James Study 11: Where is your treasure?
Read James 5:1-6
This section is all about a warning to Christian and non-Christian alike, those who think they are rich and take advantage of this situation to oppress, use or abuse the poor. We all may think we are not rich as we compare ourselves to others like the Queen, or the 100 richest people. Compared to the majority of people in the world we are all very rich if we have a roof over our heads, a bed to sleep on and food to eat.
James is warning us that if we are making life tough for others but well off for ourselves we will have miseries come upon us. He is pointing out that ‘rich’ does not equal happiness which may be a shock to some of us. If we are in a position to decide peoples wages we must make sure from our heart that we are giving a fair wage for the job and responsibility. The workers cry to the Lord for favour and their rightful reward and they have been heard by God their Father and ours and He holds us accountable. James is condemning rich land owners whose selfish hoarding of wealth; giving poor wages; living for pleasures of self-indulgence and self-gratification, and condemning the righteous man is all known by God, who is Judge of all.
Anyone who is well off should take note of these verses as it is a warning to all of us to keep our attitude to money and wealth in line with the Word of God. We need to constantly review that we are not living in pride over all we have and the value and status that we think our possessions are giving us, 1 Timothy 6:17. We should examine our hearts to check we are not judging others by their clothes, position, job, house, car, children’s education and anything else we think of as important, Matthew 6:19-21.
We all came into the world with nothing and we all go out with nothing (1 Timothy 6:7) except all the treasure we have laid up in Heaven. If God called us to prepare to die today what would we find difficult to let go of? Even if we are rich in the eyes of the world we have to measure ourselves by God’s standards. The thing that causes us to see ourselves above another person, whether it is our looks, our education, upbringing or possessions could be the very thing that brings us misery.
Problems caused by earthly riches
*Forget God – Deuteronomy 8:13,14
*Rely on Riches not God and take life easy – Luke 12:19,20
*Encourages greed – Psalm 62:10
*Encourages lack of integrity – Proverbs 28:20
*Adds extra temptations – 1 Timothy 6:9
*Hard to enter the Kingdom of God – Matthew 19:23
*Can lead to a fruitless life for God’s Kingdom – Mark 4:19
*They are deceptive – Hebrews 11:26; Revelation 3:17
*Hoarding is destructive – James 5:3
In the light of these warnings we must examine our hearts and see what our attitude to wealth is and how we see our and others value. Are we using the world’s standards or God’s standards? God wants us to have our joy in His eternal riches not in our latest acquisition or shopping trip!! Our treasure and efforts must be in God’s eternal Kingdom which means our energy should be in sharing the Gospel with all different people and making disciples, Matthew 6:20 They are our treasure.
God calls all Christians to use what He has given them however little or large to benefit others. He has even called some to sell all they have to follow Him, Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:33. On the other hand He has made some rich in every way so we can be generous on every occasion, 2 Corinthians 9:11. Paul is very clear in 2 Corinthians 8-9 how we should deal with wealth and poverty using the Macedonian Church as his example. If we are short of provision we do not need to ask ‘why do the wicked prosper?’ we need to look to our Father’s Word on it, Psalm 73:1-17.
So if we live a life of self – indulgence we will be blinded to all God has for us and the fantastic prosperity of walking daily in the richness of His peace and joy knowing we are pleasing Him. As we walk and talk with Him He will make us aware of others needs and how we can be a blessing. Where can you be a Godly blessing today?
Read James 5:7-12 – Be patient and wait!
James is talking to the believers saying be patient and stand firm, as guaranteed as harvest follows seed planting so Jesus’ second coming is going to happen. In God’s mercy He has not yet sent Jesus back to earth as He longs for all to have heard the Truth and to respond so that He can call them into His Kingdom. He calls us all to be patient and not give up like the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 (See Real Women No 04). This is a real warning from James that in the face of difficulty and persecution we must not give up our faith or fall away, Mark 13:13; Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 10:35-39.
