Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

5. The Poverty and Prosperity Test – Part 1

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James 1:9-11

“Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. 10 And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. 11 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.”

So far in our series “The Litmus Test for Life” in the book of James we have seen the identity test, where are we placing our identity, second we have seen the treasures in testing, what is our attitude toward tests. Now we come to the testing of our treasure as we come to “The Poverty and Prosperity Test.” Why does James now take a time out to talk about our treasures, at first glance this may seem to be disconnected from his main teaching on trials. But it is connected and his teaching here is critical because when we go through tests and trials we are tempted to try relying on our riches. Which is a problem for poor people because they have very little to lean on. But it is also a problem for rich people because they have resources and can start relying on their riches instead of the Redeemer. Today we will be looking at a proper perspective on possessions and where we place our trust in trying times. This topic of treasures is a tough and often touchy one especially in the American church. What’s sad to me is that we can talk about some tough topics like, trusting God in tough times, the seriousness of sin, how to win when we are wounded through the power of forgiveness but when we talk about money there are many who get upset and become defensive.  James starts this treasure test with a powerful proposition, when it comes to money, treasure has more to do with our attitude than our assets. Where we want to focus on the amount, how much we have, James focuses on the attitude, our view. Why because your view determines your value. So, let me ask you what is your view of money and where do you place your value? James reminds us that it’s not about the amount it’s about the Almighty. The goal is not the gold its giving God the glory. Both the poor and the prosperous are charged with giving God the glory. James reminds us to boast about God’s work not our wealth. If we are not careful our lives will be consumed with either complaining about our poor condition or bragging about our bank accounts. While they may seem to be very different responses the focus of both is on self. If we are not careful, we will get caught up in promoting our problems or promoting our possessions instead of promoting God. We were created to worship, to put the spotlight on Christ not the circumstances. So, what are you bragging about today, are you making it about, worship, whining or wealth? Second James reminds us that God cares more about our position than our possessions and he reminds us that our position is not based on our possessions. Which runs completely contrary to our culture and the system of the world. In the world possessions determine position, but in God’s kingdom position is based on attitude not assets. It’s based on a humble heart not on a haunty one. One of the problems with this passage in the American church is that rarely are the poor James refers to represented, for the most part we are the prosperous not the poor. Most of the people that see themselves as poor in this passage are viewing that from a prosperity perspective based on an American standard not a worldwide one. Most of us don’t have a money problem we have a management problem, because we are making money about me not about the Messiah. As a result, our financial focused is firmly fixed on getting rather than giving, self instead of serving. Many of us are working jobs we hate because our primary focus is finances. If you want to find worth in our work, start viewing it as a calling, not just a career. A career can become the altar on which we sacrifice our lives in the pursuit of money and possessions. A calling involves recognizing that we are co-workers with God in accomplishing His purposes by being content, by working in order to have so that our needs can be met, and by working in order to give so that God can meet the needs of others through us. Now my goal is to help you see who is the master of your money, what is our position when it comes to possessions? And where do I turn and put my trust in trying times? Many of us view the topic of money as secular but if you look to scripture you will discover that it’s not just physical but spiritual. Which means money is a theological topic and today people have at least three different theological perspectives.

1. Poverty Theology. This imbalanced view teaches that we should have a disdain for possessions. That poverty equals piety

2. Prosperity Theology. This teaching wrongly assumes that prosperity is the reward of the righteous. This cause and effect relationship implies that if God is happy with you, He will bless you financially.

3. Proper Theology. The proper way to view our possessions is that they are a trust given by God that we are responsible to manage. Everything belongs to Him and we are to serve as stewards regardless of whether we have a lot or a little. When it comes to money what matters is how we manage it. It all belongs to God and when we practice the joy of biblical stewardship, we give back to God what has always been His.

So what about you do you have a proper theology or a polluted one when it comes to money?


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