In this episode, we bring in the words of the apostle Timothy to help us as we close out our study on The Book of James. The final ingredients for how to win at life are revealed. Although wealth can be a burden, it is also an opportunity. And prayer has the power to transform everything. As we wrap up James, we talk about how to apply the lessons we have covered in the daily routine of our lives.
The burden of wealth
We might look at 1 Timothy 6 real quick. 1 Timothy 6:17.
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches—
This description of rich people we got in chapter 5:1-6 is pretty haughty, right? I’m rich. I am entitled to be this way, and I’m going to use my position to abuse other people.
We can do that. That’s a choice God has given us to do. That’s an action we can take. It’s a perspective we can have. And we can trust in riches.
So there’s three things we can control with riches. We can trust the riches. We can have a perspective that we are special and that we deserve to be treated better than others, and then we can take actions accordingly. That’s one way we can do things.
Then he says in 1 Timothy 6:17, don’t do that. But rather trust in the living God. We got this in chapter 1. If you’re rich, which all of us are. If you’re an American, you’re in the top one percent of wealthiest people in the world unless you’re, like, in the bottom 15 or 20 percent of America, in which case, you’re top ten percent.
He says, no, trust in the living God. And chapter 1 told us if we are rich, we should glory in our humiliation because we’re in a very dangerous place because we’re tempted every day to trust in our own capabilities, to trust in our own wealth. So, no. Don’t do that. Trust in God who gives us all things richly to enjoy.
One of the verses about rich man—come now you rich, rich man—it shows up a ton in the New Testament. And the gospels seem to really like the one about harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. That shows up multiple times. Because it’s such a burden to have great wealth.
The normal outcome of having great wealth is to use it to say I’m better than other people and to abuse that position. That’s normal.
So it’s a really difficult thing.
And the disciples said to Jesus, well then, who can get in? And God said, well, nothing’s impossible with God.
So the perspective we should have about being Americans is, man, we’re in a tight spot. This is going to be hard! This is going to be really difficult. I can’t do this on my own. I am going to trust riches, and I’m going to end up one of these people unless I totally depend on God. I’m going to glory in my humiliation because he’s given me a tremendous trial.
That’s a perspective he invites us to have.
You know our tendency is to say, verse 5 there, live on the earth in pleasure and luxury. I have all this money. What I should do now is make myself comfortable.
Another one of the rich man stories that’s in the Bible is the guy that builds the barns. And he says, I’ve got all this money. What am I going to do? I’m just going to pile it all up, and I’m going to live the good life. I’m not going to help anybody anymore, and I’m not going to work anymore. And, that night his soul was required of him.
The implication is the judge comes and says, “Well, I gave you all these capabilities. What did you do with it?” “I served myself.” “Well, that’s not very good. That’s not good enough.”
It’s a tough perspective to have, for people like us. Who here likes comfort? Raise your hand if you like comfort. Everyone should be raising your hand. I like comfort. Would you rather be comfortable or uncomfortable? And how hard it is to say I could be comfortable, but I’m going to deliberately steer myself into discomfort because that’s what God’s called me to do.
That’s hard! When you’re on the other end of the spectrum, all you can do is trust in God, and that’s the only option you have, or just go into total rebellion, nonreality. That’s not as hard to trust. Which is what James has been telling us all through this chapter here.
So, have this perspective. The judge is at hand. If God’s given you something that’s blessed you, it’s fine to make yourself comfortable with that, in part.
Enjoy all things
I got halfway through 1 Timothy 6:17. Trust in God who has given us richly all things to enjoy.
So, should we, because we’re wealthy, enjoy what God has given us? Absolutely. When you observe people with immense wealth, or at least the perception of immense wealth, the ones that are well publicized, anyway, does it seem like they’re really enjoying themselves?
We get mostly the stories in the tabloids of the people that want fame more than they want wealth, I think. It’s not a good sampling. But it seems that those people use their wealth to see who can set their hair on fire the most and get the most attention. “Oh! Well, they did that self-destruction? Wait until you see the self-destruction I do to myself.” It certainly doesn’t seem like they’re enjoying themselves, does it?
If you have something that you have in your material possession that is causing you not to enjoy, get rid of it. You know, it doesn’t matter if somebody else has it. Just get rid of it. If you’re not enjoying it, just get rid of it. If you have the ability to enjoy something, then do it.
One of the things the rabbis say is that we’ll have to give an account for every pleasure we could have had and didn’t. Now, we’re talking about good pleasures here.
There’s beauty all around us every day. The clouds out here are just amazing. Do you notice them? Just the reality about what’s happening around us, the fact that we can talk and live and the fact that humans are what they are. It’s amazing. Do you stop and reflect on how astounding it is that we’re alive, from time to time?
There’s enjoyment all around. Make sure you have it. That’s what we’re asked to do.
What we tend to do is say, well, I’m a rich American, but I’m not a super-rich American, so I may be rich compared to everybody else in the world, but I don’t see everybody else in the world, so that doesn’t count. What I see is that you have more money than I do, and that really ticks me off. That’s more of our normal bent. Don’t have that.
Then, within our own small group, what we tend to do is use condemnation. I want to deal with this. Let me do the last point I wanted to make, and I’ll come back and finish up with what time I have with condemnation.
Prayer saves the sick
the prayer of faith will save the sick—this is verse 15—and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
This is good here that they said “save the sick.” That is the proper translation because this is the Greek word sozo. And so it will deliver the sick. Deliver them from what? The prayer of faith will deliver the sick from something. The person will be raised up.
You could translate that made whole, will be made whole.
And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
That’s actually the heal word.
The first one’s deliver. You’ll be delivered. The second one’s heal. You’ll be healed.
