4:13-5:6 – Your Will vs. The Lord’s Will – A Contrast
James then spends a little time contrasting whose will it is you are actually performing. If you are watching a sports event with friends, unless you are witnessing to them about Christ at period breaks, and even then, I’m fairly confident you’re performing what you want, and not what the Lord wants for you.
This can be a complicated issue. Let me see if I can give a personal example. Nowhere in Scripture is there an instruction that says Gerry will marry Susan and have three children. Yet, as believers, we were and are both convinced that God’s will for us was to marry and let Him run the show after that. And we have three children, two of whom have made professions of faith in prayer to God in front of me, and one who says he believes, but wants to “cross that bridge when he comes to it,” which is a worrying strategy for me, and he knows that, but also isn’t the point. I did not know until God revealed it to me very clearly through circumstance that Susan was to be my wife. And even then, I asked for some clarification because I didn’t want to make a mistake and screw up both of our lives.
People face things like this as Christians. Do I get a job and support my family, or do I become a pastor? Well, if the answer is an either/or scenario, you might want to just get a job and support your family. But then the Lord showed me that I could do both! Even with all the health problems, the Lord’s way of keeping me humbly relying on Him for daily strength! James in this section lays down some principles for how to find the will of God and do it as opposed to your will.
Now I know it has been 4 weeks, so I will remind us all that context is important to what Scripture says. The immediately preceding context of what James was talking about was a comparison of sorts between the old nature that we were born with and the new nature Christ gave us at regeneration, which is the new birth from above that only God can accomplish. In fact, we closed our study last time with a comparison of who God is by looking at a few of His unique attributes, and then who we are–nemo sumus–nobody–by comparison. So who are we to judge the law or our neighbour for trying to adhere to its precepts?
And that question is the best segue possible to get into our topic for this study, which is a contrast between what our will is and what the Will of God Almighty is. This is critical to our entire Christian walk. Today’s so-called “Christian” leaders will tell us that All we need is to have faith, which they will go on to define as a spiritual substance that prayer will coat what we want with itself so that God will hear us and give it to us. In fact, the Will of God is usually in direct contradistinction to that; the Will of God is completely the opposite of what your will is under natural conditions, and it is only in aligning your will with His that He will do anything in your life at all besides chastise you for your rebellious desires.
I broke the text down like this:
KV15: If the Lord Wills…and only then…
4:13-17 – We have no idea what will happen, but we are arrogant about it
5:1-6 – Living dangerously is not a good game plan – ever…
At this point, it needs to be said that we always have a choice. No confession of faith I have read denies that, despite what the world says about Calvinists, and the men that wrote those confessions were decided Calvinists. It is a mischaracterization to say Calvinists are hard determinists. Some are to be sure, but I don’t think that given what the New Testament says about choosing, and examining oneself, and putting on the new man in Christ (yet another choice, but for believers) hard determinism is a supportable doctrine. I will add this is not our study topic, but it is related in this way: We clearly have free will, but it is a mistake to think that it comes down to our choice; that is to say, our choice may be free, but it is not libertarian. I hope that made sense, I don’t know how to say that in simpler terms. It is an intellectual discussion, and sometimes, you just need to define your terms properly.
I believe (my code phrase for “this is my opinion”) that people mischaracterize this into a false dichotomy of free will versus Calvinistic determinism because they do not have pure hearts. There is something they want, and it is not always apparent, even to themselves. I once heard it said and agree with the statement that all false teaching begins with the words, “I desire.” The real dichotomy is much more serious: Do I want what I want or what God wants? This neither depends on determinism nor denies free will, and that is the model I believe that Scripture supports, and it is reflected here in this text. With that understood, let’s get into the text for this study.
KV15: If the Lord Wills…and only then…
Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
I chose this as a key verse because it represents the key to what the entire text this evening is discussing. From the very first word of the verse, “instead,” you can see that there is a contrast with what I will call the “wrong way,” and others might call “the incorrect interpretation.” Usually the folks that tell me that this is “your interpretation” have one that differs from the Scripture, so it is our task here to determine what the Scriptures are really saying, the reason we study Scripture in the first place, though not the only one.
The attitude that James is clearly supporting here is one of humble reliance and dependence on what I will for the moment call divine providence. We do not know what will happen, so we humble depend on God and His mercy and grace for what He will bring to pass. We are clearly NOT in control, and to assume we are (as James says in tonight’s text) is arrogant in the extreme.
