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Todd teaches today on James 4:13-5:6. Considering riches, our goal should not be wealth, but rather to be faithful. Misplacing our priorities can end in a futile pursuit which could ultimately cost exponentially more than we are willing to give. Whether God has given us much or little, we pursue an eternal perspective and a generous heart.
Truth About Prayer and Healing
The Truth About Suffering and the Believer
The Truth About Wealth and the Joneses
The Truth About Slander and Silence
The Truth About Conflict in Our Lives and Communities
The Truth About Transformed People
The Truth About the Tongue
The Truth About Genuine Faith
The Truth About How to Treat People
The Truth About the Believer and the Word
The Truth About Temptation and How True Believers Respond
The Truth about Troubles and Trials
There is the old expression "Keeping up with the Joneses." What I want to do this morning is let James talk to you Joneses and help you evaluate what it is you want your life to be. There's an old preacher story I want to share with you (we've used it here a long time ago; it's worth revisiting again) about a businessman who was down in Mexico, getting away, finding a little bit of a respite for a moment.
He was standing there when this little old beaten-up wooden boat came in with a Mexican fisherman on it. He had some yellowfin tuna in there. He goes, "Man, those are nice. Those are big. Where did you get those?" He said, "Just out there." He goes, "How long have you been out there?" He goes, "Just a little while." He goes, "Why were you just out there for a little while?" The guy said, "Well, because I want to get back to my family." He goes, "What do you do?"
He goes, "Well, I sleep a little late, I get up, I play with my kids, I come out here, I fish, I go home, and I take a siesta with my wife. We take a walk, we go into town, we maybe have a sip of wine, we play guitar with my amigos, and then I go home and I'm with my kids again." The businessman said, "If you just stayed out there a little bit longer you could make a whole lot more money. You could catch a whole lot more fish."
The guy goes, "I've got enough. That's why I came in, so I could go be with my family." The guy said, "You don't understand. I'm a Harvard MBA. I can help you. If you stayed out there a little longer and caught more fish, you could buy a bigger boat. If you had a bigger boat, it would allow you to catch more fish. You could sell more fish, and then you'd get a whole fleet of boats. You get a whole fleet of boats, and it wouldn't be long before you had so much fish you could actually start to sell directly to the processing plant.
It's going to increase your margins. As you increase your margins, you can probably not only sell directly to the processing plant; you might be able to buy the processing plant and have your own cannery. You're going to eventually have to move to Mexico City and start to manage this fleet of boats and the cannery you own and all of the different things you're going to do. Eventually, you might have to move to America to get some more money and get some investments. You might be in New York City, but after that, man, you're going to make millions."
The Mexican guy looked at him and said, "Well, how long is all this going to take?" He said, "Well, I don't know; 15 to 20 years." He goes, "And then what?" He goes, "Then you'll have millions." The Mexican said, "And then what?" He goes, "Well, then you can sleep late if you want, and you can go fish, and then you can come home and maybe take a nap if you want to and play with your kids and maybe walk into town and play your guitar and sing with your amigos, have a little wine, go back home, and get to bed early."
It's crazy the things we do to get certain places, isn't it? I have read Proverbs more than any other book in the Bible. Just this week, to my great shame, I had my eyes opened to a passage I've always read; in fact, it's often quoted by those of us who care about other people. In Proverbs, chapter 27, we quote this one little verse a lot, and we, frankly, misuse it. We quote the verse as if it's a verse written to leaders of the church, and it's not.
In Proverbs 27:23 it says, "Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds…" There is all kinds of instruction in the Scripture for leaders to be intimately acquainted with those they are serving voluntarily and lovingly, but that's not the way this verse should be used, because it's not how it was intended to be used. Proverbs are often little bullet-point wisdom sayings, but every now and then you have some clusters.
Proverbs 27:23-27 is a cluster, and it is the original "Two Sets of Jones'" song. Here's what's going on in Proverbs 27:23. We may still, at times, remind each other we should know well the condition of our flocks, because we are called shepherds of one another. If you don't know what condition your sheep are in you're not a very good shepherd, but that's not what this verse is saying.
Watch this. I'm going to read it all the way through, and then I'm going to explain it to you. I got here because, as I was studying in James 5, where we're going to be this week, it just pinged in my head all fresh and all new. I went back and looked at it, and I said, "Man, that's what this is saying," and I read it in its full context.
"Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; for riches are not forever…" Do you see the connection there? He wants you to continue with him. "…nor does a crown endure to all generations. When the grass disappears, the new growth is seen, and the herbs of the mountains are gathered in, the lambs will be for your clothing, and the goats will bring the price of a field, and there will be goats' milk enough for your food, for the food of your household, and sustenance for your maidens."
You're kind of going, "Okay, what is that there? Why does he say, 'Know well the condition of your flocks, for riches aren't forever'?" Here's why: a phrase I often say that comes from a quote by a guy named Sydney J. Harris. "The rich are infinitely better off than the poor, because while the poor still think money can buy them happiness, the rich know better."
The wise king knew he needed to remind people, who make up the majority of people, who won't have the good fortune, the intellect, the opportunity, circumstantially, historically, or for whatever reason, to become kings or to become wealthy and exceedingly provided for… He's saying, "Don't you worry about them Joneses. Don't try and keep up with them. You just do what I've called you to do, and do it well and do it faithfully.
Because if you just go catch your little fish and feed your little family or, in this agrarian society, if you just care for the herd I've given you and don't zealously covet the possessions of the rich man, it will go well with you." He's saying, "You need to know something about their riches. Their riches can distract them. Their riches can pierce them with many pangs. With many things come many troubles."
I've heard all kinds of guys tell me this little metaphor. All of them who own lake houses and own boats, and they've said this. It's a phrase that runs among the rich. The two happiest days in a man's life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells a boat, because with that boat come all kinds of management issues and having to get it dry docked and get it all ready for the winter and having to get it repaired and having to use it and put gas in it and the liability and all this different stuff. It's so much fun when we get it, but it takes a lot of work.
What this little section of Scripture is saying is "Just care for your lamb. You'll have clothing. You'll have food. You'll have provision and shelter. Your household and the sustenance of your maidens will be taken care of. Stop pursuing more. Be faithful. Enjoy what you have. Take a siesta with your wife. Play with your kids. Sing a little song on your guitar, and don't covet the rich and their possessions."
Let me read you this that I've read often in my journey as a father. It's by a guy named Edgar Guest, who was a great American poet. I love a lot of his stuff. He says, "I have known of a number of wealthy men who were not successes as fathers. They made money rapidly; their factories were marvels of organization; their money investments were sound and made with excellent judgment, and their contributions to public service were useful and willingly made. All this took time and thought.
At the finish there was a fortune on the one hand—and a worthless and dissolute son on the other. Why? Too much time spent in money-making implies too little time spent with the boy. Had someone, when the child was a youngster romping on the floor, come to any one of those fathers and offered him a million dollars for the lad, he would have spurned the offer and kicked the proposer out of his office.
Had someone offered him ten million dollars in cash for the privilege of making a drunkard out of his son, the answer would have been the same. Had someone offered to buy from him for a fortune the privilege of playing with the boy, of going on picnics and fishing trips and outings, and being with him a part of every day, he would have refused the proposition without a second thought. Yet that is exactly the bargain those men made, and which many men are still making.
They are coining their lives into fortunes and automobile factories and great industries, but their boys are growing up as they may. These men probably will succeed in business; but they will be failures as fathers. To me it seems that a little less industry and a little more comradeship with the boy is more desirable. Not so much of me in the bank, and more of me and of my best in the lad, is what I should like to have to show at the end of my career." Me too.
My son recently asked me, "Dad, why aren't you a celebrity pastor?" That's what he said. "I want to tell you…a lot of reasons. Giftedness first, and then after that, I would say I made decisions to not be places a lot when you were young. I didn't want to be a celebrity pastor because I didn't want a cretin as a son. I don't want to be pastoring all across the country and not shepherding my flock right here, my little boy. I want to be present."
I made a decision early on that if they were playing a sport I was going to coach it, because I knew I needed to be there if that was going to happen. I prioritized my life around my kids' schedules so I would be there, so I would get to know their friends, so I could serve families in this community. As this church continued to grow, I said, "I'm not going to compromise on these things." I have not missed a practice and I haven't missed a game, because I wasn't traveling other places. I was here with them, and I would not trade it for anything.
I'm sure there are guys who can do both. I made a decision that I wanted to make sure I could do that one and do it really, really well. I had read that when I was a single man, and I wanted a little bit more of me in the boy and a little less of me on some podcast. I don't regret a day of it. I'm exceedingly grateful. There is no success in life that will ever take away from the pain that comes from a broken home or a godless child, and there is no pain in life that will ever steal the joy of deep love of familial concern, care, and harmony.
