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Battle for the Heart
Scripture: James 5:1-6
Track 9 of 12 in the Words to Grow By series
Running time: 32 minutes, 22 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, February 27, 2005
9th sermon in an 11 part series
"Battle for the heart"
"Words to Grow By"
(James 5:1-6)
Copyright 2005 G. Charles Sackett

Finally! A text that didn't feel like it was just stomping all over my toes when I got to James 5.

You know, I don't know about you but James is one of those books that just seems to hit me every time I read it. And so, I was just kind of grateful that there was the text here that I didn't think was necessarily pointed right at my head. It starts out pretty simply.

Now listen, you rich people, (and I thought well now that lets me off the hook!) Pretty well takes care of that. I'm ready to read this text now cause, frankly, I have nothing to worry about and no investment, no concern. So let's just dive right into this. I mean, after all, this cannot be talking about us. Well, at least, that's what the scholars tell us. That of all the paragraphs in the book of James this particular paragraph, James 5:1-6 is not written to the church.

It's written to the rich people who are exploiting the church. The church in first___________ primarily made up of poor people. We saw that in Chapter 2. They were oppressed by the rich. And so it appears that he has this little diatribe going on in James 5, first six verses he's gonna just let 'em have it because, well, because it's somebody else. And the scholars tell us that's probably right. I mean, after all, you know how he divides the book up pretty clearly. He says, Listen brothers, or now brothers or, in fact, when we get to verse 7 it's gonna come back to brothers. Well, we know that's talking about us. That's the Christian community, but this one starts out you rich people. I mean its even got the ring of Old Testament prophets when their bringing condemnation on other nations and on other people who are falling outside the privileged connection. So more than likely this first six verses is not written to the church. It is written about people that are oppressing the church. And so, I'm feeling pretty good about jumping into James 5. Let's just, in fact, take a look.

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

Ah, it's not a hard text to understand. In fact, it is so simple to understand, I'm really grateful it's written to somebody else. 'Cause the point is pretty clear right up front. Isn't it? Verse 1; Judgment is here! Weep and wail.

Now if I were a really good Bible student and could pronounce words better than I can I would tell you what those words are. Because, remember in our English grammar classes we learned this word, onomatopoeia. You don't remember that word, huh? Onomatopoeia is going to kill Cara. I'm sorry Cara, I didn't even think about that. She's going to have trouble signing that one. Onomatopoeia are words that sound like what they mean. And the word in this text for howl is pronounced like howl. Its got that feel to it. It's a good Jewish, Old Testament word that would have fit that culture, literally. Wailing, crying, sobbing and he's saying you need to do that because judgment is here.

In fact, here's what's going to happen. He words it. . . .did ya notice, he words it as if it has already happened. Your wealth has rotted. Moths have eaten. Gold, silver are corroded. It's a form of a verb that indicates something is so sure to happen that you write about it as if it is already done. Everything that they have spent their life chasing, all of the wealth that they have been accumulating at the expense of other people, he says, you're going to lose it all. Your wealth has rotted. It's a very agricultural kind of thing.

Not very far from where we live over in Lincoln is the town of Elkhart. A friend of mine owns and runs part of the grain elevator over there and every year there is way too much corn for the amount of silos that they have, so they put it out and put it on the ground, then the cover it and he tells me there's just a certain amount of that you know you're gonna lose because it's sitting on the ground. It rots. That's the image here. Your wealth has rotted. All these things that you have stored up are going to, in some way, disappear. Um. . . . . .well, it's just the nature of the way things happen, ya know.

They tell me, I don't ---- I've read this, I don't know this for a fact. I'm just trusting whoever said this. But there was a fella named Joc Lowe (??) who was commissioned in 1956 to become the photographer for the Kennedy family. Joe Kennedy liked him and so he commissioned him to be the family photographer. He took 40,000 pictures of the Kennedy's and he was very particular. So he stored 40,000 negatives in a vault where he could get to it and he would be protected. He was not about to lose those years of investment. The vault was supposed to be fireproof, waterproof, you name it! It, by the way, was in a building across the street from the Twin Towers in New York. And on September 11th when they finally got down through all of the rubble to the building where his safe was located, they discovered that all 40,000 pictures were gone.

That's the image here.

Your wealth has rotted. Your clothes are moth eaten. My wife surprised me several years ago. I have no idea where she scraped this money up. I'm still waiting to find out 'cause I know where she gets her money. And she surprised me with a sweater from Lord and Taylor off of Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It was an expensive sweater. I don't know good clothes but I could tell. This was nothing like anything I owned. And the second season when I took it out to put it on, guess what? Right there. You know, not hidden under a, like in a sleeve someplace. A moth hole. That's right. . . . . .ah! That's his image.

