Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Let the rich howl - James 5:1-3

"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!" (James 5:1-3)
The rich whom James is talking about here are not those who possesses many possessions but rather those whose many possessions possess them. They are those whose heart is bound to the things of this world and whose life is dedicated to their pursuit. They are those whose treasure is earthly and temporal rather than being heavenly and eternal. They are rich in their possession of worldly wealth yet poor in their possession of God. They are those whom Jesus chided saying, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36-37)

The possession of great riches is no sin, but our attitude towards them and our use of them can be. Two men can have equal riches and one sin in regard to his riches while the other honors God with his wealth. Even a poor person may display themselves as being rich in regard to their meager possessions; hoarding what they have and ever lusting after more. The issue is not how much we own, but where our treasure is. Jesus said, "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 neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Our treasures are the things that fill our hearts and bring us delight and joy. They are the objects of our affection and the goal of our pursuits. Our treasures may be physical things, like gold, houses, and cars, but they may also be ethereal things such as power, prestige, and status. Our treasures may be of honorable stock, such as relationships with God and man, or they may be of ignoble birth, such as the love of self and the lusts of the flesh. The truth is that our heart goes after our treasure. Where our treasure is, there will be our heart. Clement of Alexandria once wrote:
"But he who carries his riches in his soul, and instead of God’s Spirit bears in his heart gold or land, and is always acquiring possessions without end, and is perpetually on the outlook for more, bending downwards and fettered in the toils of the world, being earth and destined to depart to earth,—whence can he be able to desire and to mind the kingdom of heaven,—a man who carries not a heart, but land or metal, who must perforce be found in the midst of the objects he has chosen? For where the mind of man is, there is also his treasure." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich, Chapter 17)
The great fear of the rich is the loss of their treasure. If our heart is bent on the things of this world then we will most certainly suffer their loss. We are two thousand years later into the "last days," how much more certain must the end of all things be upon us and the destruction of the world around us? Those whose treasure lie here are destine to howl and morn their loss for the things of this creation are not eternal but rather temporal and passing away. However, those whose treasures are in eternal things shall enjoy them with God for all eternity.  James is not saying that the rich must sell all their possessions and give away all there wealth, rather that they must liberate themselves from their bondage to wealth and possessions. They must empty their hearts of their worldly treasures that they may fill them with heavenly treasures so that, in that day, they may not morn the destruction of this world but rather rejoice with the rest of the saints in their inheritance of eternity.

David Robison

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