The temptation is real, people.
Money, wealth, luxury, self-indulgence – these are the traps of the world. The world looks up to people who seem to have it all, could those people ever truly suffer? They can afford the best medical care, trips around the world, cars that never break down, a mortgage payment the size of our annual income.
We can be tempted to believe they have everything and we have nothing.
James says, “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you.” (James 5:1)
Those who have material wealth, and not faith, still cannot avoid suffering.
Those who have material wealth, and have not grounded themselves in God’s mercy and goodness, will chase wealth at all costs.
A temporary wealth. An oppressive wealth. A condemning wealth.
But, James is not condemning wealth. James is condemning the heart of those who are not living into God’s will:
- Moths are eating clothes. Could it be that the clothes were gathering dust in a closet?
- Gold and silver is corroding. Could it not have been used to feed the hungry?
- Fields have been harvested by workers who went unpaid. Could they not have received a fair wage and then some?
- Lives are lived in luxury and self-indulgence, contributing to the suffering and death of innocent people. Could that wealth have been used compassionately to alleviate suffering?
James wealthy exemplars are running from suffering only to have misery catch up with them in the end. Suffering that is a necessary part of living. We live in a fallen world. We cannot escapte that fact. We can try to live in denial. James, though, presents a choice.
Avoid suffering at all costs. James makes it clear that this is a very costly decision.
Patiently enter into suffering, recognizing it as a time of growth and dependence on the Lord.
“Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those that 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”. James 5:10-11
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Our role is to live expectantly and prayerfully while we wait.
This is not easy. We know it and James knows it. Why else would he write “Don’t grumble against one another” (vs 9) Waiting is hard! Patience wears thin.
It is obvious that James does not believe that one can wait, be patient, and persevere, alone. James addresses the community. James views the solution to individual temptation as participation in a devoted community. A community that:
- Strives for patience in suffering.
- Prays for those who are in trouble.
- Sings with those that are happy.
- Anoints with oil and prays for those who are sick.
- Receives the confession of the sinner.
- Offers forgiveness to those that repent.
- Watches out for their brothers and sisters in Christ, reaching out when they have sinned, and pulling them back into the community.
Our world glorifies luxury, money, power, and wealth. Turn on the TV, look no further than election year news coverage. But, is that what your soul is longing for? Or, is it longing for something more?
May each of you find a community that will sing when you are happy, pray when you are suffering, is patient with your growth, and will fight to bring you back to a relationship with God when you sin.
Children and Family Minister
Kingwood Church of Christ