Sermon:  Overhearing God

Summary:  God allows us to "overhear" his judgment on rich oppressors so that we can 
be strengthened and persevere through difficulties, knowing that God will make it 
right.  Also, it gives us perspective on the nature of ill gotten wealth so that we 
will not envy or pursue it, but instead be patient in our poverty, or be generous in 
our material wealth.

Know:  God is opposed to prospering through ungodly means and will act against it and 
those who profit from it

Feel:  Disgust at ill gotten gain and blessed by God when we have what is really 

Do:  Consider how God feel about ill gotten gain and what he typically does about it.  
Reflect on how this passage encourages, strengthens, and challenges our attitudes 
toward riches, and in what way the passage motivates your actions of generosity and 
passion for righteousness and justice.

Text:  James 5.1-8

Scripture Reading:  Psalm 76:6-9

1.  Sometimes the greatest encouragement comes when you overhear praise
2.  This morning's passage functions in the same way
	a.  First part of James 5 is not addressed directly to Christians
	b.  5.1 - Says, "come now you rich..."
	c.  5.7 - Addresses, "Brethren"
3.  Picture a scene:
	a.  Wealthy mansion, a plantation of sorts
	b.  Surrounded by poor peasants 
		- They often get paid late, and often not what they deserve
		- Sometimes they don't get paid at all
		- They have high fees, taxes, rent, etc.
		- Can't get out from under the land owner
	c.  They together at church, James direct voice to landowner 
		- Opens the window toward the mansion
		- Begins with, "Come now you rich..."
		-  (Jas 5:1-8) - Addresses the landowner in their hearing
4.  Why do this?  To encourage the brethren.  In what way?

I.  By strengthening perseverance
	A.  Christians need patience, endurance, or perseverance 
	B.  Text reminds us that the Lord is coming 
		1.  His "coming" is not always his final coming, but rescue
			a.  (Isa 64:1-5a) - Longing for God to come down
				- Rip open the heavens
				- Come down to rescue his people
				- Come down for judgment
			b.  Mt 24 - Jesus uses the same language of "coming"
				- Talking about the destruction of Jerusalem
				- Uses prophetic language of judgment
					= Sun dark, stars falling, the heavens shaken
					= This not literal, but prophetic language of the
					    judgment and end of a nation, or an era
				- Judging those who are now enemies of God,
				   because they rejected the Messiah
				- The end of the temple
			c.  (Ps 40:1-4) - God inclines himself, comes near
				- Comes not only in judgment, but to rescue
				- Ultimate coming will be the final judgment
		2.  With his "coming" is a reward for the faithful
			a.  Rev 14:13 - Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord 
			     from now on, for their deeds follow with them
			b.  God takes notice of your deeds
			c.  Heb 6:10 - God is not so unjust so as to forget your work
	C.  ILL:  This passage uses a farming analogy to show us patience
		1.  My Mom always had a garden when I was growing up
		2.  Took a lot of work
			a.  Tilling, by hand, until we got a motorized tiller
			b.  Planted carrots, radishes, peppers, and Korean stuff
			c.  Took pulling weeds, keeping animals out
		3.  Took a lot of patience too
			a.  If first, there was nothing but dirt
			b.  Weeds might come up before any plants did
			c.  Eventually, saw some sprouts, then grew produce fruit
		4.  Gal 6:9 - Not grow weary doing good, due time reap if not weary
			a.  You didn't give up
			b.  You knew if you kept at it, there would be a harvest
	D.  God has guaranteed fruit
		1.  He sees and notices your work and your struggle
		2.  He will reward you for your trouble
		3.  Don't give up, be patient
		4.  This "reminder" helps to strengthen our patient perseverance 

