Saturday, February 25, 2012

40 Days with James ~ Day 4 ~ Fading Riches

Day 4 ~ Fading Riches

James 1:9-11 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.

James is writing his letter to a group of persecuted Christians. These were people who had no need to practice a Lenten fast or a self-imposed suffering because their livelihood was likely taken from them for their unwillingness to abandon their faith in Jesus. By simply confessing Jesus as Lord and God, these people risked losing house and home. Those who were wealthy risked losing their financial security.

In the face of such a possibility, it would seem from James' words, the wealthy may have been considering avoiding persecution for their faith in favor of keeping their livelihood. The reality was that money was their god and they were prepared to choose worldly wealth over persecution for their faith! Bottom line: they loved money and security more than Jesus!

James gives us a stark contrast here between the exalted poor and the humbled rich. In the kingdom of heaven it is better to be poor and persecuted for the name of Jesus than it is to be wealthy, comfortable, and faithless in the world. The brother or sister who is poor but has Christ has great cause to rejoice, for they are the last of all, which makes them the first in the kingdom of heaven! (Matthew 19:28-30) Wealth is fleeting and it matters precious little on the day of judgment.

If we are honest, we will admit that the prospect of losing our position, status, or comfort terrifies us. To be sure, we would truly struggle to stand by Jesus if it meant losing our lifestyle. And yet, this is a reality that many Christians do face in our world today, and we too may one day have to deal with. When such temptations to wealth over Jesus arise, we must cling to the promises of heaven God makes to those in humble circumstances. We must remember our Lord Jesus, who for our sake became poor, hung as the least of all on the cross, so that we would be exalted with Him forever.

Confession: Almighty Father, I confess to you that my love for wealth and comfort very often trumps my love for you and your kingdom. I honestly do not know how I would respond in the face of persecution. I praise you for your Son who endured humiliation on my behalf. Grant me the same Holy Spirit who gave Jesus his resolve in the face of the cross. Make me steadfast unto the day of resurrection. AMEN

Challenge: St. Paul tells pastor Timothy to exhort the wealthy to "be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." By yourself or with your family, pray about and begin searching for a ministry that supports persecuted Christians. Find ways you can help them in their efforts.

Pastor Bob

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