James is in fact touching on the idea that God knows what He is doing, and we need to trust Him for that, regardless of what that may mean for us. If God wants us to become wealthy and spend that money in the work for Him, then we must be humble and accept that, right? Now, that isn’t what I have EVER seen happen, and that is probably for a reason. Wealth is a temptress, and it can pull you FAR off course from your walk with Christ. You cannot serve God and wealth according to our Lord, and that is EXACTLY what James is getting at in 5:2-3 of our text. Jesus said you would love one and hate the other eventually. Now, I am also not saying that money is bad. Money is related to the concept of wealth, but is not by itself wealth. People who think that end up being miserable, incidentally. Wealth, and the life of ease, will lead you to a place of judgement by God, and you will either miss rewards because of it, or it will land you in hell for eternity, and there are those who will land there over wealth. Let’s not be in that number.
With that, let’s get into the text.
4:13-17 – We have no idea what will happen, but we are arrogant about it
As someone who comes from a line of entrepreneurs, I appreciate that James is right to the point and that he speaks not just business analogies, but he also speaks with his eye focused on the bottom line for the believer. He captures the entrepreneurial spirit with which I was raised (for better or worse), and he very clearly puts it into the perspective of that heavenly wisdom that he took the time to define in our last study. As humans, we all have that sense of adventure that simply says, “let’s go!” One of the popular culture references that very quickly comes to mind is, “…to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Also known as the world’s most famous split infinitive, though grammatically, it isn’t incorrect, it is a matter of emphasis. Not our topic, sorry. That boldness leads, on a gradient of more or less quickly in terms of speed, directly to arrogance on the part of the one going. We tend to have a little success, and then figure out what factors earned us that success, and repeat the actions, fueling our internal myth of how good we are, which is a false narrative that we love to hear and think about ourselves, really. What do I mean? Let’s let James explain.
13: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”
- It is immediately apparent that James is engaging a specific group of people. Are you included? I know I was at certain points in my life. I’ve made plans almost like that basic model. In fact, I bet most people have whether it was for business or pleasure. The profit can come from more than one form of currency. Whatever “profit” you are expecting is not really the point, it is the expectation of what you are going to accomplish. Hee, see what James is saying.
14: Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
- When you read that verse in James, do you realize that whatever you were hoping to accomplish is not the point? The point is what I once heard in a movie expressed as, “You don’t know…” [GalaxyQuest, character Guy Fleegman speaking about how he was just a glorified extra, and how he was likely to die a horrible death before the first commercial…context, right?]
- We really DON’T know, and am willing to suggest that we don’t think about what the Lord wants us to do more than 90 percent of the time. We think we know, but we really don’t. James tells it like it is…You are just a vapour that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
- I used to be in an industry that acknowledged this. In training agents for itself, it codified in its instruction that we all want to live “lives of significance.” Wow, don’t become a pastor, there are times we don’t know if we’re having an impact or not. And were you called as one? Or are you just looking to punch a ticket with something you can do (you think you can do)? And I get it–I wanted to change the world, to have significant and lasting impact through my efforts. Beloved, there is only one person who has ever had that kind of result, and we all serve Him.
15: Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
- Here is our key verse in understanding the text. It tells us instead of what we usually do, what we ought to do. It contrasts our reality with God’s standard, and then in plain language, which James is known for, it tells us exactly HOW we are deviating from that standard here. In this case, it is making our own plans and doing our own works that make us feel good about ourselves (my vocabulary for the “life of significance” garbage they tried to hammer into me) that has no effect and actually contradicts God’s will for us. I said it last time, and I’ll say it again–nemo sumus–“we are nobody.” Instead, we should live for our Lord Christ, and not for ourselves. We should serve him, instead of serving ourselves. We should cultivate our relationship with him, instead of fostering those relationships that can aid us in getting what we want.
- Beloved, when we do not consider what the will of the Lord is, or seek that will to be accomplished in all that we do, we are guilty of this same thing. But this is what we ought to do, not what we actually do.
16: But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.
- James calls that displayed behaviour of ours “arrogance.” We have a number of words that we use for it, like hubris or pride, but this is the one that just seems to put the cherry on top of that. The margin in the NASB says that the word can also be translated as pretensions, please not the plural. That sounds about right to me, we pretend to be something we are not. The Greek is alazoneia, and literally means “boastful pride.” And what does it say about this boastful pride?
