Your Money: A Blessing or
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. 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. 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 fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.
* * * * * * *
Many people today feel that money is the key to happiness. "If only I had more money," they say, "I would really be happy."
But as we look around us we find that things do not usually work out that way. The more money we have, the more we need and the more we make, the more we spend. Someone has described money as simply "a device which permits people to get into debt a little farther."
Is money the key to everything? Can money bring solutions to all of life's problems? James C. Hefley relates the effect money has had upon some of the world's richest men. In 1923 a group of seven financial giants gathered together at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Their combined wealth totaled more than the worth of the United States Treasury. For years these men had been admired and respected as examples of success and prosperity. But, twenty-five years later, a check was made. Charles Schwab, president of the largest independent steel company, had died penniless. Arthur Cutten, millionaire wheat speculator, had met the same disappointing end. Richard Whitney, president
of the New York Stock Exchange, had served several years in prison. Albert Fall, a member of the presidential cabinet, had been pardoned from prison so he could die at home. Jesse Livermore, the greatest "bear" on Wall Street, had committed suicide. Leon Fraser, the president of the Bank of International Settlement, had committed suicide. Ivan Krueger, head of the world's greatest monopoly, also had taken his own life.
With all of their wealth and power, these men had not found happiness or lasting peace. Money can be a great blessing, but it can also be a terrible curse.
I suppose that money is one of the most popular subjects todayand in many ways it is a very serious topic of discussion. Money, or the lack of money, does terrible things to people. Millions of people in our world starve to death every year simply because they did not have enough money to buy food. On the other hand, there are people who have more money than they can possibly use. And yet they, too, are starvingstarving for fulfillment and meaning in life. The Wall Street Journal, a paper devoted to the discussion of finance, described money as "an article which may be used as a universal passport to everywhere except Heaven, and as a universal provider of everything except happiness."
There is nothing wrong with being wealthy. The Bible does not condemn riches! Joseph of Arimathaea must have been rich to own the new tomb which he gave for the burial of our Lord. Barnabas, a leader in the early church, was a wealthy man who used his money for the Lord's work. Abraham was a man of faith and a friend of God, but he was also very rich. Solomon is described in the Bible as one of the wealthiest men of his day. There is no harm in possessing riches, but in letting riches possess you.
In chapter 5 of this epistle, James speaks to those who let money become their God: "[Come] now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your
riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days" (Ja 5:1-3). These rich men, against whom James was speaking, had become corrupted by their wealth. James points out how foolish it is to put high value upon riches, to work feverishly at amassing great wealth. But at the same time the apostle is attempting to impress upon those who were believers, the great threat that riches can be to the child of God. Wealth can so easily eat away like a canker, and make us lose our sense of priorities.
This was the sin of the rich young ruler in Mark 10. We are told that when this young man who had "great possessions" came to Jesus for spiritual advice, Jesus told him to give away his wealth for he had become a slave to his money.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned the disciples concerning the transitory nature of wealth. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Mt 6:19-21). Money is deceiving for it brings a false sense of security. Paul warned Timothy that "they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Ti 6:9-10). Beware of the deceitfulness of money.
The men to whom James addresses himself here in chapter
5 had hoarded their riches. They were counting on all their prosperity to keep them happy. They were not using their money for any worthwhile purpose. James warns of the subtle sinfulness of idle wealth. The Dead Sea is a dead sea because it takes everything in and gives nothing out. The law of living is giving. If money is to be useful, it must be used.
In Bible times riches consisted of beautiful clothing and precious metal. Immense value resided in garments passed down from generation to generation. Jacob gave Joseph a coat of many colors. Joseph gave Benjamin five changes of raiment. Samson promised thirty changes of garments to the one who guessed his riddle. It was very common to place a great deal of importance in clothing. James said to the rich men who had hoarded up clothing and wealth, "Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten" (Ja 5:2). In other words, "Your wealth will get you nowhere." It is temporal.
The problem here was unused money. These men had gathered riches for riches sake. James said, "The rust of them [your wealth] shall be a witness against you" (Ja 5:3). Rust is a symbol of disuse. It is a sign of inactivity. Henry Ford used to say, "Money is just like an arm or a legyou either use it or lose it." To make money you have to spend it.
It is also true that money unused will never help to spread the gospel. One of the bottlenecks of world evangelization is money. Money unused will never supply the needs of missions; it will never feed and clothe the hungry and naked. To be blessed with wealth and not use it is sinful. James says, "[It] shall be a witness against you" (Ja 5:3). Unused money will accuse you of poor stewardship in the judgment day.
God endows some of His children with a special ability to make money. But all of us can give Him back a portion of that with which He has blessed us. There is so much that God's people can do with His money. There is really too
much to do! Look at your own situation. Financially speaking, are you losing what you are not using?
Henry Crowell, founder of the Quaker Oats Company and one of the significant contributors to the work of the Moody Bible Institute, was a man who knew how to use his money. As a young man, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Saviour. When he began his business career in a little Ohio factory, he promised God that he would honor Him in his giving. God's blessing was upon young Crowell. As his business grew, he increased giving. After decades of faithful stewardship, Crowell testified, "For over forty years I have given 60 or 70 percent of my income to God, but I've never gotten ahead of God. He has always been ahead of me in giving." Crowell knew how to use His money wisely!
