second try

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Wise Rebuke of James

I was reading James yesterday and was struck by this:

James 5:1-6 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. [a] 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

What a great place we can be in now, each of us who has learned/is learning/now chooses to learn how to give now will continue to give during hard times. The way we choose to love each other will bring many into relationship with Christ. The way we serve our communities and depend on God in the days ahead will bring glory to His name and bring restoration to many people in many different ways. Redemption comes out of a gift. We can give it away by modeling another pursuit than worship of the American dream.

We have been in the last days since Christ walked the earth. It is still true that if someone comes to us in need and we have with us what they need, we give it then. We don't ask them to return another day. Scripture makes this clear. Hoarding and selfishness will not preserve us in this nation. The economy is failing, businesses are closing and some communities are greatly faltering. The answer is not in politics; it is in Christ Jesus, and he says GIVE. We can only give away that which we posses. If we need more of anything,  we need only to ask Christ. Where we lack, He can give to us and then we can give it away. Hoarding reaches only ourselves, but Christ asks us to reach out.

As I passed a street with my grandfather's name on it today, I pondered the legacy he left. He was a successful business man and wise in his dealings. He loaned probably more often than anyone knows, and never with interest. He gave in secret so many times. Every now and then I hear stories, whispers that speak of a lifestyle of giving. When he suddenly passed away, in the midst of tears I associated these scriptures with his life:

Ecclesiastes 7:1 A good name is better than fine perfume, 

    and the day of death better than the day of birth. 

Ezekiel 18:7-8 
He does not oppress anyone,
    but returns what he took in pledge for a loan.
He does not commit robbery 
    but gives his food to the hungry 
    and provides clothing for the naked. 
He does not lend to them at interest
    or take a profit from them. 
He withholds his hand from doing wrong
    and judges fairly between two parties.

By many people's standards, my grandfather might have lived the American dream, yet by his lifestyle of giving- and in secret- it's clear he was not a slave to it because he didn't hoard and he wasn't selfish. He gave it away, so many times. In exchange for potatoes he was educated as a boy and went on to be successful, established and respected in his family and community. He was full of laughter, and full of gifts. He was a generous man, and example in my life, even from a distance.

My thoughts today are many, but what I am taking away is that I want God to bless me even more so that I can bless others even more- financially, practically, spiritually, with knowledge and learning and friendship. Yet whatever I have or don't have, or you have or don't have, we can all give today what we possess right now. It might be only a smile or a prayer, a hug or a sandwich or a tankful of gas. And any one of those things can change a life and bring someone into the love and embrace of God.

Being enslaved by the American dream is in conflict with sacrificing for others in a time of devastation and calamity. The American dream fails if our material wealth vanishes in a day. The American dream is a joke if we feast in the midst of a famine. But I know one thing that never fails, and that is LOVE. Love will always prefer another and care for others. Love feeds the hungry, love turns orphans into family and feeds the materially rich but spiritually destitute the Bread of Life. It's the only investment we can make that is 100% guaranteed to pay off. Being wealthy is great, and what amazing acts of mercy one can do with funds! But remember the widow with the little penny (mite). We can still give the most even when we "have" the least. It's all about the posture of our hearts. Wealth is not the enemy. Love of money is the root of all evil, not possessing money. Yet whatever we have, the key is to give all of ourselves away to God and to those in need around us.

I am heeding Jame's words of warning. Am I not even more so in the last days than when he wrote them? My prayer is that we would weep when others do, rejoice when they rejoice and give where there is need, all for the glory of God. May His name be glorified by how we live our daily lives. It will shape how we deal with adversity and prepare us to be people who bring honor to His name in any situation. The American dream can live or die, but those free from it's shackles can live in constant love in in times of plenty and in times of upheaval. Love works in any economy. Invest in it. Remember James, and grow rich in love.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post April. It is so easy to want to keep everything we have when it is little and only give when we have "extra". Thank you for reminding us that it is important to give no matter how much we seem it have. It was encouraging to hear the stories about your grandfather, that he meant so much to so many people.
    Thank you for sharing your time with God and the wisdom he gave you about giving.