Is money important to you? Chances are it is. One can’t survive in mainstream society without it. Do you think about it, make plans for it, and find ways to make more? If your pursuit of money is ahead of your pursuit of the Kingdom of God, you have a problem. If anything is in your heart and head before God, then you have a problem. It doesn’t have to be money, it could be lack of money, a career, a family, a lifestyle, music, a ministry, or any number of things. If you place them in front of God, they are your idol. Idolatry will send you and the people watching you down the path of destruction, toward hell.
Verses 1-3 read,
“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.”
Our earthly pursuits are temporary. They will corrode and one day be gone. Worse yet they can corrode our hearts. They make us forget the love of the Father, the truth of Christ, and the awesomeness of the Spirit. If we seek earthly glory, how can we also seek Christ’s glory? In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus taught people not to seek their own recognition by bringing attention to the charity and good works they did, by praying dramatically, or fasting ostensibly. In verses 19-21 of that chapter He said,
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Where is your heart? Is it in God’s glory or yours? Is it in a comfortable happy life or in loving others with the love of Jesus? Do you think whatever it is that is taking God’s place isn’t hurting anyone else? Are you sure? What did you do to gain and keep your money, your reputation, or your career? Did you lie? Did you steal? Did you slander someone else? Verses 4-5 describe some of those sins.
“Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.”
Believer, has someone done those things to you? What was your reaction? Did you trust the Lord enough to let Him handle it? Did you turn the other cheek because you know you cannot be separated from the love of God? Verse 6 illustrates the reaction we should have.
“You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.”
The righteous person, even wrongly persecuted, condemned and murdered, doesn’t resist the evil person. We aren’t here to fight the lost person. We are commanded to resist the devil and to draw near to God. We do not have to prove we are right. We do not have to hit back. We do not have to inflict pain. We can be humble, we can continue loving because we know who God is. We trust God. We have eternal life. Earlier in James letter, chapter 4 verses 6-8 he said,
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
Does that mean we’ll suffer here? Yes. We will suffer for Christ’s sake. We will hurt or even agonize because rather than resist those who persecute us, we love them, pray for them, and bless them. But we aren’t alone. We have the Lord God Almighty. We have Jesus our Savior. We have the Spirit of the Living God. He has given us eternal life. We have the hope and promise of the Kingdom of God now and forever. That hope gives us patience, and steadfastness. Verses 7-11 read,
“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”
Our commitment, patience, and enduring are examples to others. The way we live is a witness to the power of God. Patience isn’t easy. If it were, it wouldn’t be a virtue. Grumbling and complaining against each other is not being patient or loving. It is trying to call attention to our own goodness rather than God’s. We don’t have to seek our own good reputation. We do not have to seek glory for ourselves. When we bear our suffering God gives us His reputation and we will be remembered for our faith and our steadfastness. But if we grumble and whine we will be remembered as being faithless.
We don’t have to be ostentatious about our persecution and suffering. There is no need for histrionics. At the end of the film Gone with the Wind when Scarlett says, “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.” Her melodrama removed any sympathy for her. When we speak and act with hyperbole and theatrics in ruins our witness. It brings attention from our awesome God back to us. Verse 12 says it like this,
“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”
Swearing and fussing gives people more ammunition to persecute us. God doesn’t want us giving people reasons to harass us. They don’t need more. They will regardless. Don’t give them reason. God doesn’t need us to swear an oath. The fact is we can’t know we will keep the vow. We are not God.
Consider today where your treasure is? What is most important to you? Is anyone or anything is in God’s throne but God? How do you handle the persecution of the world? How do you handle it when you need money, feel alone, are sick, or are being lied about? I encourage you to give it the Lord. Be humble. Be patient. Trust the King of kings.