- James says all of it is “evil.” The Greek word here is poneros, a form of the verb poneo, or the noun ponos. In either event, the word has built into the meaning a connection with labouring at the task, and is considered by Greek scholars to be the active form of evil. And here is a handful on purpose–in Mathew 5:37 is used as a name for Satan, and is even a label given to demons three times in 1 John, which we will get to right after Peter’s letters. Beloved, arrogance, hubris, and bragging about it or because of it are all ACTIVE forms of evil. Please don’t miss what James is saying. Next verse!
17: Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
- Do you hear what James is saying beloved? When we take things into our own hands without putting the Lord first, or even thinking about what His will is in the situation, THAT is ACTIVE evil. As believers, we should KNOW the right thing to do in most situations that face us, and it is those majority situations we are discussing. I hesitate to say what I feel I have to say next, but in the name of Jesus Christ and in that spirit of power and love, and a sound mind that He gives us through His Holy Spirit, here I go, let the chips fall where they may.
- I’m going to make a parenthetical pause here to explain something, and maybe even give an example or two. Whenever someone makes a moral point on an issue, regardless of the issue, a pattern develops that I have actively observed since about the age of 16 I think is where I started to become aware of these things and “keep score” of them if you will. It goes like this. Moral point stated. Opposing voice raises exceptions as a form of objection. A clear example of this is seen in the debate about infanticide, that is abortion, murder in the womb. “But what about the woman who is raped?” That is a good question, and people think that because I am male and have no lady parts, I am not allowed to have an opinion, and tell me so, usually loudly. Well, I have to interject. Maybe, and I doubt this for the record, but maybe I’m NOT allowed to have an opinion. I represent the creator of all things, who created both male and female parts and conceived how they would operate and ordained it to be so. That Creator, who is God Himself, VERY MUCH has an opinion about that. What He says is that killing the product of a forced union, as bad as that union was, is still murder and adds insult to injury. He tells me to say that. Get mad at me if you if you like, but your anger and objections are misdirected if you try to cancel me over this. You can’t cancel God, no matter how hard you try. Enough said. My argument is this: Statistically, that is a very small percentage of cases where abortion is considered and offered as a solution to a very unique problem that is usually the result of sin. My research on this topic says that less than 1 percent of cases of abortion are because of rape or incest (parental rape). Of that small number of women that DO become pregnant because of those absolutely terrible reasons, and I cannot stress strongly enough that those things are absolutely and earth-shatteringly terrible, 85 percent of those women will choose to keep those children. The stats I found were American, so I will quote those: 32,000 women in the USA are in this situation every year. I’m sure everyone at this bible study will agree that’s 32,000 too many, but 85 percent of 32,000 is 27,200 babies that will be kept by the parents. That’s 4800 babies that will be murdered because of someone’s egregious sin in raping a girl. To put a bit of thoughtful context to this to better understand what this means overall, that’s 100 cases of this for every sate in the continental US. (In other words, excluding AK and HI).
- Taking the LEAST populated state in the union, Wyoming with 581,075 people, 100 cases is 0.0172 percent, and that is the smallest case average scenario. Well sort of. I’m pretty sure some states will have mor and some states will have less, but that’s all protected health data, so we have to use this kind of math (means and modes). Look, I have a science degree, I’ve takes statistics courses as a part of my degree, and I did that math myself. I’m just saying that to tell you I am not just pulling paper out of a hat, I know how the math works. You can find all of my abortion statistics I used on the internet at HealthResearchFunding.org in an article titled “18 Shocking Abortion Statistics Rape Victims.” There will be a link to the article in the notes on BereanNation.com. (https://healthresearchfunding.org/18-shocking-abortion-statistics-rape-victims/)
- That is an example of the kind of logical fallacy that is presented to try to fight the truth of the matter when a moral point is made. It took me about 10 minutes to find those numbers and do the math, and most of that was reading. When a moral point is made, opponents (usually us) will take the smallest part of the problem, the figurative molehill, and turn it into a mountain. Doesn’t that sound to all you logic-trained folks on the call this evening like a very skilled and deliberate application of the strawman argument? It sure does to me. I picked on the abortion issue because it clear and understood as are the strategies employed by both sides.
