by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Study # 73 February 24, 1999 Harlingen, Texas
Thesis:God is going to treat the rich just exactly as they have treated Him.
Introduction:Just as there is a tension in the Bible between the "blessing" of riches (particularly under the Old Covenant) and the "curse" of riches (particularly under the New Covenant), there is also a tension between the biblical admonition to store up for the future on the earth [Proverbs 6:6-11] and the biblical admonitions to refuse to seek to be rich; to be content with food and covering [1 Timothy 6:17-19]; to store up riches in heaven by giving resources on earth; and to not be anxious about tomorrow but to seek the Kingdom and trust the Father who knows we have need of these things. This tension is heightened by Jesus' pointed declaration that the rich only enter the Kingdom with enormous difficulty and the reality that God is not unwilling to permit His children to live a hand-to-mouth existence. On the one hand, we do not want to live hand-to-mouth, and on the other, we do not believe that it is as difficult as Jesus says it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom. This difficulty is increased by the questions of whether God has not already provided if our lot is one of abundance and expects us to be prudent in the saving of what He has given.
This tension is resolved only by a close relationship with God as a person attempts to be a faithful steward. We live under two principles which seem to push us in two divergent directions: the principle of thoughtful foresight for life on the earth, and the principle of storing up in heaven by using the resources of time.
This evening we are going to look into these issues again. In our study last week we saw that James' prejudice was particularly conditioned by the historical setting which made it very unlikely that a person could both be godly and wealthy. And we saw that his antagonism toward the rich was based upon the fact that they got their wealth by cheating others, that they maintained their wealth by persecuting others, and that they wasted their wealth by living in luxury and pleasure. Tonight we are going to look into this second tension: how do we deal with our wealth in the face of God's intent to judge?
I. God's Intention to Bring the Wealthy to Judgment.
A. The identity of those He will bring to judgment.
1. They are called "the wealthy".
2. They are characterized by three serious accusations of ungodliness.
B. The nature of the judgment to which He will bring them.
1. It will be excruciatingly painful.
a. Their anticipation of it is supposed to reduce them to weeping and howling.
b. Their experience of it will be that...
1) Their money will not be able to buy an escape.
2) Their accumulations will be destroyed so that they have no provision for the present necessity.
2. It will be based upon a fundamental principle of stewardship.
a. The accumulation of rust is a de-facto evidence of the rejection of James' definition of true religion in chapter 1.
1) The problem of rust is disuse.
a) Disuse is a fundamental violation of stewardship--Matthew 25:25.
b) Disuse is an indication of a lack of need...accumulation without an objective.
2) The problem of disuse in the face of the true needs of others is selfish disbelief.
b. The rust's consumption of the owner's flesh as fire is a statement of retribution in direct consequence of the owner's lack of compassion in his time of opportunity.
1) The rust testifies of his lack of response to real need.
2) The consumption of his flesh means that he is now being subjected to the very absence of compassion that he exercised.
3) In tandem with his lack of compassion was his brutal lack of basic justice.
II. New Testament Qualifiers Regarding Wealth.
A. Wealth is to be used to enhance one's eternal experience: Luke 16.
B. Wealth is NEVER to be an objective: 1 Timothy 6:9.
C. Wealth is NEVER to be an object of trust: Matthew 6:31-34.
D. Wealth is NEVER to be achieved by ungodly methods.
E. When wealth occurs as a by-product, it is to be handled in accord with the principle of the harvest (2 Corinthians 9:6-7) under the umbrella concept of stewardship.