Sabbath School Lesson for November 29-December 5, 2014

With the recent experience our nation has had, revolving around the incident at Ferguson, Missouri, we see the kind of weeping and howling perhaps James was referring to in the first verse of chapter five: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!” NKJV

But wait a minute, it says that the RICH will weep and howl. We have been accustomed to hearing the weeping and howling from the impoverished, not the rich. James is trying to open our eyes to the fact that God will not tolerate injustices done by the wealthy forever. A time will come when the tables are turned and those who have been doing the oppressing will be the ones who are weeping and howling.

As out of character as it may seem, many professed Christians will be included in those who are classified as the wealthy oppressors. These are the ones James is addressing in this letter. James is no doubt cautioning the saints, as did Jesus when He spoke these words:

Key Text: ” ‘For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’ “ Matthew 6:21 KJV

James and Jesus want us to be aware of the destination of our worldly goods. The material things we enjoy here on earth will not make it to heaven.

Are we storing up the things that will accompany us to heaven? Things like faith, hope, wisdom, patience, love, contentment–the free treasures from God that are available to all of us?

Sunday: Justice Will Be Done!

jailMany of the Old Testament prophets were concerned with the inequalities and injustices done in their time. They offered hope in the promise that God will act some day to set things straight.

David in Psalm 73 expressed his frustration with the violence and unfair, harsh acts against the innocent. He testified that only when he went into the sanctuary was he was able to understand the end of all the misery in the world.

“Until I went into the sanctuary of God: then I understood their end.” Psalm 73:17 NKJV

Truly the plan of salvation, which was revealed in the earthly sanctuary, is the only insight we have which helps us make sense of the horrible things we witness or hear about, or even experience personally.

The sad thing is that just prior to Jesus’ return, things will get even worse. II Timothy gives a stunning picture of just how bad things will get:

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” II Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV

Notice that these unrighteous people will have a form of godliness. That is why James includes the saints in his warnings about these unsavory practices and what they will lead to.

Luke 17 says that evil times before the Second Coming will be like the days before the flood or before Sodom was destroyed. These places were exceedingly wicked. And we can see our world getting closer and closer to such a chaotic state.

This will be a time when, as Habakkuk puts it, “the just shall live by his faith” Habakkuk 2:4. Waiting through this perplexing period in history will be hard, but many Bible writers expressed faith and gave us promises to pull us through.

Discussion Question: What injustice do you see in the world that infuriates you the most? Is it possible or even required for Christians to try to correct these things that make us boil and simmer inside? What are the best ways to correct them? [examples: domestic violence, child abuse, homelessness, hunger]

Read Habakkuk 3:18, 19. Discuss how this counsel applies to the times we’re talking about. What is there to rejoice about when things are this bad? What kind of rejoicing do you think he means?

Monday: When Wealth Becomes Worthless

“Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.” James 5:2, 3 NKJV

James uses the same language as Jesus when He talked about our treasures:

” ‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.’ “ Matthew 6:19, 20 NKJV

No one likes to think of their treasured possessions being ruined or stolen. But if you’ve ever had to sift through your belongings after a flood, tornado, or fire disaster, you have felt the heartrending ache of losing material things.

The concern of James and Jesus on this issue of wealth is not whether we have money though, but how we are using it and the attitudes we have about it. We must not let the accumulation of material wealth change our personality or our character.

We think of the story of Nabal in I Samuel 25:2-11. Having vast wealth (the Bible said he had 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats) seemed to have turned Nabal into a selfish, uncaring person, not willing to share with David and his men, who in need came to him for aid.

There was also the story of Hezekiah in II Kings 20:12-19. This king boastfully showed some men from Babylon all his sparkling jewels and wealth throughout the palaces and temple, only to be told by the prophet Isaiah later that his arrogant act would end up in disastrous captivity of the kingdom by Babylonians in the future.

Discussion Questions: Considering the stories of Nabal and Hezekiah, what character traits did they develop through their love of money?

What other Bible characters can you think of who showed that their treasure was not always in the right place? And how did their wealth affect them? [examples: Cain, Lot, Laban (Jacob’s uncle), Moses (in the Egyptian palace), Solomon, Nebuchadnezzar]

Jesus reminds us that there is treasure that will survive and continue to exist in heaven. How would describe this treasure and how do you acquire it?

Tuesday: Cries of the Poor

If any of you volunteered at a “soup kitchen” type setting this past Thanksgiving, or if you work or volunteer at a place that serves low-income people or underprivileged populations, you are no doubt struck with empathy for these individuals and their unfortunate circumstances.