- This is why this is important: The exceptions should not guide our thinking on how we respond to sin in ourselves, let alone dictate public policy as it clearly does around the world, and that kind of thinking is why the world hates us. If you’re watching this and you are angry at what I say, I understand. I didn’t ask you to agree with me. I present those statistics without comment, and believe me, I could comment on this for a LONG time.
- Now, returning from that logic principle to the text, about what is James speaking? He’s speaking about making long term plans of any kind to profit by them, so I assume commerce, but this could even (and does if you know anything about the mess they call “church planting” in most denominations) extend into the realm of so-called “church growth” and “gospel activity.” You should google NAMB (the church-planting wing of the Southern Baptist Convention if you want details on what I am talking about, or better, look it up on Protestia.com or PulpitAndPen.org. Your hair will curl if you have any left.
All of this rambling chatter of mine this evening has one point, and I take it back to the title I gave to this section. We have NO IDEA about what will happen, but we sure are arrogant about how much we know. We perceive ourselves as experts about our chosen topics, including theology (sometimes especially there). We will not listen to anyone else because we “know” the truth. Really? You know God’s plans? Tell me, how long did you spend seeking His will in His word? How many actually spiritually mature believers have you consulted about your plans? And who gave you the knowledge you have and your abilities? And for what purpose is your “plan” put together? If your motive is profit of any kind, I suggest you may need a motive check. Beloved, most of you know, I wrote a book. I gave some of you hard copies. That kind of book can be sold for $15, based on length and effort. I sell it on Amazon for $4 to cover costs of printing and to fund the ministry when one does ever sell, which is once in a blue moon or so. Discipleship is not a popular topic if it isn’t telling you how to get rich from your faith, I suppose. My guiding principle from Scripture is this from Proverbs 23:23. “Buy truth, and do not sell it, Get wisdom and instruction and understanding.” Paul made it clear that servants of the gospel could support themselves with their service. But “increasing wealth” is just idolatrous Mammon worship. You know the kind…”We couldn’t go to our cottage in the Hamptons this last weekend, let’s schedule another book signing.”
To quote Paul, “Not ever.” God forbid. May it never be. That’s living dangerously in the presence of a Holy God.
5:1-6 – Living dangerously is not a good game plan – ever…
As we have previously discussed, we are all traitors to that same Holy God who created us. It is a good thing for us that He loves us, or we would be in real trouble…and might still end up in real trouble by living dangerously as James has been describing and will continue to describe here. As we read this, note the scolding terms with which James speaks to his specified target audience, and look for the response James requests.
We will see here that James will define what this “living dangerously” means in terms of reliance upon either our own resources or those of the failing world system.
1: Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.
- James’ stated target here is the “rich,” which our society tends to define as those with real wealth and power (the two go together usually). That is the sense that James uses it here. The Greek word here is plousios, and that’s what it means. Those who have great wealth.
- What is James asking them to do? Weep and howl, recognizing that great misery is coming upon them. Wait, what? These are rich folks! What possible reason could their great wealth give them for weeping and howling in misery? James will explain in the next verses.
2: Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten.
- Wealth has a tendency to do this if they are not protected and used appropriately. What is happening here is that the resources and protections (coverings) that these worldly men were relying on to supply their needs is now wasted away into complete dissipation and is now beyond use by them. The “riches” [ploutos] have rotted. The Greek here is sepo, and literally means, “has become corrupt.” That could mean several things, so we will just leave it in James’ broad terms here. In fact it is useful to note that the word picture James uses to make his statement is that of a moth-eaten outer coat. We Canadians especially understand the importance of the outer clothing for about 7 months of the year. If moths (and those moths are usually the small ones that are hard to see) eat that coat so that it has holes, you aren’t going to stay warm. If you have ever been near where I am from, the average winter day is -40℃. (That works in Fahrenheit as well, that’s where the scales meet.) If those holes let too much heat escape too quickly, you become a popsicle, not a human being. Your protection and insulation are gone, and that is all “riches” is really good for–to insulate you from the elements, be they physical, Mental, Economic, or otherwise. And this isn’t all James has to say. Next verse.
3: Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!
