Day 11

Warnings to the Rich

from the James reading plan


James 5:1-6, Matthew 5:38-42, Hebrews 10:35-39, Revelation 20:11-15

BY She Reads Truth

Scripture Reading: James 5:1-6, Matthew 5:38-42, Hebrews 10:35-39, Revelation 20:11-15

My husband and I were on our way to a dinner party, when we cut through a neighborhood on the nice side of town. As we drove the luxurious streets, we stared out our windows at the soaring homes with custom architecture and perfectly manicured lawns. Each house looked like the perfect place to live, its own little heaven on earth. We drove in silence, until my husband turned to me and laughingly apologized, “I’m sorry I’m a pastor.”

This is a running joke between us, though I can’t help but detect a hint of truth in his voice. We have every single thing we need, and more, but that doesn’t stop comparison from knocking on our door. On more days than I care to admit, I peek over the fence into my neighbor’s greener pasture, and I yearn for it.

Deep down, my husband and I both know that “more” will never scratch the itch of envy. More money, more house, more things will not relieve the pain—and the lie—of comparison. It’s a bottomless pit of need, with endless demands which are never satisfied. We know this, but we also need reminding.

This is the gift of James 5, which reminds us what is true about all our pretty possessions. Preached with the same fire-bellied conviction as the Old Testament prophets, James has harsh words for wealthy people who misuse their riches. According to New Testament scholar Douglas Moo, James is not targeting all wealthy people, but those who put their wealth to unrighteous ends. Or, those who are simply stingy with it. For those believers, James reserves his harshest judgments.

However, James has a more universal message too. Whether we have wealth or we don’t, whether we misuse our money or we don’t, our possessions amount to very little. Drawing on earlier biblical imagery of moth and rust (Matthew 6:19), James reminds us that even our finest earthly possessions will one day be gone. Their Kingdom weight is slight. Their investment yields even less. Money and possessions cannot, and will not, give us what we want.

So, how do we escape the wretched emptiness this passage describes?

First, feed on God, not things. Our pursuit of possessions is a lot like trying to satisfy deep hunger by eating a single lettuce leaf. It will not fill us. Our appetites can only be satisfied by the “bread of life,” Jesus Christ, who promises, “No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again” (John 6:35).

Second, be generous. Too often, we resolve not to love our possessions too much, a mindset that is well-intentioned but without accountability or discernibility. The world will only know we hold our possessions loosely if we actually hold them loosely. This is why Jesus exhorts us to radical acts of generosity (Matthew 5:40-42). Jesus commands this, not simply because it’s a “nice thing to do,” but because it sets our hearts—and, therefore, our feet—on a different path, away from the destruction James describes.

These are truths we must speak over ourselves again and again. The sparkle and shine of worldly goods are a powerful illusion, but the more we return to these biblical truths, the more they will start to sink in.

Now, whenever my husband apologizes for what we cannot afford, I turn to him and smile to say, “You know what, they don’t have anything we don’t already have in Christ.”

 SRT-James-instagram11

Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, mom, and she holds a PhD on women and calling. She is a regular contributor to Propel, blogs at SheWorships.com, and her first book releases in October 2017.

Post Comments (71)

71 thoughts on "Warnings to the Rich"

  1. Ermie says:

    We are getting ready to have our first baby. Praying my eyes stay focus on Jesus and not on the THINGS. It’s so easy to get distracted.

  2. Chrissie says:

    My husband and I are currently shopping for a new house that will accommodate my mother-in-law living with us. We LOVE our current home, but this is a great reminder to hold our possessions loosely. We know that buying at the lower end of our budget will allow us to be generous to others, but we see large gleaming homes and quickly lose sight of higher purposes. More than anything we are practicing trusting in God completely. He has always been faithful and will always be faithful. We don’t have to worry about where we live, what we will eat, etc because he has promised never to leave us. We find our true home, our safest refuge, in remembering that he loves us and will be with us wherever we are. Possessions can NEVER bring that kind of security.

  3. Carrie says:

    I struggle with feeling like I constantly need new things, it’s more about me needing to feel like I look a certain way and that people see me a certain way. Basically me building my own kingdom instead of the lords. I can’t seem to be able to surrender it to the Lord, it’s a daily battle to spend my time and money wisely. Thank you for this message today.

    1. Claudia says:

      You could not have said what I’m struggling with more perfectly!! I too constantly struggle with feeling like I need new things and needing to feel like I need to look a certain way. It’s a daily battle for me as well to spend my time and money in a way that will honor and glorify Him.

  4. Sarah Joy says:

    I need this reminder every so often and this was definitely one of those times. Lately, my heart has longed for the “freedom” of more money. It’s such a trap. There’s is never enough to satisfy that desire for more. I will always find something else that I think will make me happy. I heard once “comparison is the thief of happiness,” and this study has reminded me how true that is.

    Also, generosity and gratitude need to become my constant companions because that is when I see what I have for what it is – on loan from God to bless me and my family for a time and then to bless others after that.

  5. April says:

    Very inspiring. I love how you and your husband draw each other back to what is truly important with support and words of encouragement. I’m not married and one day would like to be if it’s God’s calling. This type of relationship between two people speaks to my heart and gives me hope. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Katherine says:

      aw me too!! love that type of encouragement in a marriage <3 something I too hope to have one day

  6. Amy Morgan says:

    The Lord knew that I needed this this morning. I am a pastor’s wife as well and the temptation to look over my nighbor’s fence is so great sometimes and I can get consumed with material possessions. Thank you for allowing the Lord to speak to me through your words and wisdom. Praying we would all feed on God and be generous.

  7. Amber says:

    This has really convicted me. I feel like I have been so focused on worldly possessions and things that it has driven me away from God and my relationship with Christ. It’s so hard to not be envious in what others have. But what a wonderful reminder it is that we have everything we could ever need in Christ.

  8. ACar says:

    This is always difficult especially during the summer months when I am eager to go out and do things that almost always cost money. I find it draining to constantly be living paycheck to paycheck. It causes stress and anxiety and I feel like I am missing out on experiences at times because I can’t afford to go out to dinner or to that show, etc. It has been a daily struggle for me to remember that spending TIME not money is what is truly valuable. This was a great Godly reminder of how unimportant monetary items are.

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