Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Rich Oppressors, who me?

Read James 5

Everyone here can take a breath for the next section.  It’s just talking to rich people.  Is anyone rich?  No, we’re just regular people.  No rich folks here.

On your personal Facebook page, post Marked safe from James 5:1-6.

I’m not rich.  Who is rich?  Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett, those people are rich.  I’m not Warren Buffet rich.  I’m not even Jimmy Buffet rich.

We’ve got a billionaire president and another billionaire who wanted to be, but I’m nowhere near having that kind of money.  I’m just not rich.

Let’s put it this way.  Do you:

·       Live indoors

·       Have heat or air conditioning or both

·       Own a car or have access to a car

·       Have more than one set of clothes

·       Eat every day

·       Have clean water available to you every day

·       The water comes into your house via plumbing

·       You have a phone

·       You have a smartphone

·       You have television

·       Your bathroom is in the house

·       Your culinary decisions are where not if we are going to eat

·       You go hunting because you like to not because you will starve if you don’t
·       You have a device that plays music

·       You don’t worry about your town being pillaged

·       You have attended a play or show or concert

·       You tithe

·       You made extra offerings to help the Children’s Home of our Local Benevolence Fund

·       You had something more to give to Martha, the Goat and 2 Chickens, VBS, F4, or camp

·       You have a storage room or building that would outfit another entire family or two

·       You think that diet means to lose weight instead of meaning whatever you can come up with to eat.  If you went to college, that time period doesn’t count.  Four-day old pizza is a legit diet

·       You have access to college or trade schools

·       You pay another person to cut your hair or your nails

·       You have posted online

·       You complain because you had to wait 10 minutes to get your fast food
·       You purchased a suit or dress for a special occasion

·       You have a bank account with at least enough money to keep it open

·       You had money for the book fair at school

·       You have a job or other source of income

·       You know what MSI stands for

·       You have said the words: What are we doing for fun tonight?

·       You have a microwave oven

·       You were able to give your kids and grandkids very nice gifts

·       You are still trying to figure out MSI.  OK, it’s Multiple Streams of Income

·       You may worship where you want without fear of persecution.  You might be doing it in isolation but you are not persecuted.

Now let’s see where you stand as far as being rich.

If you said yes to fewer that 5 of these, you likely live in poverty and probably outside of this country.  If you said yes to more than 5 but fewer than 10, you are better off than half the world regardless of where you live.

If you answered yes to more than 10, you are rich.  You are rich.  You are rich.

OBTW—did I mention that you are rich.

You should realize just how blessed you are.  Before you get too excited, realize that you also lost your exemption to the counsel in the first part of chapter 5.  Yep!  James is talking to you.

And as you read his words they should bring to mind the words of Jesus.

Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in an steal.  Instead, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

James is admonishing the rich among them who have hoarded their riches for themselves.  He is saying that the very things by which you measure your wealth and comfort have corroded. Your worth is worthless!
Your corroded wealth testifies against you.

Part of this warning is if you use your wealth to manipulate others.  That is, you slow pay your helpers.  Why?  Because you can.  What are they going to do?  You are the person of influence and they can’t pressure you.

We hear the word oppressor than automatically think, Well that can’t be me.
But what if it is?

We might think of oppressors as plantation owners, communist governments, sweatshop owners who pay pennies to make a $100 pair of shoes, but not us.

Those are extreme examples, just as Warren Buffet is an extreme example of being rich.

But what if our riches are corrupting us?  What if, let’s put this in familiar context, we are not putting our Master’s money to work right away.

What if our comfort level has blinded us to the need around us?

What if our When I get around to it attitude is corrupting what we have?

We have been here before.  Money is not evil; in fact it is not the root of all evil.  The love of money is not even the root of all evil. The love of money is a big player in sourcing evil.

The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil.

Our money and our stuff and anything else that contributes to our wealth is not the problem.  Those things do not have a life of their own.  They have no free will.  The fact that we store up treasure here on earth and those treasures  become infested or corrupt is the problem.

Sometimes we don’t see the problem.  Oh that junk?

If it’s junk, why have you not discarded it?  Well, it might have some usefulness.