We all want those kinds of families. We fantasize about them, but way too many of us agree with the philosophical need to be present, and we have to get out of this crazy lie of quality time, that I can work a hundred hours and then take my boy away for a weekend and make up for it. That's nonsense. A daily presence with the boy, with the little girl. James is trying to tell us the exact same thing that Edgar Guest, that parable I shared at the beginning, and that Solomon wanted us to hear.
In the book of James, he's going to go right at those, though, who have given their hearts already to the other side. What you're going to see is he is going to shake them down a little bit and speak very, very prophetically, almost eschatologically. He's going to say, "You might be able to numb yourself with all of your toys and distractions and celebrityness and all of your many houses and travels. You might be able to numb yourself and the reality of your pain and your broken home, but you won't like what's coming in your eternal home."
I want to start by saying something very clear here, because it can be easily missed. "God loves the poor and hates the rich" is thoroughly unbiblical and cannot be supported. Poverty theology and prosperity theology are both poison. Neither one of them can be supported by Scripture. The way you understand where real holiness comes from… It's not from whether you have or have not but a deep understanding of who God is.
Sometimes we have this mindset that if somebody is well resourced they are not well founded in their faith. That's unbiblical. But the Scriptures are very clear that the more resourced you are, the more likely you are to be prideful, arrogant, independent, isolated, and warped in your priorities. So because God loves you, he speaks to you, Mr. Jones.
I've already shown you he also cares for those who are infinitely worse off than the rich, which are the poor who still think riches might buy them happiness, and that's what Proverbs was addressing. He's saying, "Listen. Don't try and be like them. You be holy. You be faithful. You enjoy what I've given you."
You might, through intelligence, hard work, discipline, and good fortune, eventually have more resources, and that would be wonderful, if you are a good steward of them, but don't make your goal to have many resources; make it your goal to have a deep relationship with God. James in this section, the end of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5, is going to grab your attention. He's going to say, "Come now; let us reason together." He says it twice.
I'm going to reread to you verses 13-17 in James, chapter 4, make a few quick comments, and then read to you from James 5:1-6 and teach you some things. Here's what I would tell you: there are four kinds of people. There are people who are poor without and poor within. In other words, they don't have very much, and they have no relationship with God. There are people who are poor without but rich within, there are people who are rich without and poor within, and there are people who are rich without and rich within.
What I want to share with you this morning is that all of us can be rich within. None of us will ever be the same without, but we have to make sure we care for each other in the midst of our love for God and being rich within. What James is going to say is, "If you know me, poor, it should change your perspective. If you know me, rich, it should change your perspective." This is a week for James to shake the tree a little bit and get ahold of the Joneses who live in this very materialistic city. So tune in.
Here's some wrong thinking. James 4:13-17: "Come now, you whoin your pretentious arrogance act as if there is no God, who say, 'I'm going to do this. I'm going to go to such-and-such a city. I'm going to spend a year there. I'm going to engage in business. I'm going to make a profit.' Like you have anything to really say about tomorrow." Proverbs 27:1 says, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth." Deuteronomy 8:18 says, "It is God who gives you the power to make wealth."
So for you to sit there and think that you're sure of what God is going to give you tomorrow is insanity. There's more than one story of people who thought they had many possessions and many things, so they thought they had many days and told their soul to be at ease. In Luke 12, Jesus addresses that guy, and it's one of only two people in the Scripture he calls a fool. You don't know what you're going to have coming tomorrow. You'd better make sure you're faithful with the lad and with all the Lord has given you today. Don't be a fool.
Don't act like you don't need God, that you're independent of God. Verse 14: "Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor…" Remember we talked about this? In all your strength and all your arrogance, and it vanishes away. Don't forget or mock God's sovereign control over all of your business operations. I think of my buddy Jim Wimberley, who worked for a Fortune 500 company for a number of years. He was an executive VP of human resources. He was in the executive meeting, and they had just closed a major deal.
Jim is a godly man, working in this company before he came to work with us. Jim heard about the closing of this major deal, and Jim said, "Well, praise the Lord. That is great news." The executive of that firm looked at him and said, "What did you just say?" Jim said, "I said, 'Praise the Lord.'" He goes, "Don't you praise the Lord. You praise me. You praise the guy who went on that sales call with me. You praise the way we've worked and built this company. Don't praise God. We made that deal."
