Today we’ll begin the final chapter in the book of James. This chapter begins with a powerful rebuke of the wicked wealthy.
Jam. 5:1-3 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. (2) Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. (3) Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
Weep and Howl
James called the rich to weep and howl because of their coming misery. The picture James had in mind here is, most certainly, the grim mourning the Jew of his time did at funerals. For these folks their wealth was their life, and it was going to end. Not only that, but they would find that they had wasted their days chasing something that wouldn’t last. Jesus also warned us not to horde wealth because of fleeting and fragile nature:
Mat. 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: (20) But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: (21) For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Both passages talk about the temporary nature of our possessions. Our clothes decay. Inflation makes our money worth less tomorrow than it’s worth today. It can burn up or stolen away. And even if you manage to hold on to it, in the end you’ll discover it’s not what makes life worth living anyway.
Luk. 12:15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
It’s not that God is anti-wealth. Some of the great men in the Bible were rich: Job, Abraham, and David, for example. When you are consumed with money, though, it ends up consuming you. From the verses that follow it’s obvious that the folks James was talking to got and used their riches in sinful ways. These rotten riches of these folks would end up being evidence against them when they stood before the Lord.
Luk. 12:16-21 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: (17) And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? (18) And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. (19) And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. (20) But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? (21) So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Read James 5:4-6. If you have the study tool, why not search for other Bible passages that deal with money and wealth? See if you can get a full and balanced understanding of how God views riches.