Do you feel rich? Do you have a home to live in? Do you have a car to drive? Do you have at least three meals per day to eat? Do you sleep in a bed? Do you have a television? Do you have pets? Do you have enough money to buy clothes and shoes and a warm coat? Do you wash your clothes in a machine? Do you have a refrigerator to keep food cool? Do you cook on a stove? Do you go on vacation? Well, that, my friend is being rich. To most of the people who live in this world what you have said yes to is just a dream to achieve. Let’s face it, most of us don’t believe that we are rich, but we really are. God has blessed us with living in a land of plenty. There are some warnings to the rich that just might be a good idea for us to look at.
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on 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 workers 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 the innocent one, who was not opposing you. James 5:1-6, (New International Version or NIV).
It is not a sin to be well off or rich, wouldn’t you agree? I mean I had no control over what country or family I was born into and some of us were born in the land of plenty. We need to admit that and realize that we are very blessed by God to live in such a time and place as we find ourselves. But it is a sin to not use wealth for the good of others. James, the writer of the passage above is warning the rich, warning us, to deal with people in our businesses and places of employment with honesty and integrity. We are not to hoard our money for selfish purposes. There are some places where God dealt harshly with a country that hoarded their wealth.
Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing: “Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants. A ten-acre vineyard will produce only a bath of wine; a homer of seed will yield only an ephah of grain.” Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. They have harps and lyres at their banquets, pipes and timbrels and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord, no respect for the work of his hands. Isaiah 5:8-12, (NIV).
Think about the giant business corporations who keep building their business base by acquiring more and more businesses. Often the retirees and employees are cheated out of long-held retirement accounts and bonuses when two companies merge. Often times the workforce of both companies merging will be downsized, which means they will be fired. I believe that these woes from God to the Israelite’s are also a warning to those who have come after, such as us today in whatever country we are living. God does not like greed and business based on greed. God deals with nations that are built on businesses built on greed. The second woe listed in this passage is usually what happens when a person becomes so wealthy that they don’t know what to do and feel that entertainment is sought after just because they have the money to spend foolishly. Cars, women, sex, drugs, and alcohol seem to characterize so many super rich people. Does this description of the rich in this passage begin to sound familiar? So what happens to a country that pursues self-centered desires more than God?
Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding; those of high rank will die of hunger and the common people will be parched with thirst. Therefore Death expands its jaws, opening wide its mouth; into it will descend their nobles and masses with all their brawlers and revelers. So people will be brought low and everyone humbled, the eyes of the arrogant humbled. But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will be proved holy by his righteous acts. Then sheep will graze as in their own pasture; lambs will feed among the ruins of the rich. Isaiah 5:13-17, (NIV).
For the Israelite’s who were the first to be warned by God concerning misusing wealth God sent them into exile. Their country was invaded and torn apart and ownership’s transferred to other countries. God is serious when he warns a country to handle wealth properly. Think about today. Think about the countries that we have seen toppled and broken apart by war. Think about the massive migration of people from the Middle East into Europe and beyond. Or think about the countries in Central and South America who have been destroyed by wars and violence. Think about the destruction of families and businesses. The structure of their beloved country is forever altered. The burden placed upon other countries is also great. Why don’t we see the hand of God in these countries demise? We need to heed the warnings in the Bible because God is serious about how we treat each other.
In my lifetime I have seen companies come and go. Some companies that were considered here forever are struggling to exist or are no more. Names like Kodak and Polaroid are no longer the power companies that they once were. Jack and Jill grocery stores are no more in my area. Smaller regional companies like Cawley’s Potato Chips no longer exist. I am sure that you can think of other corporations and companies that seem to be gone from the business world. The little business guy seems to be swallowed up by giant corporations for nothing more than selling off their assets or getting rid of the competition. This is greed driven business and God’s warnings are against such business practices. There is a limit to God’s patience. So what are we to do as individuals who basically have no control over our own economy?
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:1-17, (NIV).
This is a great passage in telling us how we are to live our lives. We can also pray for our country that the powerful leaders we have will turn to God for advice and then follow that advice. The church is the greatest witness to the world but it is also the greatest weapon in spiritual warfare. Live as we are told to live, be honest, be fair, be kind, and compassionate, and never run out of love for others. After all we have the greatest power source for love, God! Also remain humble and see to the needs of those around you as well as through mission projects to the rest of the world. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).