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Believe Me, Rich is Better

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
December 7, 2020 7:00 am

Believe Me, Rich is Better

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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December 7, 2020 7:00 am

Did you know that God cares about things like the protection of private property and the right to fair wages? If you thought that economic topics like these were reserved only for business people and politicians, then you might be surprised by how much the Bible has to say about money and possessions.


Welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet ministry of confessing Evangelicals featuring the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce more information, please contact us by calling toll-free 1-800-488-1888 and now the alliance is pleased to present the Bible study our preparing you to think and act biblically regarding the nights two James five verses one through six, which deal with the subject of riches. Whenever I come to the way section of the Scripture that deals with riches. I think of that often quoted remark of Sophie Tucker of a talker said. I've been rich and I've been poor. Believe me, riches better. While I don't think God would say that and certainly I don't think James is saying that to qualify that a little bit by pointing out that according to the Scripture. Riches are neither good nor evil in themselves that are morally neutral but at the same time, they present a great danger, so that one would not naturally save one's being biblical, that being rich is better than being poor, being rich is certainly an opportunity that's used rightly but is a great danger. We should probably regard riches, much the same way as we regard fire.

We have an expression playing with fire. While that's true. Fire is a very useful thing, but I can be terribly dangerous as well. This is true of riches.

James is already mentioned, the rich once before in this letter. In chapter 2. Interesting to keep that in mind, because in chapter 20. If you'll recall, was talking about that wrong and sinful deference within Christian circles whereby special kind of preference was given to people simply because they had money, others talking about Christians as it presumably is rich Christians and poor Christians within the Fellowship of the church is not condemning anything there except this deferential attitude. Anything that's not right that's not a spiritual way of looking at people now in chapter 5 is talking about the subject of riches again but now is not speaking of Christians who have money. Speaking of the ungodly and their wealth and he speaking in words that are certainly as strong as those of any of the prophets who denounced the ungodly rich of their day, or any of today's prophets who speak about the kind of oppression that people in positions of authority and wealth often inflict on those who are less fortunate be read what he says understand it in that context, I listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that's coming upon you. Wealth has rotted bonds of eaten your clothes, your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire reported wealth in the last days look the wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you.

The cries of the harvesters reached the ears of the Lord Almighty lived on earth and lecturing himself indulgence you fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter have condemned and murdered innocent men were not opposing you very harsh words. Indeed, I don't want to analyze that passage extensively because I think it speaks for itself. What I want to do is go on to see what a Christian approach to riches is our possessions. Whether there are in abundance or not, but certainly, just as we look at those verses you can hardly miss what James is saying is looking at a great wrong and he saying.

First of all that God notices wrong.

We read many times in the Psalms of the wicked who say all who pays any attention to what I do certainly the Lord doesn't say I do these things. He doesn't judge me and the author of the Psalms's will remind the wicked again and again that although judgment hasn't come yet God nevertheless sees the day of reckoning will come. Certainly James is saying something of the same thing here.

Why is it that these things are jocks. Why are they weighed and found wanting by what standard they fail to measure up. Obviously, the standard of God. This means that God notices what's going on but we may be able to hide our wickedness or in terms of wealth, the way we use our money from other people. Certainly don't hide it from God.

Notice what it is that he does observe notices the injustice he spells it out very clearly those who are not paying workmen sufficiently at certainly should speak to those in positions of power within our capitalistic society is a great concern for fair wages.

Secondly, he notices the self-indulgence from the lecturing, see the one is directed toward the poor, and it's a deprived nation of what they should be blessed with the other is directed toward the individual limits and overindulgence and what that person has certainly what he saying is that those who are rich should indulge themselves less use some of that money helping those are paying those who are less fortunate. God sees that as well. And finally, he says that he sees something else.

He sees that they condemned and murdered innocent men thinking of their I'm not sure I know, but it's quite possible some of suggested this, but he speaking of the prophets that is looking to those in the past were innocent and spoke out against the injustices. Certainly that would be true, perhaps in a certain way.