What I get from this is that sin creates really negative consequences. Have you noticed? Worry creates stress. Stress breaks down the physiology, for example. So some of the things here are if we can get rid of this wrong thinking, if we can get rid of bad relationships, we’ll give our bodies a chance to heal themselves, for example.
It also says the prayer of faith will make them whole.
Now we have seen multiple ways in our body where God has made people whole. We’ve seen people who have died, but they died in such a way that the Lord really blessed them.
We have also seen people that were going to die, and God did a miracle, and they didn’t die, yet. We’ve seen that many times.
And God still works. He still heals people. But everybody still dies, right?
Paul had such healing powers—was it him or Peter that if you got in the shadow you would be healed? That was Peter. But Paul, still, if he would touch people—he had a tremendous healing gift.
Later in his ministry he says, I’ve got this thorn in the flesh. I’ve prayed three times, fervently, just like Elijah. I’ve prayed three times that this thorn in the flesh would be delivered. And God made me whole. How did God make him whole? He told him, my strength is perfected in weakness.
He made him whole by giving him understanding, not by healing his thorn in the flesh. Isn’t that interesting?
So there are multiple ways to be made whole. One of the things I don’t think I do is pray for people’s sins to be overcome as much as—that’s something that really strikes me. I don’t really understand how that works. Maybe some of you who have thought about that can give me some direction. How does that work? How do sins be forgiven?
Maybe what that is is there’s this tendency of us to hold grudges with one another. Let’s just think we had a whole body who’s praying for each other’s faults and weaknesses. It would be hard for there to be grudges and grumbling and complaining and condemning if everybody was doing that, wouldn’t it?
I have a cousin who’s a minister, and he went down to South America. He was a musician in a Christian band. And a guy came up to him and said, “I’ve got a prophetic word for you. Your dad or your granddad or someone in your family has prayed for you, and the Lord’s hand is on you. You are going to minister to people.”
And he’s like, well, that’s weird.
And so we were talking to him, my brother and I were talking to him at a family reunion. And he told us that, and we said, that was your granddad.
He said, it was?
We said, yeah, and we started telling him about our granddad. He would get on his knees—and my cousin would go and spend the night with him and pretty often said he would get down on his knees. It seemed like he was down there forever because he was such a godly man. He prayed for his family. We said, yeah, that was your grandfather.
And he said, no way!
Well, those prayers had passed down, obviously.
This package of how we deal with one another, it’s a huge thing.
And now let’s finish with condemnation.
Can a believer be condemned? Well, this word condemnation, unfortunately, is typically dealt with the same way save and justify is. You’ve got to know who’s condemning what, to who, and what circumstance.
Are we living in a condemned world? What is it condemned to? Destruction by fire. It’s already been destroyed by water once; and next it’s going to be destroyed by fire.
The question is not can a believer be condemned. Can a believer be condemned in the presence of God for the sins they’ve committed? No! Why not? Because they’ve already been paid for.
Which sins have been nailed to the cross? All of them! So we can’t be condemned for that. And everybody focuses on that one kind of condemnation and says, we can’t be condemned. That is correct. We cannot be condemned in the presence of God to be excluded from his family. We cannot be condemned for that.
But, look. There’s condemnation in the world, all over. And if we want to be a rich person who abuses our authority, who abuses our privilege, who spends it all on our own comfort and doesn’t do anything to help others and even who makes ourselves not enjoy the gift that God gave us, we’re condemning ourselves! We put ourselves under condemnation when we did that.
If we condemn others, we’re condemning ourselves.
Let me just show you a couple of things—I’ve got time for a couple of things here. I could do a whole session just on this.
The people of Nineveh will condemn
Look at Matthew 12:41. Really fascinating. Jesus speaking:
The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.
Well, that sounds like there’s going to be a court case, doesn’t it?
“How did this generation do?”
“I call as witness the people of Nineveh. People of Nineveh, who spoke to you?”
“What did you do?”
“Now I call this generation of Israelites. Who spoke to you?”
“The Son of God.”
“What did you do?”
“We killed him.”
Well, the jury’s not going to have a hard time figuring that one out, if there is one, right?
The fact that someone lives a righteous life, in and of itself condemns someone who doesn’t.
Now you’ve all experienced this yourselves, haven’t you? If you’re doing the right thing and you’re in a group of people that do the wrong thing, they condemn you for it, don’t they? Why? You’re making them feel bad. And if they can recruit you into their guilt, they’ll feel better.
You’ve all experienced that, haven’t you?
Well, not only that but verse 42.
The Queen of the South will condemn
The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.
You know, we all have our works judged, and we cannot be condemned in the presence of God, but what we do can. You know, wood, hay, and stubble. Gold, silver, precious stones. It’s all going to go into the fire.
I would say it would be an appropriate description to say that if we have wood, hay, and stubble, put it in the fire, and it’s burned up and those works will be condemned.
But who condemned it? We did. By our choices. By who we trusted. By the perspective we chose to have, now versus later. Trust me versus trust God. Does God really have my best interests at heart? Well, he must not in this particular circumstance. Everything else he does, but I’ve got to handle this one on my own.
You know, that’s not going to go over well. And there’s a consequence to that. But it’s all avoidable, and if we confess our sins, he’s faithful and just to forgive our sins. To the extent we’ve done wrong things in the past, we can put those behind us because mercy triumphs over judgment. Isn’t that cool?
So, summary of James: It’s about winning at life through walking in the wisdom of God, walking in faith, and it’s about making choices to trust God, to have the perspective that God’s given us, and then to do the things that God has asked us to do realizing and knowing that that’s actually in our best interests. It won’t always feel that way.
But when we do those things, not only is there an immediate blessing, there’s an eternal blessing, and these things compound and go on and on forever. So. James.