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May 25, 1998

Two Warnings about Wealth

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Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. JAMES 5:1
James doesn’t mince words when it comes to admonishing people who are rich monetarily and poor spiritually.
“Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes,” he writes. “Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire…. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.… You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you” (James 5:2-6).
In this passage, James isn’t condemning rich people, per se, but he does want to point out what can happen if wealth is elevated above God in a person’s life. Two strong warnings seem to flow from these verses: First, that earthly wealth is only temporary; and second, that earthly wealth can produce self-centeredness. It can lead us to hoard our money and become miserly. It can make us mistreat our employees by not paying them decent wages. It can cause us to become so focused on ourselves and our own luxurious comforts that we forget all about other people and their needs.
So what application do these verses have for those of us who want to avoid those traps and handle our wealth in a Christlike manner? James reminds us that the affluent have the greatest responsibility to be stewards of what they have and that God also expects them to be more sensitive and responsive to human needs than those who don’t have as much. As Luke 12:48 says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
How are you doing with the amount of wealth—however big or small—that God has entrusted to you? Is it slowly turning you into a self-centered miser, or are you using it to enrich the lives of others?

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