Gold or Godliness

“Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”  James 5:3–4

Christ when he walked and taught among the people of Judah and Galilee warned against the dangers of focusing on the accumulation of riches and trusting in them for happiness and security. Christ’s advice was that we ought to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. But the pursuit of wealth and possessions is a seductive temptation and many, even those that never are able o fulfill their desires for wealth, are seduced by it. 

One of the pitfalls of pursuing wealth is the means by which we must obtain and keep it. Many times the making of money requires the use of less than legal or ethical means just to get it and once you get the money, you cheated to get, there’s always someone else working to take it from you so you have to protect yourself from them. It can be very easy for the person focused on gaining wealth to have two prevailing objectives in life: to make as much money as they can, and to make sure no one else takes it away. 

This is a problem for the Christian. God’s called us to live in loving service to him and others. 

It appears that even among the early Christians, living as they were so close in time to the example of our self sacrificing Savior, there was a struggle to break away from the temptation of living for wealth. It would have been enough of a condemnation if they had merely been selfish with God’s blessings, neglecting the needs of the church and the poor, but they went far beyond that. James says that they were cheating their workers out of the wages they had labored for. He goes on to say that they had “condemned and murdered” in their pursuit of wealth. Murder for wealth is fairly straightforward to understand. The word condemned refers to the use of legal but unethical means to take money or property from another. This the wealthy Christian believers appear to have been doing to the poor. 

Friends, Charles Dickens words in his novel about Scrooge seem appropriate here.  “Mankind ought to be our business.”  God may bless us with wealth but our love for God and our fellow man ought to guide us in how to use it. One day we’ll leave everything on this earth behind. Not a single thing we’ve built or accumulated will be taken with us save the character of Christ in our lives and the souls that have been led to Christ through us. Letting go of the world today is a good preparation for that day. 

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