- James continues in the same vane. This time, he does mention money, but it seems to be pretty strange money. He tells us that “your gold and silver have rusted.” Fact check, James! Gold and silver don’t rust! They tarnish, and it’s a different process! Seriously, do you think it’s the process that is important, or the fact that he says they rusted? James is telling us that they are useless because of the rust. (Parenthetically, you should also know that James said they could rust because the coinage used in his day was alloyed with iron and thus could indeed rust. The Greek word used for rust means “to completely corrode.” Something completely corroded is on no value or use. Why would something like this become corroded? Because there was too much to use…it had been inappropriately hoarded and not shared with others as they had need. Remember how the early church first behaved? They sold their stuff and used the money wherever there was a need. As opposed to our current economic model and what pauses for our “charity” system in Canada at the moment. It is awash with communist values, if not actual communists. However, the really cool stuff isn’t the rust…it’s that James PERSONIFIES rust.
- “…their rust will be a marturion against you…” The Rust to which James refers here is capable of giving testimony against its owners and users, folks. That means something! The rust here will be, as Dr. MacArthur puts it in his commentary, a “witness for the prosecution.” It is clear that hoarding one’s own wealth in terms of resources is wrong, but just how wrong is it? Well, the word marturion is used in a legal sense as testimony in a court of law. The testimony is that the wealth of its owner/gatherer was uselessly hoarded and not properly used to meet the needs it could meet, the Christian imperative. In Acts 2. This will be used as evidence of the unregenerate nature of the heart of the owner of that wealth on that day. Are you ready for that? How do we know that?
- The next phrase is “…will consume your flesh like fire.” The rather obvious logic here is that unregenerate behaviour will land you in eternal judgement and hell fire. Let me put it in the context of the text so that you can understand I’m not making this up. The active wickedness of relying on oneself and one’s own resources for one’s own defense will result in disaster and judgement for those that will not believe the gospel. Beloved, I have a few times now been asked why I don’t just go and do fundraising for a charity. Are you aware of the kind of values and ideals that most Canadian charities hold? I am, and I just…can’t do that. I cannot help them gather wealth to hoard while saying that the money is to meet the needs of the people they say they support, because it isn’t. I don’t know how true this is, but a well known charity in the 1990s was accused of spending 99 cents of every dollar they were given on administration. I don’t know how true that is, but the point of true charity is to meet actual needs, not to earn money for it’s employees and stake holders…but that’s what most of them do. And when you consider that over half of them that are advertising jobs (and I get an email every day on this) are causes like “car thieves,” speaking in my usual clear euphemism, with a false definition of diversity, and the principle of equity, which is the red-headed stepchild of real equality and tyranny, I just couldn’t bring myself to even apply for that kind of work. It literally nauseates me. I still read the email every day, but even the decent ones still use the buzzwords that indicate they are going or have already gone woke. And I do NOT want that testimony of rusted wealth to be a witness against me. What makes this such an important issue?
- All of your gathering of wealth and supply, wealth if you will, has been gathered in the LAST DAYS!!!! These days are the days where we are supposed to trust God for our provision. Let me explain. In my personal devotions, one of the books I’m going through at the moment is Luke, and this morning I was in chapter 12. Check out what the Lord Jesus said in verses 15-24:
- Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
- And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!
- We are supposed to find our ultimate reliance in the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father sent His one and only Son to become human, live the life we couldn’t and die the death that should have been ours, all so that WE could become HIS by His grace through faith in Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, who will come and live inside you if you do. Beloved, the only thing that stops anyone from doing that and being saved from that judgement James is talking about here is sin, our violation of God’s holy standard. And don’t tell me you don’t do that, I can pretty easily demonstrate otherwise using God’s moral law, the 10 commandments. Ever tell a lie? No? You just told one there. That makes you a liar. Ever steal anything? Even an extra couple minutes on a break at work? That makes you a thief. Ever angry with someone without a good reason? Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that is murder. That makes you a stone cold killer. Ever use the Lord’s name as a curse word to express disgust? Of course you have. Would you ever use your mother’s name like that? Probably not. That’s called blasphemy, and it is SO serious that it was punishable by death in the nation of Israel in Old Testament days. How about this one? Ever look on another person with lust in your heart? Jesus, again in that same Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 if you want to fact check me), said that if you’ve done that, you’ve already committed adultery in your heart. I don’t know how you would answer those questions, but I’ve talked to a few people, and the VAST majority of them answer in the affirmative to every single one. I know I have to if I’m honest. So that makes you a lying, thieving, murderous, blaspheming adulterer at heart. And that’s only 5 of the 10 Commandments. Remember, that’s God’s moral law, and is recorded for us in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Again, that’s for the fact-checkers in the crowd. Now, barring the work of God in your life, when God judges you on that day, will you be innocent or guilty? Don’t tell me, I already know, because I am no different. Guilty as charged, beloved. Guilty and deserving of eternal judgement in hell. Isn’t it a great mercy that Jesus paid for all of our sins on the cross, and if we will believe Him and accept that payment He made on our behalf, God will save us? He will change your heart, friends. He will save those who call on Him. Call on Him before time is up, because this deal is limited time, and we do not know the expiry date. Don’t let it catch you. Receive Christ’s atonement to yourself by repenting, that is turning away from, your sins (stop doing them), and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead as proof that He really did pay the fine for your sins, because He didn’t have any. Do that, and you can escape the judgement of the last days and find real provision and protection from that which will destroy your soul, not necessarily your body. But James isn’t finished.
