Where Are You Laying up Treasure?
Read James 5:1-3 (ESV)
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.
Why do you think James spoke so harshly against the wealthy? Is the money itself the problem or the attitude of the heart?
Jesus once told a story about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Lazarus, the poor man, was sick, hungry, and covered in sores. Every day, he begged at the gate of the rich man hoping to at least be offered the leftovers of the rich man’s food. But the rich man completely ignored him. While he was wealthy enough to generously offer him fine food, he didn’t even give him table scraps. He had enough money to offer him medical care but instead, he carelessly left Lazarus laying there while wild dogs came to lick his sores.
When both the rich man and Lazarus died, Lazarus was carried away by angels to Abraham’s side, indicating that he was immediately in the presence of other believers. But the rich man found himself being tormented in hell. Luke 16:23-24 says that the rich man was able to see Lazarus and called out to Father Abraham and asked him to send Lazarus to give him just a drop of water. The man who ignored a tormented and suffering soul on earth just begged for that same man to come and relieve his own suffering in hell. But Abraham did not send Lazarus to go wait on this presumptuous rich man in hell. Instead, Abraham reminded the rich man that he had his turn. He had everything he needed and more on earth while Lazarus suffered greatly. Now, the tables have turned and Lazarus is being given peace, rest, and eternal blessing while the rich man will suffer eternal torment.
In today’s verses from James, James speaks of this same torment that the rich man endured in Jesus' story. The miseries that are coming upon the wealthy are their final judgment. The rich had everything they ever wanted in this life, but in eternity their riches are rotted, moth-eaten, and corroded. Furthermore, these corroded riches testify against them because they laid up treasure on earth in the last days.
Notice though, that it isn’t the riches themselves that are a problem for the rich. It is the way that they used (or rather, didn’t use) the riches that they had. The rich man could have put his wealth to good use to care for Lazarus and others, but he didn’t. He stored up treasure for himself here on earth. Ultimately, that earthly treasure proved completely useless.
Jesus had plenty more to say on the subject of storing up treasure. In Matthew 6:19-21 he said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
In Luke 12:33-34 Jesus said, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Friends, the issue is not the money, it is the heart. The problem is that very often, the more money people have, the more money they want to keep. Money gets a hold of our hearts. When it does, we tend to trust and delight in our riches instead of trusting and delighting in God. Trusting in our wealth is just another form of worldly boasting and arrogance that James has spoken out against. So the question is, where are we storing up treasure? Are we using what God has given us to care for others and further His Kingdom or are we selfishly stockpiling money in an attempt to be self-reliant? Where is our treasure? Because wherever our treasure is, that is where our heart is.
Lord, I confess that at times, I get preoccupied with worldly things, including trying to gain or keep wealth. Soften my heart and unclench my fist. I know that everything I have is from You and that it won’t do me any good in eternity! Help me to put whatever you have given me to good use here on earth so that I store up treasure in heaven instead. Make me generous as You are generous. Amen.