James 5:1-6: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 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 workers 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. 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.”
In Part 1-An Introduction, we began to see how misplaced priorities are a sign of immaturity. The first misplaced priority we must deal with is wealth. The second is our businesses. The third is our comfort.
One of the things I appreciate about James is how straightforward he is. He is blunt and will tell you immediately what he thinks the problems are. He does this in verses 5-6 of chapter 5.
The life of luxury and self-indulgence is not for Christians. These words point to a life of excess and immoderate indulgence of any and every bodily appetite. This is more than just simply a life of pleasure but superabundance, based on the expense of others. It is complete self-interest and indulging all lusts without thought of shame.
The life of luxury and self-indulgence should also remind you of the story of the prodigal son who squandered his wealth on selfish pursuits from Luke 15.
It makes you wonder what kind of life James led before coming to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.
It should also make you wonder what James would say about the rampant materialism and ridiculous extravagance of the United States. Materialism blinds us to the plight of others by focusing on ourselves. James has consistently taught that our relationship with God shapes our character, and character influences and even determines our actions, especially in treating others.
Ezekiel 16:49: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Are we living in a modern-day Sodom?
There is a clear line between living a life of comfort and one of contentment. Make sure you know what your priorities are.
This passage started with weeping. There are four reasons the rich should potentially weep. First, wealth is temporal and subject to the ravages of time. Second, they are often guilty of a crime against their sisters and brothers. Third, they will be judged and condemned for this selfish use of temporal goods. Finally, they have been adding to their material treasure as if the world will go on forever.
Don’t get me wrong. There is no harm in possessing riches; the harm is letting riches possess you. I know many people who would be considered “rich” by the world’s standards who have a heart of gold and are very generous. They steward the resources that God has given them very well, which is one reason the Lord gives them more. The danger is not in being rich but your motivations for and response to wealth.
As Billy Graham famously said, “We have ‘In God We Trust’ on our coins but ‘Me First’ engraved on our hearts.”
Some questions to consider:
-Have you pursued luxury instead of living generously?
-Have you set a standard of living that is comfortable or one that requires you to live by faith?
-In what areas can you sacrifice to give more to the mission of God?
-What is engraved on your heart?