James is even prophesying his own death because he was called the just one spoke out against these things.

He was martyred. Eventually Thursday I read it.

However, I don't think that's what it's talking about because he says in that very last phrase of verse six, you condemned and murdered innocent men who are not opposing you are the prophets in a certain sense would have to be said of them that they opposing the injustice. I think what is thinking here is those who were simply victims of the system. Victims of the wickedness and he saying that when these die as many do in poverty because of the things that are intended upon their poverty. Those who have been self-indulgence failed to pay them just wages are guilty of neglect but of murder. Those are serious words may be there misapplied. I think we would have to say were honest, there are certainly areas that our own society and our Western world where they applied very very directly.

Sometimes, especially in our day. People are becoming increasingly sensitive to this in the beginning to speak out against what's wrong this kind of a situation.

What's wrong this particular problem are things the problem themselves. Is it simply wrong to possess anything. Well, no, that's not the case because we go back to the early chapters of Genesis and we find there. When God in the sequence of his creative acts brought the man and the woman into the world it already prepared a whole world of things for their enjoyment for the morning gave them all of this is their position.

They were to possessions ruled wisely.

I want to strip the land of its bounty simply for selfish ends. But nevertheless it was there. They were to eat all the fruit of the garden.

They were to enjoy all the vistas of the creation where they were located and all such other things. So things are not wrong in and of themselves, someone would say.

Well, that may be true, way back there. Genesis before the fall where all things were given by God and could be properly used, because the human outlook on these things wasn't corrupted by sin, but things have changed since the fall and milder possession of things is wrong in the history of the church from time to time, there have been people who said that slave tried to develop a kind of ascetic life where they give away everything they possess encourage other people to do that. Set up orders about remotely, and so on.

Such things try to justify that biblically.

I don't believe it can be done quite possible that God calls some people to give up their possessions totally live a life of pure asceticism to demonstrate is an example of the charts that man's life does not consist in the abundance of things which he possesses certainly has a unique and individual calling and it's not the sort of thing that the Scripture holds out is normative for all Christian people find it simply by looking at references to possessions and texts and examples throughout the Bible.

Let me give you a few suggestions. The eighth commandment way back in the book of Exodus and Deuteronomy as well. Says thou shalt not steal. What's implied that commandment certainly means that I should not steal from other people, but equally well means that other people shouldn't steal from me and in an indirect way.

Therefore, it establishes the right of private possessions means that burglars shouldn't steal. I believe it also means that owners shouldn't steal from their employees by not paying them sufficiently. I think it also means the government shouldn't steal from its people by confiscatory taxation and such thing. So we have all kinds of applications of that but what's basic to it is the right of private property may give you another example in the early church has we read about in the second chapter of acts. It was a period where the Christians sold their possessions and gave you such as had need. And we are told, held all things in common of taken out as being an example of the kind of thing they'd like to see all Christians do that is give all things away in a communal kind of life. As I say, some may very well be called that we notices we read that commandment that this that description the same passage that describes what they did. Nevertheless goes on to say, and they worship in the temple and also they worship in one another's homes while he sold things and gave them away.

In this particular period of church history in one particular location, there were obviously at least some of them who hadn't given away the places where they live, they still had private homes. The other Christians were living in this communal life didn't consider the ones who had their homes to be disobeying the commandment of God, but rather accepted that which God had given them as a blessing and met there and made a part of their Christian witness in Jerusalem, but those verses do tell us is that the Christians in those early days of their joy in the gospel were generous men and women. They had more than they needed and they saw others who had less than they needed and so they willingly voluntarily sold their possessions and distributed those who had need. But that doesn't argue against the right of private possession is one other incident you know the story of Ananias and Sapphire Ananias and Sapphire number two Christians, one of the early churches and there was a period of the same kind of selling and sharing that Took Pl. in Jerusalem. Many of the Christians in the church were giving away what they had are selling what they had in bringing the money that they received from the sale into the church. Laying it down in the front of the altar at the feet of the apostles Peter being the one present that particular time and same look. Here's what we're giving is the result of the sale of property we want to give it the Lord in Addison I Ananias and Sapphire did this, but they weren't entirely honest about they sold a piece of property that they had and then from the sale. They took part of the money and kept it for the cell themselves and then they took the other part.

