The Misery of the Greedy (James 5:1-6)

First Baptist Church http://fbcbartow.org

“The Misery of the Greedy”

(James 5:1-6)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

April 22, 2018

Introductory Comments:

Well, are you all ready for some harsh words from James?

That’s not the kind of sermon introduction they teach you in seminary.

However, this is what James is doing in the beginning of James chapter 5.

He brings this harsh condemnation against greedy rich people.

Remember, at the end of chapter 4 he was talking about how some people trust in their arrogance, and make their own plans which do not include the Lord.

Now, James speaks about those who trust in their riches instead of in God. Not only do they trust in their riches, but they have obtained their riches at the expense of others.

Let’s look at the passage together.

Read the Passage

Read James 5:1-6

1 Come now, you rich people, weep and wail over the miseries that are coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted and your clothes are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasure in the last days. 4 Look! The pay that you withheld from the workers who mowed your fields cries out, and the outcry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. 5 You have lived luxuriously on the earth and have indulged yourselves. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned, you have murdered the righteous, who does not resist you.

Let’s pray together.

(Prayer)

Well, I told you that this language was harsh.

James is pulling no punches here as he condemns these people.

First, let’s ask to whom exactly he is speaking?

There are differing opinions about whether or not James is speaking to rich people who are non-Christians, who are not followers of Jesus; or whether he is speaking to those who are part of the church in Jerusalem and are living as greedy people.

James has certainly not been afraid to call out those who are part of the church for living as if they’re not part of the church. He’s been doing that most of the letter!

He has also not been afraid to speak harshly to those who claim to be Christians.

In the end, the major point remains the same no matter to whom he is speaking and we’ll see that.

(pause)

We’re going to discover three aspects of greed this morning as we look at this passage.

Hey, church, as followers of Jesus, are we open to hearing what God is saying to us? Ok, let’s go.

First, we discover that . . .

I. Greed leads to misery (1-3) [on screen]

At first, you might be thinking, wait a minute, I see a lot of greedy people who get more and more wealth for themselves and push and shove their way through life in order to get more and more, and they don’t look miserable.

Look again at verse 1.

1 Come now, you rich people, weep and wail over the miseries that are coming on you.

James says that these miseries are coming. They’re not here yet, but they’re coming.

These people are taking comfort in what they have now and they are finding false comfort and false satisfaction through the greedy consolidation of riches, not realizing that one day they will be facing misery beyond what any of us can imagine.

(pause)

The sinful pursuit of riches for self-dependency and self-pleasure will fail us all.

Instead, we ought to turn to God in humility. This has been James’ message all along.

Remember in chapter 4 verses 8 and 9 when James says, “9 Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

We should mourn over our sin, and any sinful inclination we have in us. We should instead seek humility and God’s ways for us.

James is telling his readers, “Listen, misery is coming upon you because you have sinfully sought your own pleasure and have rejected God’s ways.”

Look also at verses 2 and 3.

He says, “2 Your wealth has rotted and your clothes are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasure in the last days.”

James says that all that you have will fade away, and is even now fading away.

Illustration: you know how it is when you get a new pair of shoes and you’re awfully proud of how they look. And then, the tragedy comes upon you: you get that first scuff on your shoes. It’s devastating!  After that, you don’t care anymore. The shoes are ruined in terms of their newness.

So also, everything that we accumulate for ourselves is wasting away and will waste away.

James says that even their gold and silver will one day waste away.

He says that the very fact that these things are wasting away is a witness against those who have trusted in material possessions.

James is in effect saying, “Look at what you’ve trusted in! It’s dying away!  You’ve banked on this bringing you happiness and security and it’s going to fail you!”

Even though they have stored up for the last days, their riches will do nothing for them in the end. Their greed will fail them when it comes to eternity.

In the end, greed leads to misery.

(pause)

Let us also discover that . . .

II. Greed is seen by God (4)  [on screen]

Look with me at verse 4.

4 Look! The pay that you withheld from the workers who mowed your fields cries out, and the outcry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts.

God sees what is happening when we selfishly pursue greedy riches.

In fact, God sees all things: He is omniscient (meaning He knows all things) and He is omnipresent (meaning He is present everywhere).

James says God sees our greed!  Specifically, James says here that God hears of the greed of those selfishly pursuing riches.

He says that they cry of those who harvest the fields owned by the rich has reached God’s ear.

James tells us that in their pursuit of the wealth, the greedy did not pay what they owed to those that tended and harvested the fields.

Many of these workers would have been living paycheck to paycheck and would have been dependent upon their payment.

As a result, they were crying out because of their need and the injustice of those in power.

God heard their cry, and He hears the cries of those who are suffering from injustice today.

