We continue our summer sermon series on the New Testament Letter of James. James uses more of his letter to address wealth and how we treat the rich and the poor than any other topic. We'll cover three different passages related to wealth in James 1:9-11, 2:1-12, and 5:1-6. We spend a lot of time thinking about money and wealth. Will we ever have enough to be secure? Can I buy the things I want? If I buy those things, will they make me happy? Should I expect people to treat me differently if I'm wealthy? If I have money, what responsibility do I have to God and his church? How should I relate to the poor?
We can easily pay too much attention to money. Money can be an idol to us. Paul told Timothy, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Timothy 6:10). Jesus says, "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24).
James teaches us that wealth, even among Christians, can make us proud and cause us to treat the less fortunate as second class citizens. He challenges the leaders of the church to evaluate themselves, are they showing favoritism over the poor? He tells us that we should treat all people with equality. Finally James condemns the rich who oppress the poor and do not pay their employees the wages they deserve.
We live in a materialistic culture. If we want to please God, we should not attribute more value to money than it deserves. One day we will die and leave behind all the wealth we've accumulated on earth. When we get to heaven, the money we have here will be of no value. May we not earn condemnation because we overvalued money or wealth in this lifetime. We should also remember that the sin of injustice and mistreating the poor is the most common sin condemned in Scripture. Let us make sure, in a paraphrase of Dr. Martin Luther King, that we "not judge others by the color of their skin or the wealth they possess, but by the content of their character."
This Sunday, come learn what James teaches about "Real Faith / Real Wealth" at First Baptist Riverside. Our Traditional Worship is at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship is at 10:45 a.m.