They brought it into the church and they made it at the feet of Peter and they said he sold a piece of property in this is what we got for the sale of the property and here it is.

We want to give everything to God. You know what happened first. Ananias and his wife Sophia were struck dead by God. Peter, who was the spokesman of God. On this occasion explain the reason for the judgment. Reason was not the fact that they had private property, but their hypocrisy in that they were pretending to give it all when in fact they were not what Peter said was this, he said while you had the property was not there all and after you would sold. It was the money on your own other words you could do anything you wanted with it. You didn't have to give it but he said in that you've lied not demand the Holy Spirit. This judgment is come upon you and it came upon the man and his wife. What I'm saying all of this is that the possession of things is not in itself. The problem, what is the problem problem is that we sinful men and women take what we are given and use it for ourselves at the expense of the well-being of other people rather receiving these things is a gift in trust from God to be used in his service in his direction of the Lord Jesus Christ spell that out very clearly in the sermon on the Mount had a section where the six chapter of Matthew beginning in verse 19 where he deals with money and is very very explicit. What he says is not the money is wrong what is wrong is the attitude that uses it for oneself what he encouraged those were his disciples to do is to receive it is that which it is is anything else that were given a trust or whatever it may be receive it as something with God is given to be used in his service, so we don't ask that you say how much can I make a much could I keep all important.

Can I be, but rather what can I do how effective, how much of a blessing. Can I be with such wealth as God has entrusted to me. I may review the argument of the Lord Jesus Christ for you. He says four things about possessions in the sermon on the Mount Matthew 619 and following. First of all, he says the way to get a proper perspective on possessions is to realize that however valuable they may be in this life. They will all pass away. Wealth and possessions of every kind will perish. Therefore, what we should do is be concerned with storing up spiritual wealth which does not perish his way puts it, do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth were Boston Roth rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust. Not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.

We know the uncertainty of riches talk about it all the time in our day is perhaps the case that riches's are more uncertain than ever and their vanishing even quicker you can increase the menu does leave it in the bank. You lose out because the interest is less, than the inflation. Certainly our own culture is demonstrating the truth of Christ statement that he says how foolish to focus your attention and sell your life for such things when that which is eternal, that which is spiritual parishes in the conference now.

Secondly, verse 21 he suggests another thing we have to keep in mind if you really do have a Christian you of possessions and it simply that either we are going to rule things are things are going to rule us and we put our hearts on our treasurer that will be bound by the treasurer. It will be useless. In God's service. He says for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also really interesting illustration of what happens at this point in the way a word that occurs in the King James Bible is a trans liberated word. The word Mammon developed historically, new international version of the very last verse of this section. Verse 24 changes at the money in order to make what it is much more clear with the word is Mammon and it has a Hebrew origin now is interesting how Edward developed first of all, Mammon was used in a positive sense.

It comes from a verb which means to increase trust to someone to give something into someone's keeping so possessions or money or wealth.

Whatever it maybe was that which was interested I see it has a spiritual meaning there is that which God and trust us and it is also, by definition, that which we entrust to other people in order to help them didn't have any bad connotation at all. At that point in the history of the developing of the word. So when you wanted to have a man connotation to it. Had to put an adjective with a qualifying now you wanted to suggest that possessions were bad and you use the word Mammon.

You had to say something like the Mammon of unrighteousness or the Mammon sin means ungodly game unrighteous game to see that shows that the word originally had a morally neutral or even a positive sense about what happened in the development of the word is that the active sense to entrust was changed to a passive sense, meaning that in which one trusts see what happened money is that which is entrusted to us and which we entrust other people when you're talking along those lines. We are in charge of the money we're using it a pass from Matt meaning that in which one trusts and at that point you say we're not controlling it.