We cannot make ourselves firm and patient by our own strength. But God through His Holy Spirit is ready to help us. Patience is a vital fruit of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22. God Himself will make us strong firm and steadfast, 1 Peter 5:10. No one knows the time when Jesus will come again, not even Himself, only His Father, but it will be worth waiting for, Matthew 24:36-44. Signs are many but the Word states that ‘As it was in the days of Noah so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.’ Genesis 6:11-13 says that ‘God saw how corrupt the earth had become…. The earth is full of violence because of them’ so God chose to destroy the people and the earth. Reading about the days of Noah is like reading today’s newspaper, so we must be ready.
Here James reminds us that there is real trouble for the Church, in His day there was a time of persecution of believers before the destruction of Jerusalem. Today the Church is strong where there is great persecution, like China, but in the West we are being constantly offered the chance to stand up for our faith but we compromise in order to be politically correct. So while we keep silent evil reigns, but God will not let this situation continue. So we will have a choice as the ‘wind of holiness’ sweeps through this nation and all Christians get the opportunity to stand up and be counted for Jesus, then many will fall away, just as it was in Jesus’ day when they counted the cost, John 6:66.
Those who persevere to the end are considered blessed (James 1:4) James gives the Old Testament example of Job, James 5:10-11, who was an important man in his time. God tested Job by allowing terrible afflictions to come upon him. Job lost everything, his land, his house, his wealth, his children, and his honour. Then he lost his health, but even in the face of such severe trials, Job never grumbled against God. Finally in the end God greatly blessed Job, and his final situation was better than his first. Although Satan asked God to attack Job and God allowed it, it was His plan and purpose from the beginning to show Himself strong on behalf of His faithful servant. God allows suffering to come upon us but He promises ‘that ALL things work for our good when we are called according to His purpose’ Romans 8:28. In the end, because of His great mercy and love, He will always turn our sorrow and pain into joy and blessing, Psalm 103:8
Read James 5:9,12. Stop grumbling and swearing.
Again James is pointing out how important our speech is. As Christians we must not be finding fault with each other. When trials and persecution come upon us how quick we are to blame each other for our trouble. God is watching how we stand up against these trials, as if we grumble against each other we are actually grumbling against God, Exodus 16:8. The Judge is standing at the door (James 5:9; Revelation 3:20) and He hears our grumbling. Let us beware that He does not need to punish us as He did the Jews in the desert (Numbers 11:1; Numbers 14:1-4 and Numbers 14:26-29). James also warns that when we speak we must talk plainly and honestly. An honest man never needs to swear in order to prove what he says is true. Let us beware the Lord will judge us for every false and careless word we speak, Matthew 12:36.
The Real Church – Home Challenges 11
Read all the notes about James 5:1-6
1. What do you think is James biggest warning about riches?
2. Answer the question ‘If God called us to prepare to die today what could we find difficult to let go of?’ Is there anything God is asking you to act on with regards to this?
3. Read ‘Be patient and wait!’ Do you think Jesus could return soon? What signs do you see?
4. Read ‘Stop grumbling and swearing’ Review your speech. Has this improved since you started the study of James? Are you more aware of what you are saying? Have you got an example you would like to share?
Read James 5:13-20
5. What are all the circumstances listed here in which we should pray?
6. What does this passage imply about the importance of prayer in a believers life? Why?
7. What does James recommend you do if you are sick?
8. What requirements are there, from this passage to becoming well? What is the added bonus?
9. Do you believe Jesus heals today? Does He want to heal all sick or just some? 3 John 2
10. Do you know different ways people are healed by God? Think of various ways Jesus healed people if you do not know any modern examples
11. What value is there in confessing your sin to another believer? What is the difference between sharing and confession?
12. ‘The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective’ James 5:16. Who is a righteous man? Romans 5:19 So how do we get our prayers answered?
13. Read 1 Kings 17:17-23 and 1 Kings 18:24, 1 Kings 18:36-38 What does God do for Elijah? Why do you think James uses Elijah as an example?
14. How can we wander from the Truth? What kind of help could bring us back?
15. Sum up in one short sentence what this passage has meant to you?
16. Choose one verse from any of the readings and learn it.
Recommended reading ‘Rich Christians in an age of hunger’ R. Sider and also ‘The scandal of the Evangelical conscience – why are Christians living just like the rest of the world?’ by R. Sider. The Love Revolution DVD by Joyce Meyer