It just so happens in that story that CEO was not employed at that company much longer, not because of that statement but maybe because of the truth we're studying today. I hope God gives you great favor. I hope those of you who gave generously and are giving generously all the time to make this thing happen every day… I hope God keeps resupplying you and resupplying you and that when you have an opportunity to make more money what you do is go, "Lord, how can I increase my standard of giving, not my standard of living?"
There has to be some place where you go, "I have enough boats. I have enough things, and I don't need more things. I don't need more troubles. I just need to be more faithful." Unfortunately for you, the Scripture doesn't tell you how many square feet that is, how much that car is worth, how many clothes that is, how many homes that is, but there is clearly somewhere in there where you go, "I think I have enough. I don't need to spend any more time doing that. I need to be a good steward with it."
I'm going to show you very specifically what God says to you to do so that you know the right thing to do, so if you don't do it, you can't blame me when you stand before the Lord. James 4:17 says, "He who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is sin." So I, as a good shepherd who wants to help you in your condition, want to make sure you get this right.
James says, "Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.' But as it is, you boast in your arrogance [your pretentiousness] …" That word literally means making much of yourself, more than reality justifies. That's a great picture. One of the words in Greek for pride is tuphoo, which is the word they would use for something that was wrapped in smoke. Isn't that great?
The old statement we used to say as guys is, "Hey, buddy, your mouth is writing a check your body can't cash. You'd better back down." That's what God is saying to the rich. "You really think what you have going on here is impressive to me?" That's why it says in the Proverbs, "A rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination." You're going to be sitting there naked with all the smoke of riches taken from you.
We're like the wizard. We're back there pulling levers. We have smoke coming out of the mouth, eyes that are green, and lightning, and everybody is shaking in their boots, but all we are is a little short fat man with a curly moustache behind a curtain pulling a bunch of levers, and one of these days, a little yapping dog is going to pull that curtain back and expose you. You have come from dirt, and to dirt you will return. Sometimes God gives you a lot of money, dirt bag, and he wants you to be faithful with it.
Verse 17: "Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin." Note to self: sin is not only a wrong act but is a right act that is not rightly done. James is saying, "You'd better get your mind right." People talk about "James, the New Testament Proverbs." No, James is a New Testament commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. This is what Jesus was saying in the Sermon on the Mount.
He was saying, "Don't be the fool who hears my Word and doesn't build on it." That's a bad Jones. That's the guy who builds his life on the sand. Jesus is saying, "If you see wrongly, if you look through a lens and have bad eyes, it's going to affect the way you walk through life." That's why in Matthew 6, when Jesus is talking to people about how you can't serve two masters…
Right in the middle of that section, it's almost like the teleprompter changed and he inserted a whole other message, because he's talking about money and how it's going to be destroyed by moth and it's going to rot with rust and it's going to go away, and then he says, "If the lamp of the eye is bad, the whole life is dark." You're like, "Where did that come from?" Because he goes right back into money. "You can't serve two masters."
What he's saying is if you view money wrongly, it's going to affect your whole life in a very negative way. That is true if you're poor and you think money can make you happy, and that is true if you're rich and you try and stay happy with money. James doesn't want you to make a mistake the Lord didn't want you to make, which is why Jesus taught on it in the Sermon on the Mount and why James is expanding on it to the early church.
So here we go. He says, "Come now, you who are thinking ignorantly and, therefore, are living ignorantly…" That's always how it is. Ideas have consequences. This is why you have to be careful what you watch and who your heroes are. You are going to become like that which you worship. I know we just sang in here about the greatness of God, but if you think some celebrity is the great one you want your life to be like, you will do the things to get rich and famous and popular and have a bunch of Twitter followers, like Kim Kardashian or some athlete.
Listen. If you're a gifted athlete, use your gifted athleticism. That's fantastic. But if you want to be satisfied with that, I want to tell you that's even more fleeting than money. That's why Michael Jordan is a wreck right now in his 50s. "Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you." We love rags to riches stories, don't we? I love them. What James is going to say is there are going to be more riches to rags stories in eternity than there are rags to riches. We don't like riches to rags stories. You know what? In our sickness, we really do. We like it when them Joneses who aren't like us get what's coming to them.
You know what? God rejects that. God doesn't like to see what's coming to those rich Joneses come to them. The Bible says God takes no delight in the death of the wicked. God prays for them, loves them, seeks for them, dies for them, and raises up people who know him who should minister to them, and not hope they can use them to have a fleeting moment of fun in their empire but who want to really serve them and care for them and call them to their senses.
