June 21, 2012

Let's Talk Money - Is it Bad to Have a Lot? (Book of James)

"Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.  Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be like a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire.  you have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.  You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure. You have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.  You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance."
- James 5:1-6

Another way that a lot of people live out "practical atheism" (in addition to judging others and making plans without God) is the way that people spend their money.  Especially in our very privileged American society it seems like people are constantly obsessed with the search for bigger and better items.   It's easy to get caught up in wanting items and more money, and it's even easier to forget that everything we have is from God.
The first part of the above passage makes sense.  Basically what we store up on this earth is useless and the "treasures" we have here will be a testimony against us on Judgement Day. None of the material goods we have on earth will last past our lives on this earth.  So what exactly does that last verse mean (you have murdered the righteous one)?   We have to look back to Old Testament verses, such as Sirach 34:22 which says "To take away a neighbor's living is to murder him; to deprive an employee of his wages is to shed blood."  Metaphorically, this verse is saying that if you withhold wages from a worker, you might as well kill him because he is unable to pay for his needs without his wages.  I think it could also be applied to having a lot of money, but not sharing money with those who are less fortunate.  The "righteous one" also brings to mind Jesus (Acts 3:14 and 7:52).  We often see the poor juxtaposed with Jesus in the Bible, as in Matthew 25:34-46.  Basically, whatever we do to the poor and needy, we do to the Lord himself.  

Money can be a pretty controversial topic, as some people do not think it's bad to be wealthy whereas others think that it's evil to have a lot of money.  Jeff Cavins said that the indictment on the rich in the passage in James is not brought upon rich people just for being rich, but on those who are rich and greedy.  James is talking about those who have tried to get money only to meet their own desires and who live way beyond that which they need.   It's not a bad thing to have money, but it's what you do with it and your attitude about it that matters.  Jeff said, "the man with godly wisdom will accept the riches he has as blessings from God to be shared with those who have not.  Much good can be done with riches when they are used to extend God's love and mercy to the needy."  

It almost seems like this passage does not apply to me at this stage in my life because with me in graduate school we are so very far from wealthy.  However, I think the overarching message does still apply.  We must constantly remind ourselves that everything we have is a blessing from God, and we must be ready and willing to share it through tithing to the church and donating money to certain causes when we see people expressing needs.  I found this on Pinterest:

Very true!  Also, even if you aren't making much money and you only have a little to share with others, God fully knows your situation and the intention in your heart.  We all know God appreciates us giving all that we can, as seen in the story of the women who gives the two coins (Mark 12:41-44). 

"Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused my change."
- James 1:16-17

I think if we constantly remind ourselves that all we have is from God, it makes it a lot less challenging to give up some of that money to help other people who need it more than we do.  Jeff Cavins said we must be generous stewards with our money, and we have to put what we do have to good use wisely.  

This blog post is based on the Bible Study James: Pearls for Wise Living by Jeff Cavins. Here are my previous posts based on this study:


1 comment:

  1. Interesting points. I hate money most days and get easily frustrated about money. Which I can't decide is a good or bad thing. I'm like you though and a lot of the info makes sense but hard to relate to :)