Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Let me start with a fairy-tale proposition for you:
Let’s say, one day you were walking around your neighborhood…right around sunrise, when all of a sudden, POOF, a magical genie pops out of a lamp.
And unlike Aladdin’s 3 wishes, he tells you that you can choose 1 of 2 choices:
Choice #1: He will make you incredibly rich for a day.
Although he tells you that he won’t be able tell you at what time during the day, the magic will wear off.
For most, it’s just before midnight…but for some it’s even at 6pm or 3pm
But until the magic runs out...You can do anything you want. Money will be no object.
Be driven around in a limo all day…no problem.
Hot air balloon ride for you and your special someone…no problem.
Want front row seats to your favorite concert or sporting event…no problem.
For one day…you can be as rich as you ever dreamed off…but then, like Cinderella, at the stroke of midnight (or before), it’ll all disappear at the time of his choosing.
Or, you could take the second choice:
#2: He tells you that in this choice, you won’t have a whole lot for yourself for the next day.
You might even feel quite poor for the rest of the day…you might even suffer for the rest of the day. (you’re thinking choice #1 please!)
But…for the rest of the day…the genie promises you that you will have contentment.
Even if you lose some of your stuff during the course of this upcoming day
And then, starting tomorrow, even your worries will be gone. You’ll be so blessed, so satisfied, you’ll never worry about possessions or money again.
Which choice are you going to take?
Sounds easy right?
Except…it’s not as easy as we might think.
As humans, we have a pretty hard time not going after what we could have in the “here and now”
Especially as it relates to money…and possessions.
And today, as we continue in our “More Than Words” series on the Letter of James, James is going to talk about some of the illogical thinking we have around money and possessions.
Just a warning, we have come to the part of James’ letter where he uses his harshest and most intense language.
This WILL be intense today.
And…on top of that…he IS going to talk about money in his letter today
Something that, just by itself, makes us uncomfortable…and defensive.
So the best thing you can do right now is: Prepare yourself for it.
Say, “I’m going to trying squash my defense mechanisms today and let the Bible challenge me”
This is a message that I could preach in 100 other countries and they’d shrug their shoulders like it was just another message.
In America, most of us get white knuckled from grabbing our chairs while listening to James Chapter 5
If you’re new around here, at Renovation, we actually don’t talk a whole lot about money.
Probably to a fault.
I’ve given maybe one message on it in the last year and a half.
And so while a challenging message might be normal, messages on a money isn’t a weekly occurrence.
And yet, the Bible talks about money all the time…ALL THE TIME.
It’s one of the top 3 most talked about topics in the entire Bible.
You know the benefit of going verse-by-verse through an entire book is it brings us to places that we might otherwise try and avoid.
So…here we are.
(James 5:1-12) – NIV
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 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. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as 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.
12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
Now certainly there are some challenging words in here.
But let me tell you…God wants us to see this…because He wants you to know there is a better way.
THE SILLINESS OF HOARDING
James opens up this chapter with some fiery words about…hoarding.
Now first of all, let me point out that James is actually speaking about non-Christians in the first 6 verses…but he really wants to make sure that his Christian readers don’t make similar mistakes
James says that there are 4 big mistakes that the ungodly rich are making.
#1: They’re hoarding wealth
And by the way, it’s not a sin to be wealthy. It’s just a sin to never share it. J
The Bible says that money is actual amoral. It’s dangerous…but amoral.
In other words it can be used for good or evil.
Jesus himself had wealthy followers (Joseph of Arimathea, Zaccheaus, Barnabas)
#2: They’re cheating workers
#3: They’re living in self-indulgence
#4: They’re condemning the poor to die
Let’s start with this idea of hoarding.
Most of you have probably seen the show “Hoarders” or a clip of it
Where they go into people’s houses, and there are just piles from floor to ceiling of “stuff”
Maybe a path to get to the bathroom…and the kitchen.
And if you’re not a hoarder, we watch that, and we say, “That’s silly”
WHY do we say it’s silly? (This is actually an important question)
Well, because from an outside perspective…we can say, “Why would you keep all of that junk that doesn’t even matter in the future? Stuff that you’re never going to use again!”