May we never be among those that contribute to the injustice that they suffer. Because God hears their cry, He knows who contributed to their distress, and He is not pleased.

(pause)

Just as God sees all of our sin, He sees our greed. Let us not think that we can get away with the greedy pursuit of riches for our own pleasure and false security.

That leads us to our final discovery . . .

III. Greed is self-deceiving (5-6)  [on screen]

You might think, “How did you get that from this passage?”

Well, let’s look at verses 5 and 6.

5 You have lived luxuriously on the earth and have indulged yourselves. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned, you have murdered the righteous, who does not resist you.

The greedy person thinks he is safe. He thinks he will always be in luxury, but he will not.

As James said in verse 1, misery is coming for the greedy rich person.

James says, “You have lived luxuriously . . . and have indulged yourselves.”

In reality, however, what they are doing is fattening up their hearts to receive the judgment of God.

James refers to this as “a day of slaughter.” What a terrible image.

Just as animals are fattened up for slaughter so that they will be a better meal or a better sacrifice, so also James says the greedy are fattening up their hearts to be more ready for the judgment of God.

God will judge them, and the more they indulge in their greed, the more appropriate His judgment is upon them.

(pause)

Finally, James lays out two more charges against these people: he says that they have condemned and murdered the righteous; these righteous who demonstrated no reason for their mistreatment.

As I said earlier, many of these laborers of the fields of the rich probably depended on every last penny that they received. They were probably underpaid, and they were probably easily skipped over.

As a result of this lack of payment, or perhaps some other form of harsh treatment, some of them apparently died. James says to the greedy rich people, “you are responsible for their death, and God sees it.”

You see, greed is self-deceiving.

Greed will make us think that everything is ok, that we are secure, and that our happiness can be obtained by gaining more and more material possessions.

However, James says that our greed leads to injustice and even sometimes murder. Not only that, but God sees that, and He will judge us for that.

Praise God that our judgment for sin can be absorbed by Jesus if we truly follow Him and give ourselves to Him.

James is warning us, though, that many of us pretend to follow Jesus and we are deceiving ourselves. We are living like the world, and not like followers of Jesus.

Again, we’re not sure if James is speaking to greedy rich people from the culture at large, or if he was speaking directly to greedy rich people inside the church of Jerusalem. In either case, we must be very cautious that we do not end up as they were. Because the consequences are devastating.

We cannot simply claim to be a Christian and foolishly think everything will be ok. We must really profess it, really believe it, and really live it!

Concluding Thoughts:

So, James is again calling us to live as genuine followers of Jesus.

Will we listen? Will we obey the Word of God? Will we heed its warnings?

Let us all seek Him and seek to walk in the new way of life to which He’s called us.

Here’s our . . .

Bottom Line: Don’t Be Greedy!  [on screen]

(repeat)

This is the main point of James’ message.

James doesn’t have a problem with wealth. It’s the sinful pursuit of wealth that is the issue.

Greed leads to all kinds of problems for us and for others.

Let’s look now at our . . .

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

Determine where your riches are found.  [on screen]

(repeat)

Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “19 Don’t store up for yourselves treasures[j] on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Where are your treasures?

The greatest way to fight early greed is to desire heavenly riches.

Another very practical way to fight greed is to try to be generous. Some of us may have a problem with generosity because we are greedy. However, just do it. Just be generous and see how God will change your heart.

Another weekly challenge, which is not in your notes, is . . .

Determine how you are contributing to injustice.  [on screen]

The greedy in James’ day contributed to the unjust treatment of others.

What are we doing that contributes to injustice?

Are we ignoring the physical needs of our neighbors?

Are we contributing to the devaluation and abuse of women by engaging in the consumptions of pornography?

Are we contributing to racial injustice by making jokes or excluding people different than us?

Are we ignoring the millions of human beings around the world being killed while they are defenseless in their mother’s womb?

Are we ignoring those who are dying around the world from starvation or persecution?

Are we neglecting to take the gospel to those who have no access to the message of Jesus?

Let us be open to how Jesus might be leading us to fight injustice by repenting of some things in our own lives.

Closing:

James is continually calling us to flee sin and humbly pursue Jesus.

Are you doing that?

Have you ever done that?

Come in humility before the Creator of all things and tell Him, “I am a sinner and I need you.”

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – Just as I Am

Benediction:

Tonight, we Weill be back in this room at 5:30 PM as we continue our series “On Mission Every Day.”

Hey, church, thanks for your generous giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. We exceeded our goal of $4,500, so praise God for that!

It’s great to be with you al Lin worship this morning. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and His ways for us.

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology.

(Sing Doxology)

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