“You have lived on the earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” – James 5:5
The final point from our previous message in the book of James was that having wealth tests where we find comfort. It’s not wrong to find comfort in the things that money affords us; it is wrong to rely on money to bring us ultimate comfort and satisfaction. That power and ability alone belong to Jesus.
So ask yourself this question: What do you indulge in? What do you tend to obsess over? What does most of your time and energy and yes, money, go toward? This is most likely going to be a person or thing that is acting as a functional god for you, bringing you temporary fulfillment and comfort.
So is it wrong to ever indulge in something? Of course not. It would be stupid to oversimplify this issue. Wisdom is needed here. Scripture tells us that we should in fact enjoy the things that God generously gives to us, but that we should not trust in these things themselves (1 Timothy 6:17).
So the difference comes in where we put our hope. If we enjoy something in a way that diminishes the power and provision of God, we are wrongly indulging in that thing. The right way to find pleasure in our possessions would be to recognize that they are gifts from God to be used for the glory of God. In other words, don’t love your stuff; love God.
Here’s an example. Food is a very good gift from God. And food is more than a physical necessity; it also has a spiritual use. When we eat food, our bellies are satisfied and our bodies are comforted. In addition, food serves to bring friends and family together—it can be prepared in love and served generously to others. This is a good use of food. 1 Timothy 4:4 says, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”
But what if instead of thanking God for food, we ate as if food was merely for our taste buds, for our bellies? What if instead of finding comfort in God’s daily provision of food, we found comfort in food itself, and ate as if food was the only thing that could make us happy? We would be guilty of “self-indulgence” and “luxury”, which simply means using stuff to serve yourself without giving thought or thanks to God.
Is there something you use and enjoy that you aren’t thanking God for? Could you live without that thing, or does it need to be ever-present, like God?
Your possessions are God’s provisions. Ask God to give you the wisdom to see the distinction. And never rely on your stuff to do what only Jesus can do: change you and satisfy you.
For further study: Exodus 32, Psalm 23:1, Matthew 6:19-24, 1 Timothy 4:1-5, 6:17-19