James Lesson 13

Using God's Blessings Wisely

James 5:1-6

Opening Story:  Bob and Mary (not their real names) were an elderly couple in our church, who had allowed God to work through them in their lives, their marriage and their ministry. Both of them were retired school teachers.  When we first met them, they had been married for more than sixty years and still led very active lives.  One evening, during a time of prayer and sharing among the elders, Bob shared that God had always allowed him and Mary to be generous givers, and they had just put a check for $800 in the morning offering.  The elders were astounded at the generosity of this special couple.  At first the men thought that the check he spoke of was for the entire month.  Then he added, "God has graciously allowed us to give $800 every week for some time now."  When we questioned him about how two retirees were able to be so generous in their giving, Bob replied, "We have no debt, so we have all the money we need to live on and can still give a good portion of our retirement income to the Lord."  He went on to explain, "Mary and I decided early in our marriage that we would not buy anything until we had the money to pay for it.  When we were first married, we lived in a one room apartment for several years.  We saved our money until we had enough money to build our house.  We used the same philosophy for buying other things, as well.  And we were able to raise two boys and do some traveling without going into debt for these things.  We never had money problems, even though we lived on the modest salaries paid to teachers; and we have always been committed to giving generously to the Lord."

Their philosophy of life was so simple, yet so profound.  If more people lived like Bob and Mary, think about the impact it would have on the local church today.

1.  James had a strong warning for those people who use their resources in the wrong way and allow money to shape their values and priorities.  Here is some good advice for those who have been blessed with more than they really need to live on, "Don't misuse God's blessings and allow wealth to corrupt and consume you."

Story No. 2:  I recently lost a dear Christian friend, who had been very astute and was able to accumulate a pretty decent estate over his lifetime.  He had always saved and invested wisely, but was generous with his time and his money.  Interestingly, God gave him more and more, as he continued to share with others.  When he knew his time was near, he started giving away the money from the sale of his house.  He signed over the title to his car to a needy family in the church, he paid up his tithe to the church for a year in advance, and donated generously to all the charities he had been associated with over the years.  A day or so before he passed, he calmly told his friends and family, "Well, I am readyl  I'm going to spend eternity with my wife (who had preceded him), and I'll be waiting for all of you to join us."  Now this is the way God would like for all of us to use our money - to help others and advance the kingdom of God, while we live here on earth.  And then, we too will be able to say, "I am ready", when our time comes!2.  

2.  James 5:2 and 3 points out the folly of hoarding clothing and money, when such things have no lasting value.  Clothing may be eaten by moths, gold and silver corrodes, and both are subject to other forms of loss as well.  Of interest, it was just a few decades after James wrote this passage that Titus invaded Jerusalem and either confiscated or destroyed everything they owned.  The people were either killed or taken captive, and all their wealth was gone.  So what did they gain?

Q1.  (Rhetorical Question, not for open discussion):  And what do we gain when we are selfish with our possessions and our money?  Ask yourself, "What do I have that God would have me share with someone else?"  Think of someone who would be blessed if you gave them the thing(s) you have identified.

Story No. 3:  I am reminded of a story about a rich man whose body lay in repose, dressed in his finest suit, adorned in gold and fine jewelry and laying in a gold plated casket.  Two ladies stood in front of the casket looking at his finery, when one of them asked the other, "Any idea how much he left?"  The other lady responded, "Yes, I do know.  He left it all!"

Q2.  Why do you think some people spend their entire lives pursuing the goal of accumulating wealth, when all the money n the world can't buy them just one more day of life when their time comes to face their maker?

3.  James had some particularly harsh words for those who had acquired wealth while oppressing the poor, particularly those poor who worked in their employ.  (James 5:4)

4.  After robbing their workers of a fair wage, the rich used this money on extravagant living.  Since these people had become consumed with the pursuit of wealth and pleasure, he likened them to fattened cattle, ready for slaughter.  (James 5:5)  This is a vivid picture of divine judgment.

5.  This passage does not condemn those who make money through hard work and use their resources in a God-honoring way.  Rather James warns against a life of overindulgence, which will eventually consume them to the point that they are willing to do anything to sustain their lifestyle.  (James 5:5, 6)

Q3.  Name some warning signs that might indicate that a person (or a family) could be pursuing the wrong things in life, or following the world's standards rather than God's.

6.  Let me close with this humble plea to every person who reals and studies this lesson.  Would you prayerfully consider tithing your income and giving of the blessings God has graciously given to you.  Read and study God's word on this matter in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  (Leviticus 27:30; Deuteronomy 14:22; II Chronicles 31:5; Micah 3:8; I Corinthians 16:2; and II Corinthians 9:7)  When you begin living a life of self-denial, God will be able to bless you richly, and He will show you that He will supply all your needs.  Trust God with all your resources!

 

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