Sunday Message for Sunday 19 September 2021: “Wealth vs Health”

Today’s message reveals helpful truths. First, consider how you might feel if you were hit in the face with an unexpected spray of cold water. The chilling shock to your system would likely get your attention. Similarly, a spray of hard truth can also strike your sensibilities. Consider James’ words: “For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind” (James 3:16). Note the word selfish, used as an adjective to modify the noun ambition. This means that selfishness is more of the problem than is ambition. Without ambition there would be less motivation toward achievement. However, even ambition becomes problematic when it drives an insatiable appetite.

Selfish ambition is bad, especially when it pollutes the earth into oblivion, denies justice and mercy, and leaves a trail of death and destruction. Some people claim that selfish ambition is necessary in a free market, capitalist system. While that is always up for debate, the moral consequences of selfish ambition (e.g., insatiable greed) is negative, no matter how many dollars it squeezes from its victims. “Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?” (James 4:1). The focus isn’t socialism versus capitalism, or of any political ideology of the Right against the Left. The crux of the issue is what drives you, the cravings and appetites which motivate your choices. When selfish ambition trumps loving your neighbor then that’s a life-threatening problem.

James’ writing refreshes the spirit and helps align priorities. The gist is that economic prosperity does not guarantee a healthy morality. Wealth accumulation and all the selfish ambition driving it contradict the virtues Jesus preached. Both the Old and New Testaments repeatedly condemn the ambitious greed underlying materialism. The problem isn’t with the nature of money as it is with what people do to get it. “You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts” (James 4:2).

If greed and selfish ambition control someone then that person will reap harsh consequences and, even worse, their choices will cause collateral damage. People who leave a trail of social destruction need to be held responsible. Divine justice will prevail against those who stack bodies to build their financial, political, or religious empires. Ego-driven power mongers who manipulate peoples’ fear, ignorance and anger destroy themselves while inflicting widespread social evils.

Wealth accumulation isn’t as much the problem as is a slavish attachment to wealth. God’s Spirit repeatedly warns humans to avoid addiction and to overcome whatever distracts them from love and truth. The problem is compounded when selfish ambition burns both the earth and its people. Go and do all you can to realize your dreams, but make sure you aren’t creating a nightmare for others. Move onward and upward and derive blessings from your prosperity. But remember that you can’t take it with you; love will be your best legacy. Selfishness is never right when it impoverishes the soul.

It’s good to examine yourself and determine what it is that moves you forward. Is greed the driving force? Consider that you may be blessed with all sorts of wealth when you have proper priorities. People of integrity who enjoy diverse blessings also contribute to the common good. God wants us to give to others out of the measure of our abundant blessings (and both rich and not-so-rich are held to this standard). You might ask yourself if when you depart this earth you are leaving it a better place than how you found it. When making plans to conquer the world remember to emphasize the eternal wealth of spiritual health.  –Reverend Larry Hoxey

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