Sermon for Sunday June 24th, 2012

Now Listen, You Rich People! by Steve Shepherd

James 5:1-5:6

INTRO.- Rich folks. How rich is rich? According to Forbes’ richest list, 72 year old Carlos Slim Helu and family from Mexico are the richest people in the world at $69 Billion, which he made from a company called Telecom. CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates is still number two and very rich with $61 Billion. 81 year old Warren Buffet is third at $44. He’s a self-made billionaire, but he’s lost some money this last year. Poor guy!

Rich folks. They may be like the good witch and the wicked witch. There are good rich people and there are wicked rich people. But who’s who? Which is which?

Carlos Slim Helu. Is he a wicked rich person? I don’t think so. Slim was born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1940 to Maronite Christian parents. I think he considers himself to be a Christian, that is, a Maronite Christian. What’s that? Maronites are part of the Catholic Church. It traces its heritage back to the community founded by Maron, a 4th-century Syriac monk venerated as a saint. If he truly believes in Jesus as the Son of God then he’s not a bad guy!

What about Bill Gates? I have read that Bill was raised as a Congregationalist but now is more of an agnostic. Gates is quoted as saying: “In terms of doing things I take a fairly scientific approach to why things happen and how they happen. I don’t know if there’s a god or not, but I think religious principles are quite valid.”

I don’t think Warren Buffett is a bad guy, but I don’t think he’s a Christian guy either. In December 2006 it was reported that Buffett does not carry a cell phone, does not have a computer at his desk, and drives his own automobile, which is a Cadillac DTS. Buffett is an avid player of bridge, which he plays with fellow fan Gates. He spends 12 hours a week playing the game. But his religion is nothing. Buffett was raised Presbyterian but has since described himself as agnostic. If he went from Presbyterian to agnostic, what happened? Here is what I think happened. I think his problem is like that of many: it’s the love of money that has led him to where he is today; a non-believer.

If Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett are not exactly what we might call the “wicked” rich then who is? Who might the wicked rich be?

Egypt's former 84 year old ruler Hosni Mubarak. On 13 April, 2011, a prosecutor ordered Mubarak and both his sons to be detained for 15 days of questioning about allegations of corruption and abuse of power. He was then ordered to stand trial on charges of premeditated murder of peaceful protestors during the revolution.

Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that Mubarak and his family might be worth up to $70 billion due to corruption and kickbacks.

Muammar Gaddafi could be another wicked rich person. He was the official ruler of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977. On one occasion, he was reported to have said that the Christian Bible was a "forgery."

During the Reagan administration, the United States regarded him as "public enemy number one" and Reagan dubbed him the "mad dog of the Middle East". Among those who worked with Gaddafi, Anwar Sadat called him "unbalanced and immature" and "a vicious criminal."

One article entitled, “The dictator's dough: Astonishing wealth of Gaddafi and his family revealed.” The U.S. alone has seized $30 billion of their investments.

The wicked rich. Being materially rich is not necessarily bad or evil. It’s how a person gets their riches and what they do with them that may make them evil.

Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Jesus is saying that if we treasure our treasures here on earth and do nothing good with them in this life then we will have no treasure in heaven. This doesn’t mean that you have spend every dime you make to feed the poor and needy, but it does mean we must not hoard for ourselves what God gives to us. We are to share it with others. In that way, we’ll lay up treasures in heaven.

I Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Obviously, if a person loves money too much it can cause all kinds trouble or evil in a person’s life. As we all know, many people have been led to do all kinds of bad or evil things just for the sake of money: stealing, murder, dealing drugs, etc. And some people even find themselves involved in lesser evil things, which are still not good. It may cause them wander away from the faith; leave the church or perhaps even turn away from Christ because money becomes the object of their affection. Money becomes their god!

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Our text carries a message for the wicked rich but perhaps we can learn from the text.

PROP.- A message for the wicked rich and the reasoning behind it.
1- Their wealth is rotten
2- Their luxury is indulgent


2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.

ILL.- One day, a housework-challenged husband decided to wash his sweatshirt. Seconds after he stepped into the laundry room, he shouted to his wife, "What setting do I use on the washing machine?" "It depends," she replied. "What does it say on your shirt?" He yelled back, "Texas A & M."

Washing your clothes too much will wear them out quicker than they normally would but it’s doubtful this would happen to some men. We wouldn’t wash our clothes too much!

ILL.- Comedienne, Rita Rudner said, “When a woman tries on clothing from her closet that feels tight, she’ll assume she’s gained weight. When a man tries something from his closet that feels tight, he’ll assume the clothing has shrunk.” How true!

2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.

That’s what will eventually happen to all wealth. Well, it’s what will happen to clothing and paper money if its kept long enough. Most of us keep our money circulating quickly enough that it won’t rot. In other words, we spend it quickly!

