Whose Kingdom am I Building?
“5 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 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. 4 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. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.[k] 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.” James 5:1-6 NIV
In James 5, the brother of Jesus continues where he left off in chapter 4. He is addressing those with wealthy who had no real relationship with the Lord, but who thought their wealth and comfort in life were the result of God’s favor upon them. In James’ day, there was a great chasm between the very poor and the very wealthy. In their society, the “middle class” was not a major presence like it is in our day. Apparently, the Gospel appealed to and spread rapidly to those who were poor because of the hope they gained in Christ. Those with wealth, it seems, rejected Christ and oppressed the poor. Here James gives some harsh words to those who had wealth in his day and instead wanted to “play church.”
While in comparison to those around me in my modern American culture, I do not view myself and my family as wealthy. I’d typically skip over these verses in James 5, thinking that it doesn’t apply to me because I don’t see myself as someone James would refer to as, “rich people”, however a book I’ve been reading recently challenges my thinking on that matter. Here’s what David Platt says:
“Today more than a billion people in the world live in desperate poverty. They attempt to survive on less than a dollar a day. Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars a day. That’s nearly half the world struggling today to find food, water, and shelter with the same amount of money I spend on French fries for lunch.
More than twenty six thousand children today will breath their last breath due to starvation or a preventable disease.” (Platt, David. Radical – Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Colorado Springs, CO. Multnomah Books, 2010. pp 108. (emphasis mine)
To put this in perspective for my culture, (according to those numbers and childrensdefense.org) if twenty six thousand children died each day in Hawaii, within two weeks, every child in our entire state would be laying dead.
Perhaps I am wealthier than I thought – based on the facts that we have a car, a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, and that I am sitting and typing this on a keyboard in front of a computer right now! The truth is, in comparison with people around the world, my family and I actually have great wealth – and should be using it to advance the cause of Christ rather than only to bring me comfort.
What luxuries does God intend that my family and I have, and which ones might God be inviting me (or us as a family) to sacrifice in order to be able to give more to advance His Kingdom and His work? Where is the line between responsibly putting away money and saving (which the Bible advocates for in Proverbs) or irresponsible hoarding (which James speaks clearly against)? How much is wise for my family and I to save for the future by way of life insurance and retirement accounts, while there are brothers and sisters around the world who are threatened with poverty, both spiritually and physically?
These are hard questions and I don’t have any of them today, but I do think it’s important to consider. Are we… am I… being faithful to use what resources I have to advance Christ’s Kingdom or to further my comfort? Am I really honoring God with what I have? Really?
Forgive me Jesus for the times that I am too self-absorbed and concerned only with my comfort and that of my family. Increase my heart and compassion for Your people. Grant me wisdom to manage what I have and to give sacrificially for the advancing of Your Kingdom… not mine. In Your awesome name… not mine… amen.