Your wealth has rotten. Your clothes are moth eaten. Your gold and your silver have corroded. Ya know, gold and silver don't corrode. But in his imagery, that's what he wants you to understand. I got to thinking about that. Some of you've read your Bibles. Do you remember the book of Revelation. You remember what kind of streets we're going to walk on? Streets of Gold. See the stuff that we think is so valuable in this life, he uses a paving material up there.

It's corroded. It's worthless! That's his image. And then he, after he's told you about all this stuff that's going to happen, he says, now let me tell you why that's happening. You rich people, you're going to suffer these consequences because. . . . .and he literally says, because you failed to pay the poor. Well, that's something that doesn't commute with us. We know what happens. Every other week ya get the paycheck or once a month you get a paycheck, or once a week you get the paycheck. But in Jewish culture, that first century society, you didn't wait for a week to get a paid. You remember the parable that Jesus tells. At the end of the day the laborers line up and he pays them. That was the culture for poor people. You got paid at the end of every day and you got paid in a way that you could feed your family and here's what's happening, is that these wealthy landowners are refusing to pay their help on the day that they work and these people are so poor that it means they don't eat until tomorrow.

Now, I've never been so poor that I had to worry about whether I ate tomorrow or not, but I did work for a Christian friend who didn't pay me. And I remember after the first week of not getting paid, I was starting to get annoyed and after the second week of not getting paid I was really starting to get annoyed. And after the third and fourth weeks of not getting paid, I was just about ready to take the paint brush I was using and slap him with it. I didn't until the fifth week when he drove up in a new car. Then I painted it. . . . . no I didn't, but (lots of laughter) I understand that frustration of not getting it and when you are living subst, subst - when you're living really poor (lots of laughter) you need to be paid. And he said, you rich people are not paying and God hears that.

In fact, this is a fascinating statement. If you remember your Old Testament, the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord. Here's the word, the Lord's Sabaoth. That's the word for the Lord of Hosts. That's the word that would be translated. You don't get any higher than this in the military ranks of heaven. It has reached the ears of the head of the armies of the angels of God and he will send his Host in judgment.

Well, he says that you have lived in selfish, self-indulgence and luxury. You know what comes to mind. I don't know if you saw this movie. I was fascinated by Schindler's List. I have been a bit fascinated by the Holocaust most of my adult life anyway and I remember those scenes in that movie where there is this German official living in high luxury, self-indulgence up on the hill and you can overlook the prison camp and you can see the emaciated forms making their way around the camp and he lives in self-indulgence up here on the hill. In fact, in one scene, if you remember right, as a matter of sport, he takes out his hunting rifle and picks out one of the prisoners and off of his front porch, after he sets his glass of wine down, he picks him off like you might a grouse out in the field. It's little wonder that God doesn't have much sympathy here. They have fattened themselves while other people are suffering. He says in fact, they've gone so far that they have even killed the poor. Murdered innocent men who were not in opposition. It's a little questionable whether that's an active statement. They have literally killed people in order to stay rich. Or, if it's a passive kind of killing that they've allowed people to starve to death, but didn't do anything to help.

Did you notice when you walked in this morning, if you didn't let me encourage you to go out this way or to make sure you're here next week when we show you the video and do some stuff with the 30-hour famine. Out high school kids fasted for 30-hours on behalf of the poor. There's a chain out here, a paper chain, made up of 3,000 links. It represents the number of children in the world who die of hunger every twenty minutes. Twenty-nine thousand children a day die because they don't have food.

And James says about these rich people, that's why you're in trouble. But I like the text because, frankly, it doesn't have anything to do with me.

See James isn't saying, by the way, and this probably should be made clear to all of you. James is not against wealth. There's nothing in Scripture that says there's anything wrong with having money. The problem is when money has you. God is not against you having possessions. He's against possessions having you. This is about the abuse of wealth. It's about the misuse of our wealth. It's not about having it versus not having it. That's not even in the picture. It's not even a question. But I keep thinking.

You know we hired Matt Wilson to come here and do the youth ministry for us. I wish he'd just stay over there with those kids. He had the audacity here awhile back to send me an e-mail that has a website link in it for determining how rich you really are. Now he just could have kept that to himself. 'Cause see, I was really comfortable this text was about somebody else. And I just decided that I would arbitrarily plug a number in there and I thought, well, there's a lot of people in Quincy, Illinois who make $50,000/year so I stuck $50,000 in there and I punched a little button and it says, "you are in the top 0.9% of the wealthiest people in the world." That means that 91% of the world makes less money than you do if you make $50,000/year. I thought, woe! Well, I thought, you know, zeros don't matter so I just dropped a zero off of that and stuck in $5,000 and I hit the little button and you know what I discovered? That if you make $5,000/year you are wealthier than 80% of the people in the world.

