Tuesday, January 3, 2012

James 5:1-6 - What's Wrong With Money?

1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.
2 Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten.
3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire.  It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!
4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
5 You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in the day of slaughter.
6 You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.


First, remember the context – James is listing off a variety of instructions to his readers, and he has just switched topics from arrogance to wealth.

Second, a brief aside to recall what we discussed in the first post on James – that this epistle is considered to be the most “Jewish” book in the New Testament because many of its passages sound extremely similar to the rebukes of the prophets (which the original converted-Jew readers would have immediately picked up on).  This is one of those passages.

So What’s Wrong With Money?

Well…both nothing and everything – it’s another infamous Biblical paradox.  Throughout the Old Testament, it is made explicitly clear that wealth is a blessing from God.  Yet, in the New Testament, extreme emphasis is placed on sharing this blessing with other believers.  And then, if you look more closely at those instances in the Old Testament (such as King David and Boaz), you’ll see that they did, indeed, use their wealth for God’s glory and for the aid of His people.  As is the case with all sin and spiritual freedom, it is really a heart issue.

Additionally, the rich believers rebuked in this passage are not just any rich people; their wealth is linked to a few specific sins:
·         They have amassed this wealth through corrupt means – by stealing from others (verses 4, 6)
·         Their wealth has become their idol, and their luxury consumes all their time and energy (verse 5)
·         They lost track of what evil days we live in and that time is short (verses 3 and 5; see below)

Putting the Lord to the Test

Also notice the threat contained in verses 3 and 5 “…It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure…you have fattened your hearts in the day of slaughter.”

These people James is rebuking had lost their fear of the Lord, forgetting that He is a just God.  “Lord of Sabaoth” (verse 4) means Lord of Hosts – or, literally, Lord of Armies.  They were living in willing sin, and testing God’s patience. 


Wealth should never become our idol, because all our treasures on earth will one day burn (a day very soon, I believe).

Let us share our resources with others – they are a blessing from God, intended to be given back to Him and used for His glory.  (This includes our time and our talents, not just material resources.)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon 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.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
-          Matthew 6:19-21

Questions?  Comments?  Leave ‘em below – I’d love to hear from you! ^_^

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