II.  To Give Perspective
	A.  Sometimes helps to get a different perspective on things
		1.  If you stand real close to a picture, can see fine details, brush 
		     strokes, and other such things
		2.  If you stand back, can get the whole picture
		3.  Like a collage I saw in elementary school.  
			a.  Real close were school pictures of individual students
			b.  When you stand back saw that they made up a picture of 
			     the school building
		4.  Take a look at the close up perspective here
			a.  Rich get rich as a result of oppression, at expense of poor
			b.  Rich are all powerful, you cannot resist
			c.  You are at the mercy of the rich, and is not much mercy
			d.  Righteous poor get nothing, wicked rich get all
	B.  Step back and get the larger perspective
		1.  Their riches have rotted
			a.  Those fine clothes from the finest tailors - Moth eaten
			b.  Gold and Silver rusted
				- Used to use gold contacts in electronics - Not rust
				- Unlike money, Gold still has value
					= When economy goes bad, gold still has value
					= Some invest in gold, value not go away
				- However, here it says that Gold & silver has rusted 
			c.  Riches are not stable, no matter what it is
		2.  Their riches have become evidence
			a.  May have gotten away with how they got it
			b.  May even been legal, nothing anyone can do about it
			c.  If riches were gained unethically, or in an ungodly way...
			d.  All those riches become "exhibit A" in evidence locker
				- The designer clothes, jewelry, mansion, vacation 
				   tickets, swimming pool, sports car, etc.
				- All of these become evidence
		3.  Their cry has reached the "Lord of Sabaoth" - or "Lord of Hosts"
			a.  This is a Hebrew military term - Lord of "Armies"
			b.  The Lord is a warrior and deliverer
				- Ex 15 - Says the Lord is a Warrior - Defeat Pharaoh
				- Rev 19:11f - Jesus is a warrior on a white horse
				- Defends the widow, poor, and helpless
			c.  (Ps 18:6-14) - They cry to God, he hears
				- He comes in all his thundering fury
				- v.17 - He delivers us from the enemy
				- v.20 - Rewards according to righteousness
		4.  Their riches have fattened them up for slaughter
			a.  The poor were truly poor, malnourished, skin and bones
			b.  The rich were plump - Seen as a sign of prosperity
			c.  Fatness was expected and not seen as a bad thing
	C.  ILL:  I used to work at IBP - Plant for pigs
		1.  Beautiful, sleek, fat, plump pigs came in the building at one end
		2.  Out of the other end came pork chops, ribs, sausage, etc.
		3.  In between were knives, saws, grinders, etc.
		4.  This is a poetic image
			a.  These oppressive rich got fat off of the misery of others
			b.  They had become prosperous through exploitation
			c.  Now it has come back on them
	D.  Why this perspective?
		1.  Helps us to avoid envy
			a.  Some may wish to be them - They have no troubles
			b.  But in the end, unjust riches and their people will be 
		2.  Help us to not pursue ill gotten wealth nor desire it
			a.  Even if it is legal
			b.  If it is unjust, the highest court will judge
			c.  Riches become evidence
		3.  Overhearing this helps put perspective on these ill gotten gains
		4.  God is coming, will avenge wicked and reward righteous
			a.  Are you ready for him to come? (inv)
				- He will reward his people.  How to be his people?
				- Realize he died for your sins
				- Accept him as crucified and risen Lord
				- Be transformed
			b.  If have done this, is any more lessons?

