Imagine that you got news today that your financial condition had drastically improved. Maybe through a significant raise, or your retirement investments doubling, or your home appraising for a lot more than you bought it for. That would be good news, right? Maybe you’d celebrate, splurge, or pop open a bottle of something fancy?
I am not saying that it would be wrong to celebrate and be thankful. However, James 5:1-6 provides counter-cultural wisdom on wealth that we need to hear. James 5:1-6 is a warning to us about the danger, lies, and power of wealth. Rather than a celebration of wealth, it reads like a lament! Once again, God, in James, shows us just how pervasive and influential the forces of worldliness are. The world’s values and way of thinking seeps into our hearts, minds, and souls. This leads to it feeling completely natural, normal, and right to think, act, and live like the world around us. This is especially relevant and concerning with regard to the love of money – which the Bible warns us is “a root of all kinds of evils.” But today we LOVE money. Our default is to think that the only bad thing about money is not having more of it!
But when we are able to take off the lenses of worldliness, it’s actually clear that wealth should come with a warning label. Research clearly shows that wealth doesn’t buy happiness but actually increases unhappiness. The majority of folks who win the lottery end up divorced, addicted, and less happy. Most NFL players end up divorced and bankrupt within a couple years of retirement. We live in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, but we are increasingly unhappy. But we still believe in money. As long as we have it, we will be happy, right? In 1992, James Carville insightfully pointed this out in his infamous slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid!” What he identified was that people don’t care about politics, politicians (and their moral failings), or policies as long as the economy is good. Money and wealth influences us, changes us, and blinds us.
Money, wealth, and riches are a powerful force. Money is not inert. It throbs with power, influence, and promises. Take some time to read and reflect on James 5:1-6 this week. Endeavor to receive it as a loving warning and enter into lament for how we and our world have been warped by wealth. Pray that God would redeem the power of wealth in your heart, our hearts, and the life and ministry of his church for his Kingdom and his glory.