And yet, what most of us have done…is even sillier.
As Americans, most of us have more possessions (in our closets, garages, crawl spaces, and storage units) than entire slum neighborhoods do put together.
And yet, in a few days, years, or at the Lord’s mercy, even a few decades, we’ll be gone from this life.
As believers, off to live in heaven…for thousands upon thousands and billions upon billions of years.
And all of that stuff…will never be used again.
The fact that we’re spending our lives here on earth hoarding possessions…even though most of it will never get used in the future, shows that we don’t really understand a few things.
Mostly, how long “life” really is.
Now, I know I often say from this stage that “life is short,” and indeed your earthly life will be short.
But “life,” in terms of how long you will actually exist as a soul, is as long as you can imagine…it’s forever.
And when you live like life is short (like all there is is this life), you’ll be selfish
But when you live like life is long, you’ll be generous.
But if you live like life is short… like the person from my made-up fairy tale who decides to be ‘rich for a day,’ it tends to bring out the worst in us.
If you knew you were only going to be rich for a day, unfortunately most of us wouldn’t’ think, “How could I bless my friends during these next 12 hours?”
When all you think about is this life…we become selfish
But when you know that in eternal life, the best is yet to come (you’ve got more coming), we can be generous.
And James wants his Christian readers to see that when we hoard wealth…we actually live like unbelievers.
Like we’re only “rich for a day”
James would say: “God has so much in store for you in the future and you’re concerned about being ‘rich for a day’?”
In the grand scheme of things, life on earth is like “1 day” of your whole eternal life.
And our possessions here are not going to come with us.
There is no UHaul behind the hearse
James even says in verse 3 “that the corrosion of your possessions oughta testify against you”
And it’s so true.
When I was getting ready for the day the other morning, my three-year old daughter, decided she would pick daddy’s shirt for the day
Of course, she picked out some shirt…that was like 10 years old…still sitting in my closet…and I definitely wasn’t going to wear it.
And I said, “Honey, I’m not going to wear that one”
And she said, “Why not?!”
In other words, “it’s in your closet…why do you even have it then?”
“the corrosion of our possessions testify against us”
And see, if we understand that God has already given us everything we need (now and later), it’ll become easier for us to let go of all these extras possessions…and get them to people who really need them…instead of just collecting dust in our closets.
I find that when the Bible calls me to speak on challenging passages like this, that it’s helpful to get wisdom from either outside our culture, or outside our time.
Let me be honest, Christians in other countries admire us for a lot of things, but how we handle possessions and money is not one of them.
So let’s here from Basil the Great (one of the greatest theologians and Christian leaders of the 4th century) once wrote,
"The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked. The shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor." – Basil the Great
We need to ask ourselves:
Who do we look like when it comes to our possessions?
The unbeliever whose purpose in life is to be “rich for a day?”
Or the believer who knows that God has already given them (in Him) everything they need to be content.
In Him, they have a trust-fund for eternity.
Who do we look like?
Why do we hoard SO many possessions for ourselves here on earth?
I was telling my kids the other day that it’s so easy to remember who the kids are in Haiti because they show up each day with the same shirt on…because they only have one.
And yet here we are…here I am…with plenty in my own closet.
Lots of us even have sell our “extra” possessions by this strange American custom called a “garage sale,” and unfortunately, all too many of us, take the money and buy more…possessions that we’ll sell later.
We declutter only to reclutter.
Maybe you have the right heart in it (some of you might)…I don’t know…but a lot of us don’t.
The Bible talks a lot about “selling your possessions…” but that sentence usually ends with “and give the money to the poor”
Listen, I’m sure I might get some emails about this…but I think if I invited my African brothers & sisters in Christ to see a large suburban American garage sale, I think what they might say is: “I don’t understand. Why don’t you just share those possessions with your neighbor?”
I think they’d say…what about the poor family in your house group that can’t afford a baby swing…or the endless cost of newborn clothes
Why not just share it with them?