Homeless-And-Cold-Photo-By-Ed-Yourdon-440x332If we are touched by witnessing poverty, imagine how God feels about these inequalities of life and how it must pain Him to hear the cries of the poor.

James leaves no question about who is to blame for their plight. He clearly points out those responsible. He calls out the rich merchants and landowners who oppress the poor by withholding just wages from laborers.

“Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.” James 5:4 NKJV

But there’s another reason the rich are at fault. It’s not just depriving their employees of a fair paycheck, and cheating their way to the top. Notice the next verse:

“You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.” James 5:5

Every Christian should take personal stock of their living accommodations and spending habits and ask God to bless them with the ability to handle their finances in a way that glorifies Him.

Does our luxuriant lifestyles indicate that we are fattening ourselves for the slaughter, as James puts it?

Discussion Questions: Describe why it’s difficult to spend wisely in a society that values materialism. How can you keep from overspending, especially during the holidays?

How does tithing and giving offerings to God contribute to our heavenly treasure?

Does God need our  money, or do we need the trust and faith in God that it develops in our character when we give?

Does it seem fair to you that people with low incomes are asked by God to return tithe? Why does God make it this way?

Wednesday: Fat and Happy (for Now)

Ezekiel describes precisely the behavior of these people who are fattening themselves for the slaughter:

“Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” Ezekiel 16:49 NKJV

Amos also observed this “fattening” when he cautioned,

“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring wine, let us drink!’ “ Amos 4:1 NKJV

The picture brought to us sounds typical of many of the “rich and famous” in our world today. They are

  • proud,
  • overindulgent,
  • idle,
  • ignoring the lower classes, and often
  • fighting addictions.

Our understanding of wealth today is somewhat different, however. The ancient world thought that there was a fixed amount of wealth on the earth. Therefore the only way to get rich was to make poor people poorer.

Our modern world sees it differently though. The idea of “wealth creation” without affecting the wealth of others sounds much more appealing to those who seek the riches of the world.

Jesus told a well-remembered story about the inequalities of life. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) was not a lesson on the afterlife, as many have tried to make it. Its theme, told as an allegory, is clearly to warn the rich that someday the tables will be turned, and they will become the poor and needy ones, begging from those they have oppressed.

Discussion Questions: Read I John 4:20. Discuss how hating our brother, if we claim to be a Christian, can make us a liar.

Despite the fact that there may be some truth to “wealth creation”, what do you see as potential dangers in this philosophy? [for example: it can lead to coveting, extortion, self-indulgence, self-gratification, gluttony, injustice, and even murder]

Discuss what Zacchaeus offered to do with his riches after that one visit by Jesus to his house and why this was an indication of true repentance and reformation that we all must have.

Thursday: Blame the Victim

We don’t like to think of the oppression getting so bad that people are actually murdered, but this is what James indicates in this verse:

“You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.” James 5:6 NKJV

This is confirmed though by John’s testimony that “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” John 16:2 NKJV

In order to escape responsibility, it has been the practice of men and women throughout time to cast blame on someone or something else. This has led to martyrdom for many of God’s saints, and no doubt we’ll see more of it as the Second Coming gets nearer. And these persecutors will think that they are doing God’s will.

James knows that having material wealth can lead to changes in our character that will make this oppression a reality. James himself was martyred for his faith.

Remember though that it was not wealth per se that is the issue. Its our attitudes and actions that matter to God, and they have no relation to our particular economic status.

Discussion Questions: When James says, “…and he will not resist you”, does this mean that we should never resist? Should we just let people walk all over us?

What does Jesus mean when He says to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39)? When is it alright to stick up for ourselves and when is it not?


“Money has great value, because it can do great good. In the hands of God’s children it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, and clothing for the naked. It is a defense for the oppressed, and a means of help to the sick. But money is of no more value than sand, only as it is put to use in providing for the necessities of life, in blessing others, and advancing the cause of Christ.

“Hoarded wealth is not merely useless, it is a curse. In this life it is a snare to the soul, drawing the affections away from the heavenly treasure…

“He who realizes that his money is a talent from God will use it economically, and will feel it a duty to save that he may give.” ~Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 351, 352.


Many times we are tempted to either ignore low income people or even to blame them for the sin and crime around us. But as we near the end of the year, consider ways that you can become more attentive to the “cries of the poor” and do more to alleviate their suffering, both physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

After a time of thanksgiving for all the ways God has blessed you, determine how you can use your money and time more effectively in service for God?

Next week: Getting Ready for the Harvest

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