I had a guy say in my presence not long ago the reason he was going to do something was because he has more money than mortality. I go, "Hey, that's a really good statement. Do you understand that?" He kind of did it laughingly to me, just lavish with the way he was eating, drinking, and being merry, but I would tell you, remember it says, "Remember, tomorrow you die." You're going to see that pop up right here in James.
"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you." This is back there in James 1:10. Remember? "Let the rich man glory in his humiliation." All that you have, all of these trappings are fleeting. You're just one doctor's diagnosis away from your days being numbered on fingers, not just numbered in God's economy. It's coming. One of the things money can do is it can make us lose perspective, because we can bail ourselves out of jail.
We can get the best medical help we can get and bail ourselves out of, we think, some physical health, and it can make you think you're bullet proof. James says that's arrogant and wrong thinking. You have today. It has enough trouble of its own. Be faithful. By the way, do you know what's amazing? I had no plan to sync up what I'm saying today with where we are as a church. It just happened. I think it's amazing. God loves us. We needed this book. The only reason I taught James was for this passage. Our church, Todd Wagner, needs this book.
"Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. 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!" This is game time. You guys are acting like this isn't going to all end. It's going to end.
Where did James get this idea? This is what makes you a great pastor. This is what makes you a great Community Group member. You might go, "Man, if I was in a community with James, he would have something to say." All James is doing is taking the Sermon on the Mount, which is something you have access to, plus what James did in his expansion on the Sermon on the Mount, and sharing with those he's in community with what the Lord said. That's what good Community Group members do. That's what friends do.
That's what you say to Joneses who don't have and Joneses who do have, that both Joneses might be rich within. Are you speaking to each other this way? The next time somebody wants to do something in your Community Group, do you say, "Hey, listen. It may not be wrong and a sin if we do this, but just because we can doesn't mean we should." Are we taking a good inventory of all that we have and knowing that moth is going to eat it and rust is going to destroy it and thieves are going to steal it and the grave is going to make it all worthless to us?
Before we buy another closet, are we being faithful with what we have or do we need to get rid of some stuff, share it with other people? I don't know. Just talk to each other. Remind each other of things that are true. It's the last days. Remember God's motivation in the midst of this. God does not need Watermark Community Church to go to Plano. He doesn't need us in Fort Worth. He doesn't need us in Dallas. He wants to invite us, though, in something of eternal significance.
When Jesus, in Matthew 6:19, is exhorting us about money, this is the way it starts: "Store up for yourself…" Did you catch that? He is the best investment manager in the world because he's going to say, "Put it somewhere where it's not going to go sideways on you." He's telling you how you can really be joyful and secure, not in the dot but in the line. He's saying, "Come on, dude. This is for you. I don't need your money. I own the cattle on a thousand hills."
This was my prayer when we started this thing 15 years ago with a bunch of friends. I said, "God, I know you're going to do something great for your name somewhere in the world today, and if you want to do it here with us, we are willing. What should we do?" Do you know what he said? He didn't say, "Build buildings." He said, "Love people. Love me. Walk with me. Make disciples. Share who I am. Tell stories of my regenerating work. Care for people." That's all we've been doing. That's all we want to keep doing.
We don't want more people to come and sit and listen to us; we want to invite you in. We want to say, "How can we serve you, other than speaking God's truth to you, so you can get out of this foundation of sand and this fleeting life Dallas is constantly telling you you should be a part of?" So let's go. Watch in verse 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."
God always hears the cries of the laboring man. What he's talking about in this little section… The early church, which was primarily Jewish, was well aware of the admonition in Leviticus 19 (it was also in Deuteronomy 24), where again and again, he's saying this basic idea: "If you have what somebody else deserves, don't withhold it from them." It's talking about day laborers who would come and work, and that sometimes the rich folks would not pay them at the end of the day. They'd say, "I'll pay at the end of the week."
God is saying, "That guy worked today because he needs what he needs today for tonight. Don't let him go home hungry. You pay him what he deserves today. You pay it forward. You pay it now." Watch this. This is Proverbs (which is such a gift to us), chapter 3, verses 27-28. "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due…" That's what the law said in Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 24. "…when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, 'Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,' when you have it with you."