4: Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
- James continues his address to the “rich” of the world, continuing to upbraid them about their sinful behaviour. Here, James accuses these people of being dishonest with the payroll of those who were employed by them who worked in the harvest. So not only were they unrighteously hoarding their wealth, but they were also unlawfully obtaining it! They were cheating their employees, in modern language, all to “increase the bottom line” so they could “go to the estate in the Hamptons” this weekend, likely. I’ve worked under those kinds of conditions, Beloved. Thank God I don’t now in my primary employment. To find ways to mess with your employees’ pay always seems to be the way of it in the world. I’m not talking about using results to find a fair kind of compensation for both parties, something I was a part of also, or even reorganizing the sales teams to follow industry niches, which I was also a part of. I’m talking about the setting of unreasonable quotas, or just plain short pay with no reason, or the withholding of promised shift premiums, like that. That would be a modern equivalent. And notice it is the PAY that is doing the crying out in the first part of the phrase! The PAY onomatopoeically “cries out” that it has been held back and its’ intended recipient has been defrauded of the funds! More of that “witness for the prosecution” that Dr. MacArthur refers to, I suspect.
- And as well as the PAY crying out, those denied the pay are also saying, “HEY!” And THEIR CRY has reached Almighty God’s ears, my friends. The Greek here is Kurios Sabaoth. Kurios, the Lord, the King, as in Kurios Christos, for “Lord Christ.” Sabaoth is a Greek transliteration directly from the Hebrew. The word itself denotes the “hosts” or “armies” of Heaven. Although that may in fact specially refer to the angels, it has come to be used to designate Him who is over ALL of the hosts of heaven, Almighty God Himself. Yeah, THEIR cry has reached HIS ears. The implication here is that means trouble for those who have defrauded their employees for their own gain. And James still isn’t finished yet.
5: You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
- Here, I am reminded of the story Jesus told, as near as I can tell, to His disciples, but the Pharisees were there, because he addressed them directly at one point. Luke 16:19-31.
- “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
- Beloved, I think this is an address to those in among the believers that were still not fully committed to Christ and were thus unsaved, but that’s just conjecture on my part. Personally, and I also think this was James’ tactic, I feel like I need to say this to all of us, because it is possible to have those “New Pharisees” in our midst. Those who think they honour God by “knowing theology” or by “bringing justice to the poor,” or whatever other lie we like to tell ourselves. It isn’t how much we know, or even how much we do, Beloved. It is how well we obey, and this seems to be lost on these folks. I know people like that. God help them. God help all of us and regenerate our hearts to be His instead of our own.
- Living luxuriously is a lifestyle reference, and it means “to give oneself up to pleasure.” It is easy to do, I don’t even need to try. Who among us doesn’t insulate ourselves, sometimes unbelievably from pain, even necessary pain that will help us move on or get along in the world. And that pleasure is described later in the sentence as “wanton.” That word means exactly what it means in English…”riotous living.” Anyone who knew me in first year university saw that in action, boy…and I’m ashamed of most of it. I admit it was kind of cool to hear a knock on the door on a night when I was studying (for a change) for an exam, and when I opened the door, there were three people I had never met before, and they told me after confirming I was me, said that they had driven all the way from Sault-Ste. Marie just to party with me, because I was, and I am quoting here, “legendary.” I think on that now and I’m filled with shame, but also with thanks, that Christ forgave me and redeemed me when I was His enemy.
