A Simple Sermon From James 5:1-11

Handling Money in the Last Days

Introduction: The “Wall of Shame” in Lima, Peru is a concrete barrier that literally separates the rich from the poor. Lima has some of the poorest slums in the world, and multitudes live in squalor. The wealthy built a wall to protect themselves from the high crime rate of the slums. But the wall has become a symbol of the vast divide existing between the rich and the poor. Now, imagine a man clambering to the top of the wall. He’s wearing a robe and looks like a biblical figure. It’s James, and he’s gone up there to preach. He has something to say to both groups. He’s going to turn toward the rich people and give them an earful; and then he’s going to preach to the poverty-stricken masses. In essence, that’s what we have in James 5:1-11.

1. Be Generous – James 5:1-6

Chapter 5 begins: Now listen, you rich people…. You can hear the vitriol in his voice—you rich people! Throughout his book, James has been critical of the rich, and in this passage he talks about the misery coming upon them when Christ returns. In the flash of a moment, all their accumulate wealth will vanish. He warns the rich against hoarding, exploiting, and failing to pay their employees as they should.

A passage like this is thought provoking. As Christians we need a theology for handling money in the Last Days. From other biblical passages, we know we should prepare for the future and provide for ourselves and our families. It’s not wrong to have a bank account or retirement plan. Yet money is addictive and temporary. We must be generous. I’ve felt convicted about this in little ways. I need to put a dollar in the fishbowl at the coffee house, to buy newspapers from homeless vets, to put something in the collection plate when it passes. If we’re generous in little things we’ll learn to be generous in much.

Money and materialism and possessions are fleeting. This is no time for hoarding money. This is no time for diminishing our testimony by stinginess. We want to be wise and self-sufficient; but above all, generous; for generosity inoculates us against materialism. It helps keep our perspective about material possessions as we hurtle into the headwinds of history. The days are coming when the world and its possessions will be destroyed by fire. Our earthly wealth is more temporary than we know, and our eternal wealth is more valuable that we imagine.

2. Be Patient – James 5:7-11

In verse 7, James turns toward the poverty-stricken masses and tells them: Be patient. Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming…. Be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. When Jesus comes, the economics of the world will be reversed.

James reaches back into the Old Testament and gives us biblical examples of perseverance. He tells us to learn a lesson from the Old Testament prophets, then he uses the example of Job. Verse 11 says: You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. I’m struck with that word “finally.” Do you ever use that word as an exclamation? Finally! God will finally work things out for you. Things in your life aren’t perfect. They may get better, but then other things will be imperfect. We keep making progress, but things will never be as they should be until Christ returns. Perseverance is the determination to keep on going—faithfully and by faith—through the imperfections and frustrations of life because we know the Lord will finally work it all out for good.

Conclusion: That’s the essence of James’ sermon from the top of the wall. If you’re wealthy—be generous. If you’re worried—be patient. If you have some possessions—share them with others. If you have problems, give them to Jesus.

Oh, yes, and there’s one last word. Verse 11: The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. God doesn’t just have some compassion and mercy mixed in among His other qualities. He is full of compassion and He is full of mercy. That’s why He sent Jesus Christ the first time and that’s why He’s about to send Him the second time. And Jesus is the one who didn’t just stand on the wall and preach a sermon. Jesus tore down the wall separating us from God, and allowing us poverty-stricken sinners to have access to all the riches of heaven.