Respectable Sins: Excess
In the February 2021 issue of Sarasota magazine, I read an article titled “What’s Better Than the Super Bowl Halftime Show? A Peek Inside Tom Brady’s Tampa Mansion”
“Tom Brady’s mansion is the most famous home in Florida. Located on Davis Island in downtown Tampa, it was built by another sports legend—Derek Jeter—who is renting it to Tom and his wife Gisele Bundchen and their two kids...for a reported $75,000 a month.
It has been the setting of Tom Brady’s amazing year in Tampa during which he conquered the town as the GOAT—Greatest of All Time.
It’s a big house: 22,000 square feet under air, with another 9,000 feet of terraces, set on 1.25 acres. It has seven bedrooms and nine baths, plus every imaginable luxury feature: a theater, a dock with two boat lifts, a club room with a full-service bar, an au pair suite, a professional gym (naturally), an 80-foot lap pool, etc, etc. As for the kitchen, well, it has four dishwashers.
The exterior of the home is rather traditional, looking like a country mansion in Connecticut or perhaps a dorm at Yale. Lots of stone. There’s even stone inside, warmed up by a lot of dark wood.
Jeter is living in Miami now, thanks to his new job as CEO of the Marlins, and he has put the house on the market for $29 million.
58 Bahama Circle, Tampa, is priced at $29 million. For more info, call Smith and Associates Real Estate.”
After reading this article one can ask these questions, “How much is too much?” Regarding possessions, can we have too much and if so, at what point does having excess go from being blessed to being wasteful and sinful? Lastly, is it just the wealthy who are most prone to excess or can someone who has little still have too much? I am not going to answer these questions directly, but I will talk about the heart and attitude behind our desire to have more.
James 5:1 – 6: A Warning to the Rich
Today’s text deals primarily with the issues of those who put their trust in riches, wealth, and excess. It is often read or preached with a theme that generally comes across as a rebuke to wealthy people because they have much. As a result, many people who are wealthy often feel guilty or beaten up for being rich and having too much. This is a common mistake made by many. The theme of this passage is not so much about wealth as being sinful but more specifically the sinful heart and attitude behind hoarding, excess, and trusting solely in wealth for security and happiness.
Verse 1: James proclaims a warning to the unrighteous rich about the coming judgment that is upon them because of their selfish and oppressive use and views of wealth. He tells them of the misery that is coming upon them. James is not talking about a physical judgment or misery that is going to occur immediately but most likely is referring to the judgment they will receive after they have lived their lives in selfish and oppressive ways.
Verse 2: This certainly is a reflection or reminder of the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19 - 21
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus tells his listeners to not store up or hoard their wealth where moth and rust can destroy but rather lay up your treasure in heaven. This passage in Matthew is a way of saying that material wealth and earthly treasures are unreliable and of little value regarding the eternal Kingdom.
Verse 3: James reminds his reader that not only are treasures useless, but they will also be used against them in the last day as evidence of corruption. The wealth they were so dependent on for their security and happiness in the last days will be of no use whatsoever and their unrelenting greed and selfish accumulation will in fact be the one thing that has assured them a place in an eternal separation from God.
Verse 4: Apparently the workers (maybe some of the people in the church) were not paid for or were cheated for the work they had done. These workers most likely appealed to the earthly courts but to no avail, so they made their cry to heaven. The cries of injustice and oppression by those who have been defrauded by the wealthy unrighteous have captured the ears of God the Father and James ultimately says this injustice will not go unpunished.
Verse 5: The word indulgent also means a life of luxury, delicate or soft living… a pampered life. It’s not that the wealthy couldn’t afford to pay their workers they just flat out refused to pay. As their workers were living in destitution or going without food the rich were living lives of luxury. They spent ridiculous amounts of money on themselves and on things they did not need all the while refusing to pay their workers. This neglect and fraudulent actions of the wealthy were just preparing them all the more for judgment.
Verse 6: The wealthy persecuted and took advantage of the poor so they could gain more for their selfish lifestyle. “The righteous person” refers to believers. Although the rich may have defrauded them and even had them killed their cries are still brought before God and God is going to deal with the unrighteous wealthy in due time.
Does This Apply to Me?
In the United States of America God has certainly blessed each one of us with an abundance when it comes to having the necessary means to live our lives in relative prosperity. Now, you may not think you are rich, in fact you may think you are poor but the fact that we can live at the standard of living that we do indicates that we have wealth. When we look at the extreme poverty around the world, we can attest that we are indeed blessed. If you are a believer, you are doubly rich because you have earthily possession and you have eternal treasure that you can share as well.
The reality we should consider is by asking ourselves what we are doing with the resources God has so generously blessed us with? I have often heard people say, “Money is a curse.” I would agree with this only if what you mean is “I need to make money so I can have more and hoard it to myself all the while neglecting the needy” then yes, it is a curse. If you and I are in bondage to accumulating wealth, then it most certainly is a curse. However, as Christians we are called to view and use our money differently than the world. We are continually bombarded daily with the idea that to be completely happy and content we need more. We need bigger homes that we cannot afford, more cars than we need, the most up to date technological device to keep us connected to the world, more clothes, and more luxury items. more…more…more. You cannot be happy if you do not have.
I Timothy 6:17 – 19 is a good reminder, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
R. Kent Hughes, retired pastor of College Church in Wheaton writes in his commentary on 1 Timothy, “Arrogance is accompanied by dark, telltale shadows. Wealth deludes people into imagining they are of superior value. The delusion goes like this: ‘I have more than other people—therefore I am superior. And certainly, God sees my superiority—otherwise I would not be so blessed.’ Of course, a Mafia don could use the same reasoning. Nevertheless, that is the way our culture thinks, with its pathetic elevation of the rich—so that a vacuous millionaire prominent in the media or the entertainment industry or whatever is held in awe by the masses. Moral superiority is believed to be a matter of homes and cars and yachts and designer labels”
James has accused and warned those in this church who have this mindset. He warns the rich of hoarding, cheating, and devoting their lives to living in luxury all the while neglecting to use our resources for the Kingdom of God. This is a warning we should all take heed. You see the Bible doesn’t necessarily condemn people of wealth because of their wealth. God condemns and judges the wealthy who allow their riches to become their god and devote their lives to hoarding, accumulating, and squandering it all. No matter where you or I may be individually today; as in all things we need to check our hearts when it comes to the resources God has entrusted to us. We also need to check our hearts and attitudes regarding how we treat those less fortunate or in difficult financial positions. Most of all we need to understand and come to terms with the vast wealth we have spiritually. We possess the greatest treasure of all; the Holy Spirit which is Jesus Christ in us, and we must be willing to share him with others. As his children and servants, we must allow him to have complete control in all aspects of our lives (for everything we have is given to us by Him) so we can in turn live as righteous men and women before God Almighty.
 Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 160). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Leave a Reply.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
Preview or purchase Jeff's Books