And our clothes? Well, we generally get rid of them before they rot in our closets. Remember the days of using mothballs in our closets? They were used as one preventative measure against moths or even mold.

ILL.- Bank notes or bills. What are they made of? How lasting are they? Most banknotes are made from cotton paper (see also paper) with a weight of 80 to 90 grams per square meter.

Generally, the paper used is different from ordinary paper: it is much more resilient, resists wear and tear (the average life of a banknote is two years)

ILL.- Hetty Green, nicknamed "The Witch of Wall Street" (November 21, 1834 – July 3, 1916), was an American businesswoman, known for her frugality during the Gilded Age, as well as for being the first American woman to make a substantial impact on Wall Street.

She was born Henrietta Howland Robinson in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the daughter of Edward Mott Robinson and Abby Howland. Her family were Quakers who owned a large whaling fleet and also profited from the China trade. At the age of two, she was living with her grandfather, Gideon Howland. Because of his influence and that of her father, and possibly because her mother was constantly ill, she took to her father's side and was reading financial papers to him by the age of six. When she was 13, Hetty became the family bookkeeper. At the age of 15, she went to a school in Boston.

When her father died in 1864, she inherited $7.5 million ($107 million in 2010 adjusted for inflation) in liquid assets, against the objections of most of her family, and invested in Civil War war bonds.

There are many tales (of various degrees of accuracy) about Hetty Green's stinginess. She never turned on the heat nor used hot water. She wore one old black dress and undergarments that she changed only after they had been worn out.

She did not wash her hands and rode an old carriage. She ate mostly pies that cost fifteen cents. One tale claims that she spent half a night searching her carriage for a lost stamp worth two cents. Another asserts that she instructed her laundress to wash only the dirtiest parts of her dresses (the hems) to save money on soap.

Her frugality extended to family life. Her son Ned broke his leg as a child, and Hetty tried to have him admitted in a free clinic for the poor.

2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.


4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have lived in luxury and self-indulgence.

ILL.- Remember the TV show, “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”? It ran from 1984 to 1995 with Robin Leach as the host. It was quite interesting and in some cases, downright shocking. What about rich people today? Some live in Hollywood.

ILL.- Director James Cameron cashed in on the worldwide box office success of "Avatar" to become the top Hollywood movie earner of 2010, easily outdistancing actor Johnny Depp in second place. Cameron earned an estimated $257 million last year for writing, producing and directing his 3-D hit "Avatar," based on its worldwide 2010 box-office gross of $1.95 billion, as well as his share of DVD and pay-television sales.

The 56-year-old director easily beat actor Johnny Depp, who scored the No. 2 spot earning $100 million after collecting paychecks from several 2010 films including "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Tourist," etc.

And what about sports figures?

ILL.- 50 top-earning American athletes features 19 NBA players, 17 baseball players, eight NFL players, three NASCAR drivers and three golfers. Here are some on the list:
- Tiger Woods at 62 Million
- Phil Mikelson (golfer) at 61 Million
- LeBron James (basketball player) at 44.5 Million
- Peyton Manning (football player) at 38 Million
- Alex Rodriguez (baseball player) at 36 Million
- Kobe Bryant (basketball player) at 34.8 Million

We know a little about their income. What about their lifestyle?

They live high and live in big houses!

ILL.- Four-time boxing champ Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield reportedly made over $250 million in cash during his boxing career, but despite this he reportedly is flat broke. Holyfield lost all his money by making “smart” business decisions look really foolish. You thought buying a house was a smart move? It normally is, but not when you buy a house the size of Rhode Island.

Holyfield bought a $20 million house with over 54,000 square feet and 109 rooms. The house has 11 bedrooms, 17 bathrooms, a movie theater, a bowling alley and an Olympic-size swimming pool. Imagine how much it must cost to cut the grass on all 235 acres! You could buy a Range Rover with the electric bill payment alone.

And Evander Holyfield is just one example of high living or luxurious and self-indulgent living! Many wicked rich people live in the lap of luxury and think nothing of the poor and needy around them. This is what James is talking about.

4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.

We all need to be reminded that we also are rich and there are needy people around us! This is why we give to such places as missions and the Salvation Army, etc.

I Timothy 6:17-19 “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”


1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. This could well be, if they are wicked rich people. Weeping and wailing doesn’t sound very inviting, does it? What do you think it stands for?

Ephesians 5:5 “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”

ILL.- In March 2009, Bernie Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies and admitted to turning his wealth management business into a massive Ponzi scheme that defrauded thousands of investors of billions of dollars. On June 29, 2009, he was sentenced to 150 years in prison, the maximum allowed.

Do you think Mr. Madoff is having a good time now in his luxurious prison? No, and some day things may get worse unless he repents and turns to Christ.

Such is the end of the wicked rich.

Steve Shepherd, Jonesboro Christian Church, AR