It's controlling us that plaintiff word Mammon, which was originally spelled with a small M came to be spelled with a M meaning for such people. Mammon had become a God. I noticed that although the new international version changes the word Mammon the money it captures the idea by capitalizing money. In other words it's saying in my final verse here.

That money has become a God and you cannot serve the true God and money at the same time Jesus is something else to what he begins to talk in verse 22 and what he says is that possessions tend to cloud one's spiritual vision. He says the eye is the lamp of the body of your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. Your eyes are bad whole body will be full of darkness sees simply using an ancient understanding that went something like this. The eye is like a window light enters it from outside if you have an opaque kind of covering over your life flight is an omitted, then your body is in darkness and he sang possessions tend to do that they cloud your vision they get your eyes off the Lord Jesus Christ was the white of this world they cloud our souls and what we find when we have our attention fixed upon things is an inability to see things spiritually so he would say to those who face this particular problem, think through these things. Consider these points that dedicate what you have, the God that brings me to the very last point in it that you cannot serve God and money the same time James would say cannot be using your wealth in the way I see the wicked wealthy of my day using it be a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ to our antithetical, yet we do tend to do that unless we get our minds on God Martin Lloyd Jones, one of his writings has a story which he says is absolutely and literally true as a farmer came into the family home one day delighted just come from the barn. He said that Kyle we have out there is just given birth to twin kayaks.

He was only expecting one, but there were twin to be was so excited of the fact that he had this unexpected bounty that he decided to give one of them to the Lord. He said what were going to do is is raise these two calves and one of them will be the Lord's calf want to be our path when they grow old enough to sell will sell the one will give the proceeds to the church and his wife said which one is the Lord's calf. He said oh they're just the same. It doesn't matter will decide that later when we sell so they began to grow and they were prospering.

But one day he came in he had a very long face. His wife said what's wrong. He said the Lord's calf is designed and she said to him what you mean the Lord's calf is died. You didn't decide which one was the Lord's calf. How do you know all know he said I always knew that the Lord's calf was the white one and it's the white one that is died on our Lord's calf will always be the one that dies unless we get our priorities straight. See what we have to recognize is these things that we have such as they are, whether it's much or little or given to us by God.

We are stewards Auto-Owners the word to use these things in his direction, not to bring glory or blessing to ourselves to bring the gospel and other forms of blessing other men and women. Let us pray our father, we thank you again for another practical word from the book of James.

We thank you for the instruction of the Lord Jesus Christ saw problem with riches so instructed those of his day, how they were to regard these things, how to keep themselves from sin in this area.

Certainly we in this United States have been abundantly blessed with this world's goods that we are so apt be caught up by the possessions that would actually happens is that we serve them rather than allowing them to serve us, teach us to be what we should be in this area, so bring glory to Christ as his servants pray in his name.

You are listening to the Bible study hours with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview. Drawing upon the insight and wisdom of reformed theologians from decades and even centuries gone by. We seek to provide Christian teaching that will equip believers to understand and meet the challenges and opportunities of our time and place. Alliance broadcasting includes the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce every last word with Bible teacher, Dr. Philip Reich, God's living word with pastor, the Rev. Richard Phillips and Dr. Barnhouse in the Bible featuring Donald Barnhouse. For more information on the alliance including a free introductory package for first-time callers or to make a contribution. Please call toll-free 1-800-488-1888. Again, that's 1-800-488-1888. You can also write the alliance at Box 2000, Philadelphia PA 19103 or you can visit us for Canadian gifts mail those 2237 Rouge Hills Dr., Scarborough, ON, and 1C2Y9 ask for your free resource catalog featuring books, audio commentaries, booklets, videos, and a wealth of other materials from outstanding reformed teachers and theologians.

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