Not only were the rich men in this epistle guilty of hoarding away their money, but James also condemns them because their wealth was tainted. These men had held back wages from their employees. James says that they had cheated their workers out of their pay. Instead of being just with their money, these men spent their money on themselves, satisfying their every whim. The wealth they had not hoarded was squandered on self and on the body. James declares, "Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them who have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth" (Ja 5:4). James is simply saying that God hears the cry of the laborer who has been cheated. He is aware of the injustice you have done, and He will hold you responsible.
In the book of Exodus, God's people Israel were being exploited by the Egyptians. In chapter 3 we read the words of the Lord: "I have surely seen the affliction of my people
which are in Egypt, and I have heard their cry by reason of their task masters; for I know their sorrows" (Ex 3:7). Because of Egypt's sin God brought great judgment upon them, and Israel was delivered from their oppression. Yes, God does see. He knows when we fail to use our resources justly, and He judges accordingly. How do you use the money God has given you? Are you a faithful steward or are you guilty of self-indulgence?
Keith Nicholson was a $56-a-week mine worker when he won over $400,000 in the British soccer pool. His wife, who had never had much money before, announced immediately that they were going to "spend, spend, spend." The Nicholsons then proceeded to buy a $47,000 house, two cars, and two television sets. They began to give parties nearly every night. Before long they had spent almost half of their new-found wealth. "We had oodles of money," reported Mrs. Nicholson, "and we set the place alight, but we lost our friends. The people we had known in the old days . . . never come along." The Nicholsons lost their wealth because of their self-indulgence.
Actually, the way we use our money, over and above the needs of life, reveals our true interests. Why not ask yourself, "How do I use my assets?" The man who picks up the newspaper and immediately turns to the financial page probably has his money tied up in stocks and bonds. A woman's large annual expenditures for clothes reveals a strong interest in personal appearance. It is truewhere your dollars go, that is where your interests lie.
A friend of mine who gives generously to the work of missions was recently asked by the Internal Revenue Service to report to their local office. When questioned about the large sums he reported as contributions, my friend produced his cancelled checks as proof of his giving. The agent reviewed the checks; and, when he was finally convinced that
this man actually did give all the money he claimed to have given, he looked at him and said, "Sir, you certainly must be sold on your church." This is a man whose interests are in the right place.
Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Mt 6:21). There is nothing wrong with legitimate pleasure. All of us enjoy a good time. But James describes rich men who literally immersed themselves in self-indulgent pleasure. They hoarded their wealth, not for a rainy day, not to help others, but purely for their own selfish gratification.
James declares, "Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and have been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just" (Ja 5:5-6). Not only were these men guilty of self-centeredness, but they were ruthless in the way they accumulated their wealth. They let nothing and no one stand in their way.
In that day the wealthy had influence in the courts and were able even to condemn to death those who might hinder their greedy goals. Yes, then even as today, money could elevate or lower, enrich or impoverish, bless or blast. Money can bribe, it can seduce, it can poison or damn. But money can also teach and heal. It can help win people to Jesus Christ.
Many people feel that if they give what they have to God in the way of money, they will wind up on the short end of things. Nothing is farther from the truth. These people are like the beggar in the Orient who was sitting by the roadside with his small bowl of rice when a very well dressed prince approached him and asked if he would please share his food. The rebellious beggar protested, but finally grudgingly held
out of his bowl. As soon as the prince had extracted one grain of rice, the shallow container was quickly withdrawn.
Again the request was made and, after much persuasion, the beggar extended his dish, but pulled it back so rapidly that the prince managed to snare only one additional grain. The wealthy man moved on while the beggar ate the rest of his scanty fare. At the bottom of the bowl, however, he discovered two golden grains of rice which the regal dignitary had given him in exchange. If only the beggar would have given him his all.
Your money will accomplish only what you want it to accomplish. Your money can be an angel to reach thousands for Jesus Christ. Your money can teach the needy, it can help the oppressed. Or it can be a devil. It can be idle, dirty, selfish, and ruthless.
May we dedicate our money this day to Jesus Christ. The opportunities which lie before us are staggering. The needs are vast. If the entire population of the world could be compressed into a single town of 1,000, over 700 would be poor, sick, and hungry. Over 500 would never have heard that Jesus Christ lived and died for their sin. The needs truly are great.
My friend, what are you doing with your money? It is not what we grab, but what we give that makes us rich. Determine today to give not just your money, but your entire self to the service of Jesus Christ. He will shower His blessing upon you as you have never known it before.
The time to give is now!
* "I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that
though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (1 Co 8:8-9).
* "Money is just like an arm or a legyou either use it or lose it." HENRY FORD
* The Dead Sea is a dead sea because it takes everything in and gives nothing out.
* The way we use our money, over and above the needs of life, reveals our true interests.
* "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Mt 6:2).
Chapter Thirteen || Table of Contents