The Bible addresses 4 categories of people as it pertains to their socioeconomic status and relationship with God. First, there are the godly rich. In the Old Testament, Abraham was a godly man of great wealth. Lot and Him owned so much land they decided to separate in peace because “their possessions were many, and they could not dwell together (Gen. 13:6).”
Abraham continued to trust in God and chose to focus his attention on the promised land while Lot’s decision was based upon his covetous desire to possess land that would not honor God. In the New Testament, Joseph of Arimathea was described as a “rich man and disciple of Jesus (Matt. 27:57).”
He donated his own prepared tomb carved out of rock for the burial of Jesus after the crucifixion. Tombs carved out of rock were expensive and therefore purchased only by wealthy families. Job, King Josiah, King David, Solomon, and Lydia are just a few more examples of godly rich people in the Scriptures.
The second category includes the godly poor. Ruth was a poor and godly Moabite woman who married an Israelite family and eventually converted to Judaism. Their family was so poor that during a famine they gathered food that had fallen on the ground while harvesters gathered the crops (Ruth 2). The gospel of Luke mentions a beggar named Lazarus who was covered with sores and longed for scraps from the rich man’s table (Lk. 16).
When the poor man died, he went to Heaven, demonstrating His good relationship with the Lord. Of course, the greatest example of a godly poor man was Jesus Christ. His parents were so poor that they sacrificed two turtle doves in the temple, which, according to the Book of Leviticus (Lev. 12:2-8), was the sacrifice offered by poor people.
Moreover, Jesus did not have a home to call his own. Jesus once said to a religious leader, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head (Matt. 8:20).”
The third category involves the ungodly poor. These were people who wouldn’t work, drink and gamble, and were jealous and envious of one another. Proverbs 10:4 condemns the ungodly poor for their laziness. It states, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” In addition to this, the Apostle Paul states in his epistle to Timothy that if someone doesn’t provide shelter, food, and clothing for their own family, they have denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8).
The final category comprises of the ungodly rich. This pertains to the Pharaohs, wicked Kings, and rulers who worshipped the false god of power, fortune, and fame. Herod the Great was the epitome of a man of great wealth. He built pagan temples, amphitheaters, vast building enterprises, temples, a beautiful tower, royal palaces, and even built the holy temple in Jerusalem.
However, money and power were his idols and this caused him to become a proud, boastful, and ungodly man. This idol culminated in his blasphemous statement of claiming that all that he built was his rather than Gods. God struck him dead for this.
The fourth category is who Pastor James is addressing, the ungodly rich. They were hoarding for themselves power, fortune, and fame on Earth. Instead of storing their acts of kindness, love, and generosity for treasures in Heaven, these people were accumulating material possessions for their own divine kingdom ( Prov. 30:8-9; Matt. 19:23; Lk. 16:13).
James warned these rich people that their covetousness and riches will send them to Hell: their possessions will “eat their flesh like fire.” Moreover, James calls them out for taking advantage of the poor and not paying their laborers a decent wage. This type of injustice is the reason why many of these people were getting wealthy. They were holding back so much money and keeping it for themselves.
The two major points I want to address are this: First, it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, but if you are godly or ungodly. You can be the poorest person in the world and worship the god of money more than the wealthiest person on Earth. I like what Solomon says in the book of Proverbs: “Lord, give me neither poverty nor give me riches, but give me only my daily bread (30:8).”
As Christians, we are called to make enough money to provide for our family while resisting the temptation to worship money. Our security, satisfaction, pleasure, and safety should come from God first and not from what we have.
The second point I want to remind ourselves is this: Our possessions do not belong to us, but are owned by God. Therefore, we need to be good stewards of the resources God has given to us. This mindset is a paradigm shift. Instead of saying, “Nothing I have belongs to the Lord. I deserve all that I have. I only answer to myself, we should be saying: “I belong to the Lord (Rom. 1:6). Everything belongs to the Lord (Hag. 2:8). All I have is a gift from God (1 Cor. 4:7). I am the Lord’s steward (1 Pet. 4:10).
I want you to first ask yourself, Am I living with an attitude of ownership or stewardship? Then, carve out a time in your daily schedule to sit down with a pen and pad of paper. For 10 minutes, write out all the possessions that Jesus has given to you. Some examples may include family, health, work, this planet, my brain, etc. I hope that after this challenge you will be more grateful to God for the things that you have and not allow the idol of money to control your life. God bless!