Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lessons in James: God's 401k

Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. James 1:9,10 (emphasis added)
Poor = honored. . . Rich = humbled.

If you're like me, you might have to repeat that a couple times to wrap your head around it. It's certainly contrary to everything that we are taught to believe, especially in America. Even as Christians, many probably believe that the "humble" thing to do, financially speaking, might be to sell all of our possessions and live a minimalist life, in essence to humble ourselves, to bring ourselves low, to lessen our status in the world. And yet, the Bible tells us that those who are the poorest are the most highly honored!

But why?

Proverbs 19:1 tells us, "Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and a fool," implying that perhaps poverty lends itself to honesty and humility, while the opposite creates a greater propensity for foolishness, a quality that certainly won't merit you honor or praise anytime soon.

In Matthew 5:3, we read, "God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs." Here, we are told that poverty and the ability to recognize our neediness go hand in hand, an acknowledgment that is absolutely necessary if we are to have any kind of meaningful relationship with the God who desires nothing more than to be the sole fulfillment of those needs. What higher honor could there be than to have the privilege of saying, "You know God, the one who created the universe, the King? Yep, I'm his kid. He pays my bills."

And in James 2:5, we are instructed, "Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn't God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren't they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?" How rich is your faith? Do you think your comfort level in life plays a part in that?

The amount of money you have in your bank account is certainly not a direct litmus test for your level of faith, your commitment to God or your dependence upon him. In fact, this doesn't even really have to be about money. More accurately, it is about where we are investing our time and efforts, financial or otherwise, in this life. In general, isn't it true that the more comfortable we get in life and the more we "accomplish", the more we begin to believe that, at least on some level, we have worked for it, have earned it, have created our own success, and that we deserve the blessings we have accrued and actually become proud of what we have achieved in life?

So, here's the lesson for today in the form of a sobering reminder: that pride comes before the fall!
The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements. James 1:11
If someone asked you to make a list of your lifetime achievements, what would make the cut? How will people remember you after you're gone? Even the most praised people throughout history, while they may have created a "legacy" for themselves that has lasted years beyond their time on earth, that legacy, too, will come to an end at some point. Eventually, Christ will return, this world, as it is now, will cease to exist, and ONLY what is on God's list of praiseworthy achievements will ever be spoken of again. Madonna Who?

On that glorious day, the blood of Christ will graciously and mercifully wash away all of our sins if we have put our faith in him. And, likewise, the "fire" will burn away the chaff and ONLY what is eternally of value will remain. How much of your life could fit into the dross category? It may not be sinful, it may not be "bad" per se, but is it dross or is it gold?

Will you live a life of "wealth" now, whether financial or otherwise, and reap a retirement plan of humility and brokenness, with nothing left to your name but... your name?

Or will you seize a life of "poverty" now, and enter heaven, honored, with your arms heaping full of a life's worth of spoils to be treasured for eternity?

What's your "retirement plan"?

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