Summary: James gives three of God's summons against hoarding our riches and depriving those in need.
This evening’s passage may not apply to anyone here tonight because it’s talking about the rich. But the lesson we learn concerns more than having lots of money. We may not think we are rich, but we have more than probably 90% of individuals around the world.
Tonight, we will be looking at James 5: 1-6 as we talk a little about hoarders. In this case, the hoarding of wealth in whatever form it may take. James covers just about all of it and covers every aspect of these riches in these 6 verses.
What is the temptation that so fiercely attacks the rich? It’s usually the temptation to bank and hoard money instead of using it to meet the needs of the desperate and dying in the world. The Bible never condemns all rich persons. Let’s make that clear from the start. It is NOT a sin to be wealthy.
The Bible only condemns the rich who store up their wealth instead of using it to reach the lost, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, shelter the cold and homeless, nurse the sick and in the process, share the news of salvation around the world.
God knows that we are without excuse. That’s the reason for this passage of Scripture—to warn all the rich of this world—all who keep more than what they need in whatever form it may be.
James gives us three summons to consider in this passage. Let’s look at those closely. READ James 5:1. Weep and wail with grief if you are hoarding money. Why? Because of the misery that is coming upon you. James is referring to miseries that are so terrible that you need to begin weeping and wailing now.
What kind of miseries? Miseries of affliction, of emptiness, loneliness, purposelessness, and the list goes on. The old saying that money can’t buy happiness is so true. It most assuredly cannot buy JOY. What James is telling us is that riches that are hoarded will fail a person. They won’t satisfy. This is the summons of God.
READ vv. 2-3. Let’s get into a little more detail with this first summons. That summons is to weep and wail, for wealth is not lasting. Note the three things that James mentions:
1. There is wealth that has rotted. This would refer to such things as farm produce like wheat and vegetables or building products like wood or wallboard. This is referring to wealth achieved through farming and construction or some other industry whose products eventually rot away.
2. There are clothes that become moth-eaten. This would include the textile and clothing industries.
3. There is gold and silver that is corroded or rusted. This refers to mineral, chemical, metal, and mining interests of the economy. James knew that gold and silver doesn’t rust. What did he mean then? He means that if the minerals lie unused, they will become coated over with filth, corrosion, tarnish, and eventually will wear away.
The point is this: if farm produce and building products sit unused, they rot. If textile garments sit unused, they are moth-eaten. If gold and silver sit unused, they will corrode and waste away. That is really a tragedy. To have done nothing but leave the world the material things that age, corrupt, deteriorate, rot, decay, and pass away forever.
READ v. 3 again. Here is God’s second summons. Weep and wail, for hoarding wealth condemns you. Wealth will condemn us in three ways:
1. Wealth will stand as a witness against us. When we hoard money and live extravagantly and lavishly, four persons see something:
a. Every person who is concerned with the desperate needs of this world see that we are living a selfish life.
b. Every poor and needy person sees that we are living a selfish and hoarding life.
c. All others in the world, including those who are rich and hoarding, see that the rich are living a selfish and hoarding life.
d. But most importantly, God sees that we are living a selfish and hoarding life. Sometimes the rich have to fear the poor, for the poor sometimes rise up against the rich and threaten and destroy their lives. But the rich must always fear God more than anyone else. God is the One who can destroy both body and soul to hell.
The point is this: our wealth and hoarding stand as a witness against us even while we are one earth. But the witness that we must fear the most is the witness that will be borne in the eternal judgment.
2. The second way that wealth condemns, as James states, wealth shall eat our flesh as a fire. If we hoard money, the passion to hoard more and more money will burn within us. The more we hoard, the more we want. The passion for more will consume us. We will never be satisfied and fulfilled in life. The fire of passion and lust for wealth will destroy us both now and forever.