III.  Further reflection
	A.  Our situation is not identical to setting in James
		1.  Unlike original readers, we are not helpless
			a.  Ancient times, oppressed slaves couldn't do much
				- Text says the righteous man does not resist
			b.  We are not slaves, we have recourse
				- We are granted legal rights
				- We are allowed to protect those rights
		2.  We live in a system where we can speak out, and act
			a.  We can speak out publicly
			b.  We can air our grievances in various forums
			c.  We can even change laws if they are unjust
			d.  We have ability to go beyond patience/perseverance 
		3.  Most of us in comparison are wealthy, even if we are poor
		4.  Since our situation is different, there are some other lessons
	B.  How can we today act in a way that is godly, righteous, just?
		1.  (1 Tim 6:17) - Not conceited or fix hope on uncertainty of riches
			a.  Hope needs to be fixed on God
			b.  Riches pass away, Unjust riches will turn against you
			c.  Fix hope on God, not riches
			d.  If do this, will be able to store treasure in Heaven..
		2.  (Lk 12:31-34) - Store treasure in Heaven 
			a.  How?  By seeking his Kingdom first
			b.  Being a kingdom seeker involves charity work
			c.  Be charitable
			d.  If we charitable, then can be passionate about justice..
		3.  (Jer 22:13-17) - What exhortation in this passage?
			a.  v.15 - Do justice and righteousness
				- Our prosperity needs to be just
				- Not gain wealth through unethical means
				- Notice, I didn't say "legal," what is legal is not 
				 necessarily ethical or godly
			b.  v.16 - Plead the cause of the afflicted and needy
				- More than ever, we have ability to do this
				- Should not simply sit by in face of injustice
			c.  Is that not what it means to know me?
				- Knowing God involves doing justice and pleading 
			  	  cause of afflicted and needed
				- God is passionate about social justice - He acts to 
				  defend the oppressed and the exploited
				- We also should be passionate about it
	C.  ILL:  There are many things Christians are passionate about
		1.  Example:  Boycott companies that are anti-Christian, or support 
		     the Gay lobby
		2.  What about boycott those with unjust business practices?
			a.  What about those that use slave labor?
			b.  What about those that use child labor?
			c.  What about those that pay poverty wages?
			d. Any outcry about these sorts of things?
		3.  Do we participate in an unjust system?
			a.  We like lower prices, greater profits, but at what cost?
			b.  If you are passionate about justice, not just sit by
			c.  What can I do?
				- Bunch of teens wrote letters to congress about 
				  Nestle and Hershey chocolate using child labor
				- Some refuse to buy products
		4.  I saw a Christian coffeeshop once
			a.  Distinctly Christian place, a hang out, Bible studies
			b.  Even had worship there on Sunday
			c.  A sign said, "We only sell fair-trade coffee"
				- Probably meant less profit
				- But here was a Christian business owner who 
				  showed passion about social justice
	D.  Jesus calls us the Salt of the Earth - We preserve what is godly, good 
	     and just
		1.  We do this through generous charity
		2.  We do this in our passion for justice
		3.  This shows something about the God that we serve
			a.  He is compassionate and just
			b.  He defends the poor, the oppressed, and the needy

Concl:  Sum up the message for us
1.  If poor, defenseless, oppressed
	a.  Be patient, persevere
	b.  Do not envy the rich
	c.  God knows what is happening, and will make it right
2.  If prosperous 
	a.  Don't fix hope on uncertainty of riches, but on God
	b.  Build treasure in Heaven - Be charitable
		- Compassionately help those in needs
		- Like the Good Samaritan, help those we find in need
	c.  As God is passionate about justice, equity, righteousness, you be too
		- Don't become a cog in the wheel of an unjust system
		- Become salt and light in it


Small Group Notes:  Overhearing God

Summary:  God allows us to "overhear" his judgment on rich oppressors so that we can be 
strengthened and persevere through difficulties, knowing that God will make it right.  
Also, it gives us perspective on the nature of ill gotten wealth so that we will not envy 
or pursue it, but instead be patient in our poverty, or be generous in our material wealth.

- What is the best prize you have ever won?

Explore:  (James 5:1-8)

1.  Discuss and describe the type of person this text is addressed to.

2.  Why is God displeased?  How does this passage suggest God will act?  What does this teach 
us about God?

3.  If any of the passage is not addressed directly to faithful Christians, why would it be 
included in the book of James, a book clearly given to Christians?  How does this passage 

4.  What does this passage teach you about the nature of wealth?


5.  In what way does this passage encourage you?

6.  Since Americans are typically not poor, helpless slaves with no resources and no recourse, 
are there ways we can be salt and light that goes beyond patience and endurance?  What are they?

7.  What should your attitude be toward ill-gotten gains?  How would it make you feel, and what 
can you do if you had inadvertently profited, even in a small way, from ill gotten gains?  
(example: buying cheaper products that are the result of slave labor, child labor, or unethical 
business practices)

8.  How does this lesson challenge you, motivate you, or comfort you?