You need to hear this. There are people (and I've heard this story, the same story with the same couple, a lot) who are walking around, and if you have a little Watermark card, they go, "Oh, you go to Watermark? Pastor Todd is so great." They are working you and trying to curry favor with you. They know enough around here to make you think they're connected. They're not connected, and they're fleecing this flock.
We have given you a resource on how to handle panhandlers and manipulators on the street. By the way, if you're here and you're really a member of this flock, come to us, and we will help you. There's no member of this body who needs to hope you happen on somebody at some 7-Eleven to get cash. If you're connected here, we're going to care for you. But mark my words. I want to protect the flock of God among you.
We're not going to enable your sinful lifestyle, by not working faithfully, by working us, but we will care for you if you get connected here. You won't be homeless unless we're homeless. You won't be hungry unless we're hungry if you're connected here, and not if you know enough to be dangerous. This is not telling you how to handle panhandlers; it's telling you how to handle people who are faithfully working for you.
Are you with me? Say, "Yes, Pastor Todd. I'm going to love those people. I'm going to learn their name. I'm going to treat them with respect. I'm going to work with our trusted partners in this community who help us disciple them." We have homeless people who are members here, who are leaders here, who are serving this morning in our children's ministry, who are no longer homeless because we have cared for them and they have wanted to see their lives changed. You need to know that happens here.
Second Thessalonians tells us, though, to not just make ourselves feel good by giving people money that will be no good to them. The Bible says, "If a man won't work, let his stomach work for him." It is our command that we are not to just use our power to exploit other people. It wraps this whole thing up in verses 5-6. "You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter." It might even say "for the day of slaughter."
We're like pigs. Do you guys know what the deal is with pigs? When you're a pig, you're put in a pen, and what happens is they keep feeding you, and you feed your flesh. You think, "This is a good life," but do you know what happens? The more you eat and the faster you eat it, the more you get fattened up, which means the slaughter that is certain for you, as a pig, is just going to be hastened. You're just making your slaughter more certain.
The more you eat, the more you consume, the more you feed your flesh, the more you don't think about anything else, the bigger you are, the more you can kick those little piglets out of the way… No one else gets to anything until you're done. If you go to Rome and tour through Nero's castle, you go through his dining room, and there's a big well in the middle of his dining room. Scholars for a long time went, "Why is there this well in the middle of the dining room?"
Do you know what they found out it was for? Nero and his noble laureate friends would gorge and eat and drink and gluttonize themselves, and then they would stumble to the middle of the dining room and vomit, and then they would go back and have some more. You might think, "Are you kidding me? People would really do that?" Yes, that's what they were doing. I know that's possible because I have done that once.
I was working at a summer camp. Every summer I'd get done working in 100-some-degree heat, running around in shorts and tennis shoes, and mothers would come up to me and go, "Hey, bro. We have to get an IV in you because you're as skinny as a rail." I mean, I used to have to run around the shower to get wet. It was just crazy. I was skinny, really, really skinny. One time, we took a bunch of the gals who had been working in the cafeteria out for a night off.
We made a bunch of homemade ice cream, which you didn't get at this camp. They didn't eat very much of the homemade ice cream. We made three containers of it. We ate two and a half. So I'm walking down, and I know we can't take that back into camp, and I'm like, "We're not getting rid of this homemade ice cream. We have to eat this." So we're walking back down the trail. We were up on a mountaintop. We were coming back down to get on the bus, and I'm committed to getting rid of the rest of the homemade ice cream before we get to the bus.
Well, the longer I carry it, the more it's melting, so now it's turning into a shake, so I can take a few steps, take a drink, take a few steps, take a drink, and it was awesome. We got down to the bottom, and I had about a gallon and a half of homemade goodness in me. I'm getting ready to drive the bus, and I go, "Wait a minute." There was still about an inch left. I go, "I don't think I can get on that bus." The next thing you know, I took about a 20-yard run over to the woods and, I mean, it was projectile vomit time, like a white dragon. Have you ever done the whole milk challenge? It happened.
But as soon as I was done, I felt great, and I polished off the last inch and a half. Now, that's fine if you're a 23-year-old anorexic guy working at a summer camp because you don't want to pour it out on the concrete, but it isn't a good way to live. It wasn't healthy. It wasn't smart. It was pure goodness, and I'll tell you it tasted as good on the way up as it did on the way down. Just a fact. Note to self. If you're going to do it once, do it once. James' point is "Don't live that way."
