Wealth or Suffering... You Choose

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.

Reality check.

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.
  • Perseveres.
  • 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.

Shannon Rains
Children and Family Minister
Kingwood Church of Christ
Humble, TX

Elijah was a Man Just like Us

James writes, “Elijah was a man just like us.” To even the most casual observer, Elijah is a man not like us at all.

Elijah is epic. He is a hero’s hero. Elijah is the Jason Bourne of the Old Testament.

Like Bourne, he fights an evil government, and wreaks havoc on the economy. He goes on the lam under threat of death, barely surviving in a dirty ravine, fed by ravens, no water for his thirst. He flees to a foreign city to hide in plain sight in enemy territory where he lives with a poor, (beautiful, I imagine) single mother. He stretches their meager food supplies diminished by the famine he himself prayed to happen. When her son dies, Elijah revives him.

Elijah turns himself in and scorns the slander and accusation thrown in his face. He issues an impossible challenge. He mocks his sworn enemies with vulgarities in an epic battle for nothing less than full allegiance to the One True God. He is a righteous bad boy who calls down fire and rain. When Elijah prays, God listens. Women swoon and men admire him from afar.

How is it then that “Elijah was a man just like us?”

Perhaps, it was when he felt intense fear. He ached from fatigue. He ran for the hills of Horeb.

Did he begin his mission in his own strength, fueled with righteous indignation? I wonder. Baalism grew like spiritual kudzu threatening to extinguish Yahwism and choke God’s people out of existence. Did Elijah have any idea of the harsh pushback he would encounter? When Jezebel issues a death warrant against him, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.” My mighty Jason Bourne ran from a girl and prayed to die. (I Kings 19:3, 4)

What does God do when our man runs for the hills? God makes him take a nap. An angel wakes Elijah and gives him food, water, and encouragement. “Get up and eat for the journey is too much for you.” (vs. 7) This is grace. Few of us call down fire and rain, but we all need God’s grace and affirmation in our journey. All of us suffer trouble, get sick, need to confess our sin, and receive forgiveness. If doing God’s will in power were only for the heroic, not even Elijah would measure up.

“Is anyone of you in trouble? He should pray.”

“Is anyone sick? Let him call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil.”

“Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

All praise and honor to our God who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again, he prayed and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” James 5: 16-18

Ann Bayliss, Minister
The Church at 1548 Heights
Houston, Texas