Thursday, November 18, 2010

Warnings to the Wealthy...[175]

It is not true that the poor go to heaven and the rich go to hell. Eternal life and possessions are not that easily sorted out. There are at least four general classifications of people and possessions that we can identify.
  1. Those who are poor without and within. Poor without means they possess little of this world's goods. Poor within means that they are unbelievers, people who have not accepted God's priceless gift of His Son as their Saviour.
  2. Those who are rich without and rich within. These are individuals who were rich economically and spiritually.
  3. Those who are poor without and rich within. These individuals have little in the way of possessions, but are born again. We must be careful, howeever, that we aren't measuring what poor means by the standard of our neighbour's possessions.
  4. Those who are rich without and poor within. The unbelieving plutocrats.

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. [James 5:1]

Why should the rich, who have limitless power and every comfort at the rips of their bejeweled fingers, shriek and writhe in misery?
  • The rich were guilty of hoarding their wealth. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 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. [James 5:2-3]
  • The rich faced doom was because they cheated others. 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. [James 5:4]
  • James rebuked the rich for living a totally selfish lifestyle. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. [James 5:5]
  • The rich were taking advantage of the righteousness. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you. [James 5:6]

Woven into the fabric of our passage are four promises of judgment.

  1. Hoarded riches reap miserable diviends. The dividends are bitterness, cynicism, disappointment and emptiness, to name a few.
  2. Riches provide no relief in eternity. Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. [Proverbs 11:4] After we die, God will never ask to look at the balance in our bank account. The only balanace that will matter then is whether the righteousness of Christ has been credited to our account through faith in Him. Those whose accounts show only a negative balance of sin will have to pay the penalty of eternity in hell. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. [John 3:36]
  3. The unjust acts of the unsaved are not forgotten. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. [Revelations 20:11-15]
  4. James implies throughout his message that a lack of judgment today does not mean a lack of judgment tomorrow.
    The Rich Man and Lazarus
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” [Luke 16:19-31]

God's concern is not with actual wealth, but with our attitude towards wealth. God desires for us to possess an attitude of contentment not a constant craving for riches. The Lord is not condemning the rich, but He is judging those who long to be rich.God's counsel is not against people who are wealthy, but against the wrong priorities of the wealthy. Being wealthy has its own peculiar risks and pleasures that twist priorities - becoming conceited and trusting in wealth for a sense of security. The proper priorities are fixing our hope on the Lord and being rich in good works.

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