He wraps it up by saying, "You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you." In fact, they were using their power to manipulate people in courts. The righteous men were saying, "We can't fight this conglomerate of power." They were manipulative. So God was just saying, "I see what's happening, and it looks like you think you're not going to get judged. You're going to get judged. I love you. I don't want you to be judged. I take no delight in the death of the wicked.
James, there are some guys in your church who say they know me, but there is no evidence that they know me based on the way they are living their lives. You'd better tell them it doesn't look like they know me, because it doesn't look like they're rich within, because if they were rich within my Word would dwell within them." "Let the Word of God richly dwell within you." Jesus is saying, "If my Word richly dwells within you, you're not going to use your prosperity this way."
If this makes you go, "Todd, Todd, Todd, how do I handle money?" Are you ready? I have it for you. I'm going to go to Paul for this. I'm going to talk to both Joneses right now. I'm going to be very practical, because I said, in the midst of James, "Who knows the right thing to do and doesn't do it, it's sin." I'm going to tell you the right thing to do, whichever Jones you are. Because we've already been talking about the rich, let me talk to the rich first.
First Timothy 6:17-19: "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches…" Does that sound familiar? "A rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination." It doesn't exist. Tell the rich not to be confused because they have a big city of wealth and a big high wall, they think, of funding whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it; they are not as secure as they think.
Don't be conceited. In other words, don't trumpet your wealth. Don't act like you're better or more loved by God because you're wealthy, and don't trust in your wealth. Rich Jones, listen to me. Don't trumpet it and don't trust in it. "…but [trust] God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…"
The truth is we have 50, maybe 100, maybe 250 people that all of our need ought to go away this weekend. That's just a fact. Now I trust you. I believe God is going to speak to you and tell you what he wants to do. This is true of anybody who has two pence or two million. If you need information so you can process before the Lord, go for it. Get the information. That's why we've been available to meet with everybody and anybody.
What God is looking for, though, is equal participation from all of us, and it's a sin if the other Joneses who don't have sit back and go, "Well, those Joneses could stroke the whole deal, man. They could buy that building next door." Yes, they could. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do what you're supposed to do. By the way, I'm not going to be so presumptuous to think I know what God wants them to do with the money God gave them. It may not be for that building.
I would, as a member of this family, make sure I do good work to figure out if it really makes sense, but all I'm telling you is make sure that, whatever you do, you are rich in good works. Be generous, ready to share. "…storing up for [yourselves] the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that [you] may take hold of that which is life indeed." Because this is not life indeed. Having season tickets, having a box at the stadium, owning the stadium, Mr. Jones, is not life indeed.
Life indeed is knowing that you are living in a way that will forever be celebrated by the God who is forever good. Catch your favorite team. Drink your favorite ice cream, but don't gorge on it and live for it. There you go. I want to say again… God is not opposed to the wealthy; he is opposed to wrong attitudes and priorities the wealthy often have. Are you conceited? Are you arrogant? Are you prideful? Do you have a perspective that you'll do what you want to do when you want to do it? Woe. Come now. To the other Joneses, 1 Timothy 6:8-10 says this:
"If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
Here we go, Joneses. Do you know what you should do? Don't think the rich have what you need. They don't unless they're rich within. Be content. Don't be craving more. God is not concerned with the amount you possess; he's concerned with the attitude you possess. Love God. Know well the condition of your herds.
Care for them. Tend for them. Catch the fish you need. Go home. Take a siesta with Maria. Play with your kids. Find your amigos to strum your guitar with. Get to bed early, and be thankful that you have food, shelter, and clothing. If you don't have that and you're part of our body, we're going to make sure you do.
This week, I had the privilege of hearing from one of my dear friends who has labored here with me from the very beginning, about a note he just received. This brings it all back together. This is Kyle's office. Kyle is going to be our campus pastor up in Plano. Right there in his office… It's not framed. It's not nice. It's just a letter his daughter typed out that's tacked right there. There's his letter. I'm going to read it to you. Are you ready, Jones? "Dear, Daddy…"
Just so you know, Kyle just sent two girls off to college. He has been in ministry for the last three decades, two of them here with me. He was one of those guys working at that same summer camp I was at. That's where we met. I saw faithfulness in that guy. Later we got together. He was doing Young Life. I was doing other ministries.
We kept in touch with each other. I love this guy. I've watched Kyle lead and serve and give his life away. I've watched him be rich in good works from day one. He just sent two little girls off to college. He has a little girl who's still here who's a junior, and that little junior girl wrote him this note this summer.
