16
July
2017

JAMES 5.1-6 WHEN GOD GETS ANGRY AT THE RICH OR THE TEST OF RICHES

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James 5:1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. 4 Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5 You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you. 7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.

  1.  Compared to many people in the world, we are indeed blessed; in fact, in comparison with most people who live now and who have lived in the past, we are VERY RICH!
  2. Now, it is important to stress that God does not condemn being rich...
  • Some of the godliest people in the Bible were rich
  • Job, Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, Barnabas, Philemon, Lydia

However, Christ does speak of the difficulty of the rich being saved Mt 19:23-26 And there are times when God is very angry at the rich, as in our text: As we consider this passage more carefully, we will ask and answer four questions:

  • Who is James addressing in this passage?
  • What is in store for these rich people?
  • Why is God so angry at them?
  • What applications can we draw from this passage?

WHO IS JAMES ADDRESSING IN THIS PASSAGE?

  • ARE THEY CHRISTIANS?
  1. Possibly, but unlikely for several reasons...
  • There is no call to repentance in this passage as he would for Christians
    •   Here there is only condemnation.
    •   The brethren are not addressed until verse 7, in which THEY are told to be patient in light of what has just been said
  • They are not addressed as "brethren" as is often done in this epistle - Ja 1:2,19; 2:1,14; 3:1,10; 4:11

MORE LIKELY, THOSE ADDRESSED ARE RICH UNBELIEVERS...

Who had been oppressing the Christians - cf. Ja 2:6

This tirade of judgment is used to comfort the brethren who were being oppressed by them -Ja 5:7

The Lord has heard their cries - Ja 5:4b

Judgment is coming upon these rich oppressors

Therefore, the Christians are told to be patient

WHAT IS IN STORE FOR THESE RICH OPPRESSORS?

MISERIES THAT WILL CAUSE THEM TO "WEEP AND HOWL"! (1-3a)

  1. So certain are these miseries to come, that James speaks of them already occurring!
  1. Riches are corrupted
  2. Garments are moth-eaten
  3. Gold and silver are corroded
  4. When this "corrosion" of their riches occurs...
  5. It will serve as a witness against them
  6. It will eat their flesh like fire

 1) The anguish and misery of poverty usually affects the hardest those who were once rich!

 2) When poverty strikes, it will make them "weep and howl" as though they were on fire!

  1. THE MISERIES SPOKEN HERE MAY HAVE REFERENCE TO WHAT LATER OCCURRED IN THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM IN 70 A.D.
  2. Not long after this epistle was written, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans
  3. Many of the rich Jews who had oppressed their Christian brethren literally "wept and howled"
  4. They had failed to realize was that they had heaped up treasure "in the last days" (Ja 5:3b)
  5. Like the man in the parable of the rich fool (Lk 12:16-21), they thought they were laying up riches for their latter days
  6. When in fact, it was the "last days" of the Jewish economy when they were so busy storing up wealth!
  7. Like some today, who store up for retirement and then die before they retire!

Just as upon the rich man in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31)!

III. WHY IS GOD SO ANGRY WITH THESE RICH PEOPLE?

  1. BECAUSE OF HOW THEY GOT THEIR WEALTH...
  2. Specifically, by withholding wages from those who had worked for them
  3. Some people today get rich through dishonest schemes or unjust labor practices!
  4. BECAUSE OF HOW THEY USED THEIR WEALTH...
  5. They hoarded their wealth - 3b
  6. They spent it on themselves with pleasures and luxury - 5 (fattening themselves like cows for the slaughter!)
  7. They used the power that comes with wealth to oppress "the just" - 6

The manner in which they got their wealth and used it caused those who were oppressed to cry out, and the Lord heard their prayers

  1. Now, God who is just is about to bring judgment upon these rich oppressors!
  2. WHAT APPLICATIONS CAN WE DRAW?
  3. WE NEED TO BE CAREFUL HOW WE OBTAIN OUR WEALTH...
  4. To do so at the expense of others will bring God's wrath upon us! Deut 24:14,15
  5. It is wrong to think that success can only come by stepping on others
  6. This might be an appropriate place to add what we learn from Paul in 1Ti 6:9-10
  7. It is not riches that are wrong, but the DESIRE TO BE RICH that is wrought with many dangers!
  8. Riches are not wrong if they are the BY-PRODUCT of our endeavors, not the GOAL of those endeavors!

  1) I.e., one may desire to be a doctor to help the sick, and receive riches as a by-product because of the value society might place on such services

  2) But to enter such professions solely because one's goal is to get rich is wrong

  1. So how do we obtain our wealth?
  2. If we do it honestly and in compensation for a job well done, then God is not displeased
  3. But if we do it by hurting others and by making wealth our primary object, then we are in danger of God's wrath!
  4. WE NEED TO BE CAREFUL HOW WE USE OUR WEALTH...
  5. To spend it on luxurious living when others are suffering...
  6. Is exactly what James has described in this passage
  7. Is an indication of the lack of the love of God - 1 Jn 3:17
  8. According to the New Testament, the purpose of working is not to obtain wealth for our own gratification, but to help those less fortunate!
  9. As commanded by Paul - Ep 4:28; 1 Ti 6:17-19
  10. As exemplified by Paul - Ac 20:34-35

CONCLUSION

  1. Living in the country and society in which we do, we have much for which to be thankful
  2. But we also have much of which we need to beware:
  3. We live in a society where it is quite easy to become wealthy
  4. We live in a society where covetousness or the desire to be rich are not considered sins
  5. We live in a society where heaping up treasures for our own gratification is considered an inalienable right!

   -- It is easy to be influenced by these values!

  • Perhaps we need to ask ourselves constantly: Are we laying up treasure in heaven, or on earth?
  • Those who lay up treasure in heaven are those who use their wealth to do good and help the poor and less fortunate - cf. Mt 19:21; 1 Ti 6:18-19
  • Those who lay up treasure on earth are actually storing up for themselves miseries and wrath!

   1) Miseries...when their wealth fails them in their time of true need

   2) Wrath...from God in the Day of wrath that is yet to come

Have you begun to lay up treasure in heaven by obeying the gospel of Christ?