James 5:1-6 How to be Good Stewards of God’s Blessings
One of the most obvious aspects of God’s character is His faithful support of the underdog.
Exod 22:21-27 God commanded these laws to be set before His people.
"Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.
"Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan.
If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.
My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.
"If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.
If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in?
When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”
Fast forward about 1500 years to James 1:27 and we read…
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
God is passionately compassionate.
Injustice, discrimination, intimidation, and taking advantage of the less fortunate are diametrically opposed to His nature.
He did not tolerate it 3500 years ago during the Exodus, He did not tolerate it 2000 years ago in the early church, and I can’t imagine Him tolerating it today.
That is probably why James wrote such strong words in his letter.
He had just denounced the pride of those who leave God out of their plans and now he addresses the arrogance of those who cheat the poor out of their wages.
* You see; those to whom he addressed this message did not gain their wealth through honorable means; they gained their wealth by cheating others.
It was typical in those days to hire day laborers and pay them at the end of the day.
This system is still around today in America!
These people need their money and they depended on it to provide for their families.
The rich that James rebukes would not pay and there was nothing they could do nothing about it. If the laborers took them to court, the contractor would simply bribe the judge.
* After James gets their attention “Now listen”, he describes the actions of someone who just received bad news. He tells those who were cheating the poor to “weep and wail”.
You see, bad news comes in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons.
Often times through no fault of our own; things happen.
Things like disease, accidents; lay-offs.
There are many things in life over which we have no control.
But the bad news pronounced upon these guys was given because of the decisions they made.
The judgment James wrote of would come because of choices; not circumstance.
* But there is something we need to understand…
God does not oppose ambition; He does, however, oppose selfish ambition.
Phil 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
James 3:16 “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”
So God doesn’t oppose being ambitious; what He opposes is selfish ambition that promotes ones self at the expense of another.
Neither does God oppose planning ahead; He does, however, oppose making plans without Him.
God does not oppose making money.
But He does oppose making gain through deceitful practices.
And God does not oppose the idea of becoming wealthy.
He does, however, oppose hoarding wealth while others stand in need.
To hoard is to amass, heap up, or accumulate large portions with total disregard for others.
* 2-3. James explains the consequences of hoarding.
He writes, “Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.
Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.”
There is a form of justice that seems to take place against those who are so self-indulgent that they refuse to acknowledge the God who provides their blessings and the needs of those around them.
THEY ULTIMATELY LOSE THEIR WEALTH ANYWAY!
* Corrosion may destroy it.
Just as a machine that is never maintained will eventually “wear out”; one that sits idle and does nothing will sooner or later “rust out”.
Wealth rots when it is not used! Ill. Very old clothes.
* Another problem with wealth is that thieves will plot to steal it.
Matt 6:19-21 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 moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
* Another problem with wealth is that those who hoard it are never content.
There never seems to be enough; and their thoughts are often consumed with the possibility of either getting more or losing what they have.
* When it comes down to it, you can’t take it with you anyway.
Don Henley sang these words many years ago; you don’t see any hearses with luggage racks.
* I can’t find where God ever intended His blessings to be hoarded.
He has always required that they be shared!
As a matter of fact, James writes that the corrosion of unshared blessings will testify against those who hoard them for themselves.
It is kind of like the “use it or lose it” philosophy.
If a person has so much “of anything” that they will never use it; it’s time to give some away.
4.”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.”
The same thing had been happening for generations.
“You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins.
You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.”
* The storyline of many a book and movie is
“Right over might; good over evil; justice over inequity”.
It is the same story we read in the book that holds our future; the Bible.
It is our God, who says through the Holy Spirit,
“Abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good”. (Romans 12:9 KJV)
It is our God who will avenge the blood of the saints who have died for His cause.
It is of our God whom Paul spoke of in a town filled with idols when He said,
“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." (Acts 17:31)
*It is our God who cheers for those who can’t stand on their own.
And it is our God who stands up for the underdog.
He acknowledges them, He loves them, and He makes provision for them through His people and His church.
One of the very reasons His church exists is to help those in need.
The injustice of those who abuse their power will one day be accounted for; either in this world, the one to come, or both!
* But there is a difference between hoarding and storing for noble purposes.
Ill. There is an interesting story in Genesis 41 about a Pharaoh who had a dream that none could interpret but Joseph. (Gen 41)
Joseph as second in charge of Egypt stored grain during 7 years of bounty to prepare for 7 years of famine.
Joseph wasn’t storing up for his personal luxury or benefit; he was storing for the future of a people; the survival of a nation.
5-6. “You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.”
Those who took advantage of the poor had lived “on earth” in luxury and self-indulgence.
On earth as opposed to another place.
And in doing so they had fattened themselves up for the slaughter on judgment day.
They had chosen to live a life of self-indulgence and luxury at the expense of those who had trusted them.
Luke 16:19-25 Jesus told an interesting story about luxurious living in the midst of those in need.
"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.
At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side.
The rich man also died and was buried.
In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things,
while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.”
* It is not what we have that will determine our eternal destiny but rather what we do with what we have.
The rich man was in hell, not because he was rich.
He was in hell because while he lived in luxury, just outside his gate laid a beggar who not only needed medical attention but was starving.
God passionately demands, that those who “have” help those who “have not”.
He wants us to be good stewards with the blessings that he provides.
It is His desire that we share what we have been given and not to hoard it.
After all, it all belongs to Him anyway!
Ps 24:1-2 “The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”
To God be the glory in all things good, and may He be blessed through the stewardship of His church!