And one more time I thought, well, zeros don't matter much so I just knocked another one off and I said $500. Surely that's gotta take you to the bottom. Right? If you make $500/year one out of every five people in the world is still poorer than you are.

So I knocked another zero off and I took it down to $50. If you only made $50/year, where would you fit? And it finally wouldn't calculate that. It said "you're too poor to ask for a donation."

You have to make at least $90/year to get into the bottom 0.001% which is as low as it will calculate. And I thought, well maybe I ought to go back and look at this text one more time. Because quite honestly, by any other count, you have to recognize I am, in fact, rich. I hate to admit that. I've always liked being poor. It was a good excuse for a lot of things.

I have a friend down in Florida, Aaron. I told him about ya. He wrote this book and he gave me a copy before it gets to press. And I've been kind of thumbing through it and reading different places. He wrote this really "cool" little story. I just want to share part of it with you. He says, My family and I moved to Florida when I was eight. In florida we were exposed to many new and exciting things we didn't have in Ohio; tacky tee shirt shops, orange trees, alligators, tourists, dog tracks.

One of my first memories of Florida is my first and last visit to a dog track. My dad was the guest speaker at a church in south Florida and the members we were staying with happened to own a dog track. Our host thought it would be a good idea to take the preacher and his family to a place where people drink, gamble and yell at dogs. Good idea! So we went.

My parents never heard of a dog track and after quickly assessing the situation, concluded we shouldn't be there. My sisters, brother and I sensed that we were tasting forbidden fruit so the events of the night became larger than life.

I remember standing track-side watching those beautiful dogs rip around that brightly lit dirt track with crowds cheering their efforts. The sites and the sounds were unforgettable. The crescendo of the crowd as the dogs neared the finish line; the sounds of the dogs feet pounding the neatly groomed dirt; the high pitched squeal of the plastic rabbit circling the track just beyond the reach of the dogs.

I watched race after race in amazement as those graceful dogs chased that plastic rabbit. That's why I was so shocked to see what happened in the 5th race. Half way around the second turn, right before my strategic position on the back stretch, the rabbit stopped. Now this was going to be exciting. My eight year old young male heart could sense the opportunity for these dogs to devour that plastic rabbit that they'd been so desperately pursuing, but nothing happened. The rabbit stopped and the dogs sat down. It was bizarre! Not one dog made an attempt to sniff the rabbit. They acted like the rabbit didn't even exist. They just sat down in the dirt acting uninterested. I don't know why I was so surprised. It was a plastic rabbit and dogs don't normally eat plastic rabbits, but it made me wonder, why do you want to chase after things that you don't want anyway.

So why is this text here? If it's written to non-Christians and it is, I think. Why is it here? I think there's an answer to that, that's really pretty simple and the answer is this. To encourage those oppressed people. Remember Chapter 2, verses 6 and 7? The rich were oppressing the poor. James 5:7 is going to start this way. Be patient, brothers. God has heard your plight. That's part of what he wants us to understand. That when we are oppressed by the world around us, don't give up as if God isn't listening because God is listening. He will take care of his people.

But I wonder if there's not another reason why he has this text in here. And obviously I'm going to suggest that he does have a reason and that is to warn us against that sin of materialism just as God sees the oppression, he sees the materialistic heart.

I'm still fascinated by the bumper sticker that says, "He who has the most toys. . .wins!"

For those of you who have children over in our worship program entering second hour, Kim is going to be using a book called "Material World". I suggest that you go to your public library and check it out sometime.

A photographer went around the world to various countries and he asked people to take all of their possessions and put them in the front yard and he took pictures of them. It's a rather enlightening collection of photographs. And some of you are thinking, in the front yard. My front yard wouldn't begin to hold all of my stuff! And that's the point.

Well, what should believers, Christians, followers of Jesus think about things, possessions?

Can I just make some quick suggestions to you? Philippians 4:10-13. If you want to turn to these, you'll have to turn fairly quickly. You might just want to write them down. Philippians 4: But I do encourage you to read them later. Philippians 4:10-13 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

One of the things that James would have us learn is that we should never let the world dictate to us what it means to be content. The world should not determine what it means for a Christian to be satisfied with their level of living.

Paul would say it this way in 1 Timothy 6:6-8, one of those profound texts about life.

1 Timothy 6:6-8, he says, But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

I think James would tell us don't let the world tell you what you have to have in order to be a contented person.

I think, that if we don't learn anything from the super bowl Sunday, we ought to learn this. Advertising knows how to make you discontent. They spend $2.4 million per 30 second advertisement in order to tell you that you need this product, when you know you don't need it anyway. They know how to stir up our discontent.

