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Faith Works - against wealth and for patience
you can hear a MP3 recording of sermon here
James 5:1-12
Sunday, 17th November, 2013

 

READ James 5:1-12

James has a lot to say about wealthy people. So did Jesus. Jesus met a rich man and this is what happened.

READ Matthew 19:16- 26

Sombre words from the Lord of life. The problem with wealth is the love of it. Listen to Godís word in 1Timothy 6:6-10

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

 

The problem with wealth is that it tempts you to trust in your wealth and your ability to build your own security. That is a trap. The Kingdom of God is about complete dependence on God. Our wealth teaches us all wrong. It tells us we are doing well when we are away from God. When you get closer to God your wealth becomes an embarrassment rather than an asset. In fact before God it is not YOUR wealth but HIS.You see as soon as we have it we claim for our own and the Devil has won a battle you did not even notice. So James call us to grieve, and wail over our wealth.

First because it devalues.

Inflation has dropped from 2.7% to 2.2%, but the best savings I could find is around3% , most around 1.6% so unless you have a long term investment, your savings are diminishing!

The car you bought is rotting in the car park! Some say it lost half its value the day you bought it! And that is true of your mobile phone, your washing machine and everything else you possess.Your possessions are decaying!

I wouldnít go on about your body, but the older you get the more aware you are of how from the day you were born it has been quietly aging and eventually will die.

 

Jesus said Matthew 6:

19 ďDo not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

There is only one Bank where your wealth cannot decay, so invest in the Kingdom of God, You know it makes sense! Everything else fails. How do you do that? Well giving your money to others who are in need is a step! Be content with your wages is another. Being content with what you have, learning to depend on God and mean give us this day our daily bread. Godliness with contentment is great gain. Major on what you have rather than what you donít. The old song said ď Count your blessings, name them one by oneĒ and if you concentrate of what God has given you in Christ, it will occupy your brain instead of the worry about this life, it will fill your mind instead of the jealousy, lust and greed that we are tempted with. Invest in the Kingdom of God with acts of kindness, prayer for those who annoy you and those you get on with! Be joyful because you have Jesus! Remember, when you get to heaven you will not get a pile of gold, but a heap of love, joy, peace, enough to last eternity! That is the real treasure you can both enjoy now and invest in the future. See God doubles the return, you can have it now and for eternity!

Secondly, in this life, you make wealth by depriving others of a fair days wage for a fair days work.

Your cheap clothing comes at the expense of a vast army of slave or bonded workers in Asia. And occasionally that comes full in your face when a factory collapses and workers die because or poor building, poor safety and locks on the doors to prevent them from leaving!

Your cheap food comes from sources where checks are not made . Not so long ago we discovered we were eating horse meat, sold as beef because horsemeat was cheaper. We eat pineapples from the Philippines grown on fertile land, leaving the population to live off of the poor land. Then we have the arrogance to comment their homes were too poorly built to withstand the typhoon! Your tomatoes come from Spain where the land is being dried up to keep you in fresh salad every week, all year round. It has always been this way. In the days of Empire, we benefitted from cheap labour across Africa and Asia. Before that we used slave labour and made a fortune. Bristol and Liverpool were built on that wealth. Before that we robbed the Spanish of the Gold they had robbed from the Incas, and so on. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

Since we discussed this last, the Leadership Team has made it a formal policy of the church to buy Fair-Traded goods, where practical for the church. We do not impose our policy on your own shopping. I simply ask you to follow Godís word. If your wealth is gained by not fair-trading where possible, are you not sinning against the Lord?

 

James does not support our middle class life-style. But he goes further in verse 6

You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

This is the second reference to killing in this letter. See 4:2. What is he on about? Step back slightly, he is writing to the Diaspora, Jewish Christians across the Roman Empire, so it is unlikely he is referring to a specific incident. It is more likely that he has a more general problem in mind. In context of the next paragraph I suggest he is laying some principles out of our involvement in the society of the day.

We are not to be silent. We are to speak out for justice. Silence is condemning innocent men and women to death, discrimination, injustice, and we cannot pretend that we can turn a blind eye. So have you acted over the Philippines, did you write to your MP over marriage, over Syria, or anything else? Have you chosen to boycott companies that do have an ethical base to their operations or written to demand that they sign up to Fair Trade conditions.

 

God said, in Genesis 4:7

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.

Edmund Burke, an 18th Century Irish political philosopher, re-phrased it as: 

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

This is particularly true in a democratic, open society as there are many voices calling for liberty without responsibility.

 

However, James goes on to say:

7Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. 9Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

10Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

 

There is a common myth that a few prayers and the world will be a Ok and heaven will break out on earth. That is naive and dangerous. While we are called, not to be silent, we must understand that our patience will be tested if not exhausted as we wait for righteousness to prevail.

James rightly begins by reminding us that, in the words of John StottďRemember, we win!Ē We look forward to a day that will come when Jesus will reign in righteousness. He will return and take us to be with himself to know the bliss of eternity with him. All wrongs will be righted! But not yet! Today, we have to cry against the injustice and the sadness in the world. Today, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, maybe as much as 80% of all crime goes unpunished, children are abused , women are raped, families are torn apart, churches fall apart because of selfishness and so on. So we are called to be patient. Revival has not happened but we pray on. Our society is reaping the whirlwind and we pray on.

Learn from the farmer. You plant a crop and then you have to wait.Last June I planted out my runner beans and leeks and tomatoes and cucumbers, I had to wait until mid-august for a return. I am still waiting for the leeks 5 months on!

Notice James repeats himself.

8You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.

Faith is only faith while we wait. So stand firm on Godís promise that Jesus will return. Just because 2000 years have passed is no excuse for writing off Godís word. Jesus will come again!

The next sentence is so perceptive.

9Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

If we are struggling with faith in God, we can easily turn our frustration on our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Have you noticed the progression?

Be patient, until the Lord's coming

Be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.

The Judge is standing at the door!

What could be worse than Jesus arriving while we are squabbling? And yet he is present by the Holy Spirit and grieved by our infighting.

 

Listen to Godís word, it is a narrative of people who lived by faith, waiting for Godís promise. Here the prophets like Isaiah who lived through the collapse of Judah, Jeremiah who saw first hand the destruction of the nation, Esther, Ezekiel and Daniel who were dragged away from their homeland of promise and yet remained faithful to the promise.

Hebrews 11 describes them as

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Job who lost everything but hung on to plead his case before God. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.

Job is here to point out that God does answer. So James can say

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

God loves you and although for all sorts of reasons, life is tough, he is full of compassion and mercy. He will speak,he will act, he will answer. He will be victorious, perhaps not in the way we expect but He wins! Hold on to Jesus, take lightly the riches that swill around, the pain of the struggles of this life, make much of Jesus, heís coming!

 

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