Then why don’t you give it to someone who will use it?

Some of you here consider me a pain in the neck because as I walk around the church building during the week, I find items that are just stuck in a room or in a corner of a room or behind a sofa and I take them and put them on a table in the fellowship hall.  I am asking for one of three things:

·       Claim it and take it home

·       Discard it

·       Give it away

There may be other options but accumulating stuff is repugnant to me in an organization that should be committed to putting what we have to work at once.

I know there are always exceptions but we must be on guard that the exceptions don’t become the rule.

I moderate the session.  Sometimes I offer new ideas.  Sometimes I will put a draft out there to start a discussion and hope that that discussion leads to something fruitful.  I try not to use any power of persuasion.  I want people to be led by God’s Spirit.  I ask the session to spend a lot of time in prayer.

I did put out the year of the Bible and it was met with an underwhelming response, but the idea was not dead.  So, we took on this Month of the Bible – The Study of James as a trial method.  I did not want to do it unless I had significant buy-in from the congregation.  This sort of thing will just be the flavor of the month if people are not reading daily and discussing profusely.

I’m telling you this not just to remind you to read daily, discuss frequently, and come full of thoughts and questions for class and worship.  I’m bringing up session meetings to let you know one time my skin was about ready to crawl off of me.

We have a space challenge in this building. Think about that.  A church in Spaceport Oklahoma has a space problem.   Sometimes it has to do with people and sometimes stuff and then sometimes we have all the space we need.  It is a challenge that comes with the blessing of acquiring this building 15 years ago. 

But one Sunday evening as the session was discussing this issue that is an on again/off again issue, someone said we could just get a Conex box.  It’s a metal box like you seek on the back of trains and sometimes trucks that usually max out at about 40 feet in length.

Right away people started looking at the cost and availability on their phones.  That’s when my skin started crawling.  It’s not that it would have been an eye-sore.  We could have stuck it on the east side of the building across the right-of-way.  Unless you lived in the trailer park, you would never even notice it.

The session asked me for my thoughts, and I said I didn’t want something to accumulate stuff and if we did this it would need a manager—someone to make sure it wasn’t a new and improved junk room.

Why was I such a stick in the mud?  Because I grew up fairly poor, that is rich by the world’s standards, and this is my experience.  I grew up in the United States of America.  See if you can relate.

We accumulate stuff.  It fills a closet.  Then it fills a garage.  Then we rent or buy or build a storage room.  Then we have room to accumulate more stuff.  Then one day we go to the room and to get something we would like to use and it’s way in the back and we just say, I’ll just go buy another one.

We hold on to stuff because one day we might use it.  Then the day comes and we use something else because we don’t want to sort through the stuff.

One day we may get a Conex box for our stuff.  I never argued against it, nor will I in the future.  I will simply include my counsel that we must guard against the accumulation of stuff and as such, we would need a Storage Manager.

Let me return briefly to money. We are called to be wise with our money, even in the worldly sense.  The proverb says that the wise man stores up an inheritance for his children’s children.

The coupling in the proverb is that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous.

Are we living in such a way that the wealth of those made right by the blood of Jesus is stored up for the wicked?  Is it stored up just to be consumed by corrosion or by vermin?

Once again, James is not the Lone Ranger in his instructions and challenges.  The master in the parable of the talents addressed the third servant as wicked and lazy. 

Wicked?  Really?  Yes.

We should consider that not to use our wealth for the benefit of the least of these our brothers and sisters is the same as being oppressive.  We had the means to help and did nothing.

What am I saying as I present this part of James to you?  Put out a BOLO—Be on the Lookout for opportunities to put our wealth to use for the glory of God and not just to feather our nest or increase our own prestige.
Are we rich?  Yes!

Are we oppressive?  There’s your food for thought for this week.

When we complete our study of the Book of James, take this question to Luke 12:13-21 and the Parable of the Rich Fool.  Then ask yourself this question:

Are you rich towards God?

You thought that you got the day off with this short pericope.  Well, it might just cause us to meditate upon what it says as much if not more than the rest of the counsel we find in this book.

Re-read the first six verses and then ask yourself this question. 

Am I rich towards God?


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