I think, that Christians, believers, followers of Jesus should learn from this text that we should stop avoiding money talk in church. And I'm here today, in front of God and everybody, to apologize to you. And for those that I need to seek forgiveness from I will personally ask you to forgive me. I have allowed the attitude of some, which is, we don't want to talk about money in church, to dictate to me that I shouldn't talk about money. 'Cause I don't want to hurt your feelings. So I'm about to tell you, if this hurts your feelings, I'm sorry, in advance. But as a preacher commissioned by God to teach the Scriptures, I can't avoid "money talk" because Jesus doesn't avoid "money talk". Paul doesn't avoid "money talk". God doesn't avoid "money talk" so why should we?

In that same passage in 1 Timothy 6 if you just keep reading this is what he says. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith. . . . . . Why would I not preach about money when it has the power to call you away from Jesus? And why would you not want us to talk about money if it has the power to call you away from Jesus?

It was Jesus himself who said to the rich, young ruler, as you remember, it's harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

I think that James would have us guard our hearts against materialism. Do you remember Jesus' statement on the Sermon on the Mount? One of the very early things that he said in his teaching life. Matthew 6:19-21 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for your selves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Guard your hearts against materialism. Did you ever ask yourself this question? If my house caught on fire, what would I take out with me? If you answered anything other than your wife and children, you probably need to take a look at your heart.

I remember the day I read about the preacher and his family who were moving across the United States from one church to another. They had all of their earthly possessions in a U-haul truck, stopped at a motel, got up the next morning, went outside and guess what? Somebody stole the truck. Every possession they had, lock, stock and barrel and it was never recovered.

And I ask myself, how would I respond to that? And I answer myself, not very well. And then I look at my heart and I ask, oh well, I wonder why? Was Paul right or not? You can't take it with you. You brought nothing into this world and your not taking anything out so who cares who has it when you go?

I think James would say, take seriously the plight of the poor. Galatians 2:10 Paul ends up his discussion about Jewish and Christian values and he says this is the one thing that we need to remember. Do not forsake the poor.

You know, I think you and I need to take another think about that famine offering. Our kids have raised about $2,200 so far and after services they're going to be sitting out there with buckets, begging. And every dollar that you put in there will feed one child for one day. And some organization is going to match that seven times. And while I don't want you to take the offering which you would normally give to the church, I would encourage you take some of your lunch money and just drop it in one of those buckets and feed a child instead of yourself, or in addition to yourself.

I think James would have us learn to give generously and cheerfully. Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 9 still rings as one of my favorite passages. If I want to learn to be content, if I want to be the person that God wants me to be, I listen to this text again and again.

2 Corinthians 9:6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

That's what I want. I want to abound in every good work. And how do I get there? By being a generous, gracious, cheerful giver.

You know what I think this text is here for? I think it's here for one single reason. Because this is a battle for your heart. Do you remember Jesus' statement? For where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also.

I had the ah (I guess it was a privilege) . . . . . I caught Andy Rooney on TV the other night. I don't get to see him very often. Sometimes I like what he says. Sometimes I just get really annoyed. But, boy I liked what he had to say last week. He was talking about advertising and I agree with him. So anytime you're talking about something I agree with I like it. And you know in his own inimitable way he's sitting there behind his desk with those big bushy eyebrows and he's talking about what he's going to do. He's talking about advertising and he says, "Ya know 20 minutes out of every 60 minutes on television is dedicated to advertising." Then he started talking about the fact that people now get your fax number and they start sending you advertisement by fax on your own machine and he's raising this question. "Why don't they at least have to pay for the paper that their using up? It's my paper."

And then he talked about e-mail spam and all of the advertising. And I thought, ya know that's really true. I turned by computer off last night at 10:00. I turned it on at 6:00 o'clock this morning and I eliminated a dozen advertisements first thing.

Two-thirds of all his mail is advertisement. And I got looking back over this week and that was exactly the ratio in my mail as well. Two-thirds of it was just junk advertising.

He picked up Vogue magazine and he said, "You know, this is a beautifully done magazine." Then he started thumbing through it and he finally came to page 82. He said the first article begins on page 82. Outside of the Table of Contents on page 41, the rest of it is advertising. My friends, it is a battle for men's hearts. The world says chase plastic rabbits. And Jesus says, Come to me and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." This my friends is a battle for the heart and James understood that. That the world is out to make you discontent and Jesus is out to give you peace. And your treasure will decide what you're going to have.

I'm just going to let you stay seated while we sing this song. But I am going to ask you this. Would you pay particular attention to these words? Sing them if you mean them.