I know we’re not done with James. But we are done with the month of July. If you’d like to keep going, shoot me a response on this blog site and share that. I’m thinking we need 10 folks to respond affirmatively to keep moving forward. We shall see.
James 5:1-6 (NIV)
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon 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 workmen 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 innocent men, who were not opposing you.
Many people wrongly believe that the Bible teaches that it’s wrong to be wealthy. They think that the Bible says that “Money is the root of all evil”. It actually says “The love of money is the root of all evil.” God is not opposed to wealth, in fact, many of the people in the Bible were extremely wealthy. Abraham was probably a millionaire in our terms. Job was the wealthiest man of his time. David and Solomon were both the wealthiest men of their time. We know that Barnabas made a lot of money because he was able to give it to the church. Joseph of Arimathea, the man who gave Jesus his tomb, was extremely wealthy. So God is not opposed to wealth, simply for being wealthy. But God is very much opposed to the misuse and abuse of wealth. He wants us to use our wealth wisely, no matter how much or how little we have.
In New Testament times, there was no such thing as a middle class. The people in the entire New Testament times were either very rich or very poor. You were either a have or a have not. The system caused the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. The rich tended to manipulate and oppress the poor people, who were continually abused. James lashes out at non- Christian use of money by the wealthy. He gives a rebuke — probably one of the most negative passages in the entire New Testament. He devastates them with his words. He condemns them with four specific abuses they were guilty of. Although we may not commit these sins to the same degree, this passage is a healthy warning to us to make sure that no matter how much money we have, we use it wisely.
James mentions four common abuses of wealth. Let’s look first at the wrong uses of wealth and how to avoid them and then we’ll look at the right uses of wealth over the next few days.
THE WRONG USES OF WEALTH. The first key issue that James talks about is the ACCUMULATION OF WEALTH. James says, “don’t hoard it.” V. 3, “You have hoarded wealth in the last days.” Of the four errors James points out that these people are guilty of, James says, “You’ve hoarded wealth.” God says that money is not to be stockpiled, collected in piles just for the sake of having it. God wants his money in circulation. He’s not talking about savings. There’s a legitimate place for savings. God encourages us to save money. But He’s referring to getting more and more simply for the sake of getting more — so you can have it.
Once in a while you’ll read in the newspaper of an elderly person who died. They were in obvious poverty. When the bed mattress was moved, they found hundreds of thousands of dollars. This isn’t somebody who saved their money but who had hoarded it. Why did they do it? They were afraid of loosing it. Money had become an end in itself. Accumulating money had become the goal of life. They were so afraid of loosing money they wouldn’t spend it.
Wealthy people showed off their wealth in New Testament times this way – if you had money you would show it by having a lot of food, clothes, and precious metals and jewels. You would flaunt it. Rub peoples noses in it. Show off. Listen to how James speaks to this…
V. 2-3: “Your wealth has rotted, moths have eaten your clothes and your gold and silver are corroded.” Everything you’ve gotten (the food has spoiled, the moths have eaten your clothes, the gold and silver is rusting, corroding) — the point he’s making here that whatever you simply accumulate, deteriorates. What you accumulate will deteriorate. God doesn’t want us to get wealth just for the sake of getting wealth. He wants us to put it in circulation.
He says your clothes get moth-eaten. Which clothes get moth-eaten? The ones you wear all the time or the ones you keep stockpiled in the back of your closet? The ones that you hoard. Your food has gone rotten. Which food goes rotten? The food you eat everyday? No, its the stuff in the back of the refrigerator that’s been there for three months. We’ve created new life forms in our refrigerator!
Wealth is to be used not hoarded. It’s a selfish use of wealth. James says the wrong use of wealth, number one when it comes to accumulation, don’t hoard it.