- This is critical stuff, folks. Because if you haven’t been following the news, there is a coming day of “slaughter,” the day of the judgement of God on all people everywhere. Please learn this stuff. It will be on the final exam, in keeping with my university reference earlier. Heavy stuff. We cannot spend our wealth on our own self-indulgent desires. We must seek HIS will, not our own in everything. Otherwise, what good is anything we do? What good is our RRSP or RRIF going to be on judgement day, when God asks not how much money we accumulated for ourselves, but what we actually did with it, even if it was just to meet the needs of those who came after us in our own families?
6: You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.
- And this is the very last step in this total degeneration in seeking your own pleasures and comfort, beloved. There comes a point when you will literally do anything to maintain your pleasure. Addicts like alcoholics, especially those who have tried uselessly on their own to stop, truly understand this. I remember a point where I would do anything to keep the buzz going in first year. I never had to resort to theft (that I remember), but if I was out of booze, and someone offered, I could usually talk my way into a few more for the party. Sometimes, these things were publicly funded, like floor parties in residence, and those were cool, and I was always in the finalists when we did electric Jell-o shots or the century club (100 shots of booze in 100 minutes). We usually used beer for that, and the first 50 minutes were easy. The real drinkers started to have trouble at 75. The pros were into the 90s before they displayed the typical issues others started to show at 30, when they either chose to drop at 50 or threw up, which meant you were out of the game. Folks would wake up in some pretty strange people, and with some folks that they didn’t know the names of necessarily. And it was all about keeping the pleasure going, or letting the good times roll.
- I never got to this point with booze, but I have heard stories, I can tell you, and some of them are pretty real. I have known addicts who have literally killed people over their own pleasure. My dad used to be a supervisor for a Corrections Canada halfway house, and a couple of those guys had killed other people over their bottle or drugs. I’ve heard other stories I won’t talk about at meetings, and some of them might still be pending in the courts. Here, James is calling out those who would literally kill to maintain an opulent lifestyle. Hey, position and power can be as much of a narcotic as heroin. I believe that, and what’s more I’ve seen it. And murder in some cases can be financial or social. That’s what cancel culture today is. It’s a social murder club. I suspect that James was saying these folks were taking people to court and suing them for their belongings and so committing financial murder. I read something about that somewhere. Might have been MacArthur, might have been elsewhere.
- Notice who is being put to death. It is the “righteous man.” I suppose that could be a reference to Christ, but I think it refers to the victim of this litigious crime. I get this from the “he does not resist” part of the verse. He’s some poor innocent guy that these financial murderers are hauling into court to do the dirty deed. In fact, this may indicate that they were defrauded believers, as this chapter suggests by contradistinction, that had committed their keeping into the hands of that very Lord of Sabaoth.
Wealth can be seen as a blessing from God, but in most cases and with most people, it seems to be just the opposite. In a number of places (you can look them up yourself), Paul tells rich people to be humble and filled with the Spirit, and not to rely on that wealth to take care of things, but rather rely on God to care for them. Paul (nor Peter for all the Catholics listening) never suggested giving all your money to the church or some religious organization to profit or to have them care for you. You need to look after yourself, not sit on your laurels. We’ve talked about that in earlier studies, so I won’t rehash it here.
What we have been considering this evening is that we are NOT to seek to make our own plans, even for Christian activity, and NOT to rely on our own hoarded resources. We even considered where Jesus told the folks around Him not to do that! This Creator and Protector that we are to be serving knows what we need, and because He is good and He loves us, He will supply all our actual needs. He will NOT “make you rich” as some Charismatics have suggested, and my former Pentecostal brethren believe. He WILL supply what you NEED, not what you want, and hopefully He will teach us the difference, probably through the things we suffer.
What we should be doing instead of what James is scolding the “rich” for in this text is instead of seeking our own pleasures, seeking the will of God in our lives. Read His word prayerfully looking for the principles that will help us learn to make good choices and decisions. Pray, and ask God to do His will, not grant you wealth you didn’t earn and don’t deserve. Seek actual godly counsel. Someone who has learned at least some of those principles, not some newbie who just started coming to church, who maybe hasn’t even believed the gospel yet. That’s called fellowship, incidentally. And then seek to glorify God in all of your thoughts, words, and deeds, and that’s called worship, which is all in keeping with Acts 2:42, and you have heard me quote this before:
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
That’s what I saw in the text this time. Next time, we will be finishing off James! After that, I need a week to prepare for Peter, because I’m not following a set of somebody else’s notes, I’m actually doing the work like we all should be, and are at these study times. So see you next week for the rest of the book of James.
Close in prayer.