We LOVE the passages about the early church in Acts.
We LOVE to talk about how they met together in homes…Biblical community…
But we always talk quietly when we keep reading all of those verses about…and they shared their possessions.
This message has kind of eaten me up this week.
And one of the things I just can’t stop thinking about is this: We obsessively teach our young children about the importance of sharing, but as adults, we can’t seem to share anything.
And some of you are going to walk out of here and say, “I can’t believe he said we can’t have garage sales”
Please don’t let that be your take away.
I’m just saying this: At some point, whether you feel rich or poor, we have to realize that we, in the America, are the hoarders that James is talking about.
And until we come up with solutions to do this differently, we’re just going to keep repeating the same problems.
“Part of the reason that James is so afraid that Christians are starting to live like “rich for a day non-Christians”, is because when we do so, we devalue eternal life.
And we…don’t look any different…than the people around us.
But we could!
Because when you live like life is long…like eternity is real… you’ll be naturally generous
When you TRULY believe that God has already given you all you need to be content in His Son…and an eternal inheritance in paradise on top of that
Then it’ll feel pretty easy to be “generous for a day”
Do you believe it?
THE HORROR OF SELF-INDULGENCE
As if James section on hoarding wasn’t enough of us…he must think we are gluttons for punishment…he continues with talking about the horrors of self-indulgence.
He says in verse 5 that we have “lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence”
And that’s us.
As much as we like to pretend we’re not the “1% in America” (and almost none of us are), the reality is, most of us are the 1% in the world.
But maybe you’re thinking, “David, I make $20,000 a year.”
You’re still richer than 96% of the world.
If you make $40,000, congratulations, you are “the real 1%”…You are in the top 1% of income earners globally
If I asked you, “Do you live a life of self-indulgence and a life of luxury?”
We’d say… “HA! No!”
And yet, almost all of us are in the top 3 or 4% in the entire world!
The problem is…we just can’t see it when everyone else around us is ALSO in the top 3 or 4%
Many of us even FEEL poor.
There was a recent survey done of millionaires, and 42% of millionaires said “they don’t feel wealthy”
They’ve normalized their surroundings.
This is a huge part of why we always says that our hope is that EVERY adult in Renovation to do missions internationally with us at least once.
This matters….because James wants us to know that what we do with our money does NOT happen in a vacuum where no one else is affected.
American culture tells you that if you self-indulge and spend 100% of your money on yourself… “what you do with your money is up to you”
BUT James says (and listen this is SO intense, but we need to hear from someone outside of our culture), James tells us in verse 6 that our hoarding & self-indulgence is killing the people around us.
How many times have you heard those stats like these:
We already grow enough food to feed 10 billion people (3 billion more than exist on the planet)
WE know how to get clean water to places…but we don’t
We know how to end many of the diseases that are still plaguing Africa and others…but we don’t.
We just don’t share our resources.
We hoard…we self-indulge.
And because of it…people are literally dying.
LIVE LIKE LIFE IS LONG
WHY?!? Why don’t we do it?
Again, from outside our culture and time, hear the words of Ambrose, another great leader from the beginning centuries of Christianity:
"There is your brother, naked and crying! And you stand confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering. And precious ornaments delight you, although others do not have grain. The people are starving, and you close your barns; the people weep bitterly, and you toy with jewelled ring. The jewel in your ring could preserve the lives of the whole people.
A possession ought to belong to the possessor, not the possessor to the possession. Whosoever...does not know how to give and distribute to the poor, he is the servant of his wealth, not his master (God); Hence, in a disposition of this kind we say that the man belongs to his riches, not the riches to the man. – Ambrose
In order to actually change, we need to realize whose we really are…and where He’s really taking us.
This is what Ambrose is getting at with his servant / master example.
The world says, “I’m my own, so what I have is my own, and therefore what I do with it is my business…I only answer to myself”
The Bible says, “I’m God’s, so what I have is God’s, and what I do with it is His business… I will have to answer to Him.”
