A man was a regular diner at a restaurant, and the owner always did his best to please him. One day, the diner complained that he received only one piece of bread with his meal, so the waiter promptly brought him four slices.
The man said, “That’s good, but not good enough. I love bread!”
So the next night, he was given six slices with supper. He said, “Good! But aren’t you still being a bit frugal?”
Even a basketful the next day didn’t stop the complaints. Finally, the owner decided to end this for good. The next night, he had a colossal loaf of baked bread — 6 feet long, 3 feet wide. It took the manager and two waiters to carry it to the complainer’s table. When they laid it on the table, the huge loaf took up five place settings. They stood there and smiled, waiting for the diner’s reaction.
The diner looked at the gigantic loaf of bread and said, “So, we’re back to one piece again?”
Have you ever had a problem with collecting too much stuff? Why is it that another word for “too much stuff” is “junk?” If you took an honest tour of your home, would you say you have more — I mean, way more — than you need? I believe most of us would be guilty of that.
Of course, I don’t want you to think that having stuff, or having wealth, is wrong. Nowhere does the Bible ever condemn people who are wealthy, and neither does James.
Throughout his book, James gets us to think about our attitude to the things of the world. In this short book, we learn about worldly wisdom, accumulating things and planning for tomorrow — when there is no tomorrow — and then James leads us to consider the hardship that comes into our lives when our sole purpose is the pursuit of things that show we are wealthy.
You know the saying, “The one who has the most toys wins”? That is not true. They may have the most toys, but they may not have their salvation.
James looked at the three greatest ways people in his day demonstrated they were wealthy. They showed their wealth through grain, clothing and jewels. James says all of them will decay. The grain will become rotten, the clothes will be eaten by moths (they didn’t have mothballs in those days) and most importantly, James says their gold and silver will rust. I did a little looking and found out that gold and silver do not rust, so what is James’ point about them?
His point is that whatever you are banking on will not last; even our most precious and indestructible things are doomed to decay. This rust is proof of impermanence and ultimate valuelessness of all worldly things.
It also is a warning. James goes on to say that our desire for such riches eventually will eat away into our body and soul. He uses extremely vivid imagery to bring that point home when he says “the corrosion of the jewels will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.”
James teaches us that the most important thing in life is life itself. We need to sometimes just stop, take inventory of what we have and give God the praise for his many blessings.
But the greatest blessing is not earthly wealth but heavenly wealth. Oh, I’m not talking about streets of gold, mansions or even crowns. I’m talking about life eternal. Now that is something worth investing in. After we have gathered things into our possession, the only possession that will last is our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ — the only possession that will not rust or decay and will last for all eternity.
Harn is the senior pastor of Victory Assembly of God and a member of the United Ministerial Alliance.