Wealth is Relative


The adult Sunday School classes at my church are studying James chapter five tomorrow. This chapter begins with a stern warning to rich and oppressive landowners:

1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 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. 4 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. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

In God’s providential timing, tomorrow is also the Sunday that we will be collecting money for Christmas in August. What, you may ask, does a warning to the rich have to do with collecting an offering at church? It all goes back to the title of this post: wealth, my friend, is a relative term. In studying for my lesson tomorrow, I read the following statement in a commentary on James:
The second complaint James made was against the wanton indulgence of the rich. They lived luxuriously and in wastefulness. They went beyond what could be justified under any conditions; they flaunted their riches and wasted them in excesses. Israel had been plagued by such people in almost every generation. Prophets like Amos cried out against such luxury when the poor were starving. This matter raises a question concerning ourselves. Most of us are not rich, but we have an abundance of the necessities of life. Will God overlook our unconcern for the multitudes of people in our world who lack the minimum food and clothing needed for survival?

It is true times are tough economically. But what better time to teach our children and remind ourselves that our Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills? I encourage you to seriously look for ways that you can practice some self-denial and make a sacrifice of praise for God’s work to be done among the nations. Maybe you can give up your daily Starbucks fix for a week and donate that $20. Perhaps you could brown bag it to work two days this week. Or rent a movie instead of going to the theater. Or give the money you would have spent on gas had you gone to the lake in your boat or gone for a ride on your motorcycle. Maybe it means you sit down with your family, discuss the urgent need ministries have across the world and then you sell some video games or movies you don’t use. Maybe it means committing to missions the money you would have spent on playing fall ball or going on a mini-vacation. Perhaps Christmas this year should be giving a well to a village in East Africa through Samaritan’s Purse or World Vision.

Did you know that on average, Americans spend $13 billion every year on materials produced by the porn industry? Evangelicals make up approximately 10% of the US population, and we spend nearly as much as the general population on pornography. That means that evangelical Christians most likely spend around $1 billion a year on pornography. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal last year was $170 million and Southern Baptists were $41 million short of the goal. We spend nearly 100 times more on our idol of sex than we do to ensure that the nations know the love and salvation of Christ. It seems as though our priorities may be a little askew.

We often think there is a great sacrifice on our part when we give out of our abundance. But how much more faith does it take to give when we have less than we are used to having? And how can you really consider it a sacrifice at all when we live in such wealth and our money is going to provide food and clothes and access to the Gospel for millions around the world?

To learn more about the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions, visit here. To learn more about the Christmas in August campaign, read this post. To see how one community of believers has answered the call to give sacrificially, read here.

When you see how we still have so much compared to the rest of the world, and you are faced with the great need that we are able to meet, the question becomes not “why should we give?” but “Why would we not give?”

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