And James tells us that we CAN live this way because we know something better is coming:
(James 5:7-8) – NIV
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.
When the harvest comes, when heaven comes…everything will make sense.
Every hoarded possession and self-indulgence will be revealed to be a waste of time…a temporary distraction.
And every generous act…a seed sown that will be making an impact for eternity.
Because when we obsess about being “rich for a day,” the people around us will never see that we value the next one.
Jesus tells us to be wary of this kind of life:
(Luke 12:32-34) – NIV
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
When we’re generous…we reflect Christ.
And when people see Christ in us…we’re storing treasures in heaven…that will not wear out.
Do we look different? Do our hearts and lives point toward eternity?
Anything else isn’t worth it.
I just read this week about the life of Abd Ar-Rahman III, a 10-century ruler in Spain who lived in complete luxury…he had all the money, palaces, power, and sex any worldly person could ever dream of:
Yet at the end of his life, he wrote this:
I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: They amount to 14."
All the possessions and self-indulgence in the world…and he was happy for 14 days of his life.
I just recently had lunch with my friend, and fellow church planting pastor in Converge, Mark Bjorlo.
This summer, he was on the dunk tank at a charity event when he received a phone call that this house was on fire.
In just a matter of hours, his house, and all of his family’s possessions were burned to the ground.
All of his family got out safely…but his possessions were burnt to a crisp…all gone.
And yet, he kept saying, “God is so good. This summer has been so great” (I’m thinking what?!?!”)
“Our family has been so close,” he said
“We realize more than ever what really matters.”
“It’s faith. It’s family. God is good!”
Start living the long game.
Your possessions, your money, the path to being “rich for a day” will never give you what you truly want.
You won’t start giving them away until you really realize that.
And also realize that God can give you what you truly want.
But when you get that, you’ll start blessing others in need.
Because you’ll know you don’t NEED those things to make you happy anyway
In fact, they just might get in the way of you truly being happy.
What is God calling YOU to do with your finances and possessions?
How can you show the world that you’re not living to be “rich for a day” but you’re living for Christ…for eternity?
Who do you know that you could just give some of your stuff away to?
If no one, then what charity?
If you don’t know google it.
There’s a charity for every conceivable item. Seriously
If you’re married, talk about this stuff when you get home
Maybe you need to start with just making a budget…realizing that you have all this stuff…and yet no margin…because there’s no budget.
Google a Financial Peace University class.
Ask someone in your House Group you trust for help in making a budget
Send me an email, I’ll send you a budgeting sheet to get you started.
A lot of us have to start there.
And budget to be generous.
The Bible talks about giving 10% back to God.
Why so much?
Maybe because if it was 1%, we’d never really change.
But if all you can do is 4%, then go to 4%...then next year 6%.
Find ways to make your generosity personal as well.
Lindsey and I try and give 1% of our finances to people in missions (if they ask…send me a letter!)
I know others who set a generosity budget.
Maybe 20 bucks a month.
And they just pray…God show us where we can use this this month.
A new married couple who needs to go out to eat.
Or save it for 4 months, and slip it anonymously to a friend in house groups that’s having a rough time financially.
Here’s another one: In Renovation Kids right now, they’re doing Operation Christmas Child.
You don’t even need to have a child to be a part of this.
What many of our families are doing is packing shoeboxes full of Christmas gifts for impoverished kids around the world who wouldn’t normally get anything.
These kids then get something for Christmas (from you) and when it arrives, local Christian leaders pack into your shoebox a fun, colorful book for kids (in their language) that explains how Jesus loves them.
What a great way to model something for your child for Christmas.
The commercialized version of Christmas teaches our children that “Yes, life does consist in the abundance of possessions”
But think about what could they learn from you if you took them to Target, and you got some essential supplies and a few gifts for kids that don’t have anything?”
You teach them that:
We’re already blessed. We have what we need in Jesus
We’re not living to get “rich for a day”…so let’s bless some people in need.
And you can pick up information at our Children’s check-in table.
Let’s be generous…because our God was SO generous in giving us His son…and eternal life.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.