Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Sins of the rich - James 5:4-6

"Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you." (James 5:4-6)
James enumerates three specific sins which the rich commit because of their love of wealth. These sins are not limited to the wealthy, but to all who treasure worldly things in their hearts. When we care more for the things of this life than we do for people and God, then it hardens our heart and changes the way we relate to others. Paul said, "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:10 NKJV) It's not money that is the root of all evil, but the love of money and even the poorest of poor can be bound in its snare. James lists three specific sins that are common to those who are in this wise "rich".

First is corruption. I once worked for a man who was a conniver. He thought himself so shrewd with money, He was "cleaver" in the way he out smarted others and tricked them in his dealings with them. He would buy new equipment for them and keep it and then send them our old used equipment. He thought himself a wise businessman, yet, as King Solomon said, "The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding sees through him." (Proverbs 28:11) Such shrewdness is not wisdom but sin! Such corruption in regards to money, turns our heart cold against needs of others. It matters little to us what happens to them, but God hears their cries. We must not defraud each other in the area of money.

Second is luxury. Clement of Alexandria once said, "For it is good for the eyes not to continue always wanton, but to weep and smart sometimes, for greater health. So also nothing is more pernicious to the soul than uninterrupted pleasure." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 41) Uninterrupted pleasures subtlety, and steadily, destroys the soul and the rich are more able to secure uninterrupted pleasures than the poor. When we live in luxury, we deprive our soul of the discipline it needs to grow strong and steadfast. The result is that we abound in the work of the flesh rather than in the fruit of the Spirit. Our lives become fattened, but not for glory, rather for destruction. We must remember the words of Paul, "I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9:27)

Thirdly is pride. The writer of Hebrews writes of those men and women of faith saying, "They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground." (Hebrews 11:37-38) Our money can make us proud, as if we are the worthy ones; worthy of praise, worthy to be feared, and worthy to command. We expect everyone to bow to our every want and desire while we care nothing for the interests and needs of others. We see ourselves on "top" and everyone else below us. From this position, it is easy to condemn and oppress those who have not risen to the same lofty heights as we have. However, the truth is, that it is not we who are worthy but rather those who are righteous and those whom God has made holy that are worthy. We need a change in our way of thinking and in the measure by which we evaluate the quality and standing of others. Money does not make us great. It is the working of the Holy Spirit that works greatness in us.

David Robison

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