"Dear, Daddy, I just want to take time to tell you something that I don't think we do a very good job of acknowledging or thanking you for enough. I know that with college looming and so many expensive opportunities and responsibilities arriving there's a lot of pressure and prayer going around our family right now. I just want to let you know, I want to reaffirm to you what a fantastic provider you are for this family. God talks in his Word about the duties a father should fulfill on earth." This is a 16-year-old.
"He is a protector, a provider, a disciplinarian, and a friend. Even as a difficult teenage daughter, I know this. It is easy for me to see you succeeding in each of these areas. I and Kaylee and Kelsey know that if there was a way for us to have everything you would gladly give it to us, but in a world that values money so much it must be easy for you to measure your value to other providers and to think of yourself that way. I don't want you to do that.
Just know that all three of us would NEVER trade any amount of money in the world for the father God has gifted us with and the influential job you hold. Your years at Watermark have provided us with many incredible opportunities that have played huge roles in shaping our relationship with Christ. I would take that over any amount of money any day."
The point is not that he works at Watermark; the point is that he walks with Jesus. You don't need to work at Watermark to walk with Jesus. I don't think you should work at Watermark unless God won't allow you to work anywhere else. You should work where you are and walk with Jesus.
"I don't know if this has been on your mind at all recently, but if it hasn't, I felt the Lord telling me to encourage you in the fantastic job you're doing as a husband, father, and provider. I can't thank you enough for being the type of earthly father that makes it easy to have a perfect picture of my heavenly Father. God is using you in so many great ways, and I am proud to be your little girl every day."
Boy, you get a letter like that, and you win. Kyle did not buy his daughters a new car when they were 16. If you can, God bless you. I hope you can, but I hope she writes you that letter. That's life indeed. He wins because he walks with Jesus. Come on, Joneses. That's what this is all about. This isn't about buildings. This is about walking with Jesus. There's life there.
Father, I thank you that you want us all to walk with you, that you love us. You love us whether we own stadiums or whether we can't afford a ticket, and you just want us to know that you're good and that where you are is where life indeed is. So we want to be people who heed your Word and are not always looking for the next thing; we're looking to go deeper in intimacy with you. Father, help us to be great in our faithfulness, not great in our bank accounts, not great in the world's eyes. We don't want to be famous; we want to be faithful.
We need your help. We need community. We need your Word. We thank you for James. Thank you for how he listened to you when you were on that mount. Thank you for how your Spirit illumined his heart, that he could give us these words today. Now may we be wise people who build our house on the rock of your Word and who really know that blessing comes from knowing your name, not from making our name great on the earth. May we sing this song with great conviction as we walk with you, amen.
I want you to listen really carefully, friends. If you are not rich within, don't just sing that song; come to Christ. He's not angry at you. I don't care if you've been throwing up in the well in the middle of your dining room. I don't care if all you've done is cursed the rich man and cursed God because he hasn't given you more. Realize that through his Son Jesus Christ he has given you everything and that if you come into a relationship with him you will be lacking nothing pertaining to godliness, righteousness, forgiveness, and justification.
Be rich within. Come to him in your brokenness, in your covetous, selfish, gluttonous, greedy, angry heart. That covers all of the Joneses. It covers me, and Jesus' blood covers me, because I am a person who, by the kindness of God, has been sparked to see him for who he is. He loves me, and he's growing me. He's working on both the Joneses in my heart, and he's bringing me to Jesus through you. I invite you to come join me here.
I'm going to be saved not because I was generous and rich in good works or not because I was content; I'm going to be saved because of Jesus, but I'm increasingly content and increasingly generous, and it's a beautiful thing. It's life indeed, and I am moving toward life indeed. I want you to know that you can too if you'll trust in Jesus. Will you come? Will you acknowledge your brokenness? Will you get connected and grow with other believers? Acknowledge your need, your sin. Make him your Savior. Bless his name.
Father, I pray if there's somebody in this room who needs to do business with you that that little Jones would not walk away from here until they come, and when they come that they would come fully and wholly and completely. If they want to check that box, "I want to know more about how to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ," we'll follow them up. If they'll come here now, we'll pray with them. Would you do your gracious work? We thank you that you love us. Thank you for James. Thank you for today. It has all the trouble we need. May we be faithful in it, amen.
Love you guys. Have a great week of worship.