s gift to be used for good?
The rich James rebukes were hoarders. They did not use what that had to love God and people. They stored it up for themselves.
Savings and investments can be storehouses of unused wealth that will rot away, or wonderful tools to be used to meet needs and express love. Those who walk in humble trust in the Lord will know the difference.
2. Am I ever dishonest for the purpose of gaining and keeping money, even to the point of withholding what I owe other people or what belongs to them?
James charges these rich with withholding wages from their laborers. They were cheating their employees and using deceptive practices to do so. This was a violation of the law, and of love.
What do we do when the bottom line looks shaky and the margins are thin? Love for God and others will keep us honest and true.
3. Am I unwilling to deny myself in order serve other people with my money?
The rich who incurred the wrath of James were self-indulgent. They could not see the needs of others on the other side of their accumulated stuff. This was a failure to love.
Defining “enough” is a challenge. Is one, or one more, of something enough? The true test of self-indulgence is the “self” involved. Is there room in our lives for self-denial for the purpose of meeting the needs of others. There was for Jesus. We love because he first loved us.
4. Does my quest for more actually harm others?
James uses the word “murder” to describe what the rich were doing to those from whom they withheld what was due. To deprive someone of a basic need, either through stealing or standing by and doing nothing, is a serious sin in the eyes of God. This is the message of the Good Samaritan, who refused to “pass by” the dying man, but rather provided the care and paid the bill to keep him alive.
The weight of all the need in the world can be crushing to the sensitive conscience. People do die, and this world will never be rid of this tragic reality. But the follower of Christ wants to make sure that the cause is not the evil love of money in their own heart, or the lack of love for God and our neighbor.
The hard word to the rich is an opportunity for all who have some riches to consider Jesus, who though he was rich, he became poor, that we might become rich in God. When we see Jesus, we are compelled by his love to ask how we can love God and people with our money.
See you Sunday.