Summary: James cautions us against cheating those to whom we are indebted. The message explores some of the parameters of this admonition.
“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.” 
Throughout the Word of God are admonitions that caution us against wilful sin. God is quite specific as we are warned against committing any of a number of sins, especially sins that God has identified as “sins that cry out to heaven.” While all sin is dreadful, some sins are singled out as especially heinous. These sins are spoken of as “sins that cry out to heaven.” It is indicative that God takes special note of some sins. Such sins invite even more severe punishment from God who is Holy.
James, the brother of our Lord, warns of a sin in which the cries of those who are aggrieved reach the ears of the Lord of hosts. When those who are wronged cry out and the Living God hears them, we should be deeply concerned. If we who follow the Risen Saviour are merely observers of those who sin, we should be concerned for those who will be judged, pleading with them to do right. If we witness the innocent being victimised, because we have the Spirit of Christ living within, we should be prepared to intervene, demanding justice for their cause. If, however, we who name the Name of the Son of God are the ones perpetuating this particular sin, we must prepare to meet God. God will not ignore our sin while that particular sin is crying out to heaven.
The sin before us in the message this day is the particular sin in which the labourer has been defrauded. What is perhaps unexpected is that the Lord God hears when they present their case. This is not a sin such as socialists imagine in which the wealthy are judged because they possess wealth—there is no sin in earning a good wage or even in utilising one’s own wealth for whatever purpose one chooses to use his own moneys. Deliberately cheating those whom you owe for their labour is sinful. When you thus cheat them, they cannot fulfil their own financial commitments.
THE SIN OF CHEATING THE LABOURER — “Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you” [JAMES 5:4-6].
In the text, James actually pronounces the divine judgement before speaking of the reason for that judgement. The manner in which this is done makes perfect sense when we read what the brother of our Lord wrote. However, in order to understand why God would judge people at any time, it seems eminently reasonable to define the sin before considering what the Lord does concerning those who commit that particular sin. In light of this, join me in focusing on the FOURTH through the SIXTH VERSES.
The sin, as James details it, appears multi-faceted. At the heart of the sin is an attitude of entitlement. This is evident when James charges, “You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” He pictures landowners who hire labourers to tend their crops. However, these landowners think only of their own comfort, their own luxury. Because they are focused on their own desires, they defraud those who work for them, keeping from them the wages which the workers rightfully earned through their labour. James charges that this cheating is nothing less than fraud. He charges that the fraudulent landowners have condemned and murdered the righteous through their actions. The condemnation and murder was the result of depriving labourers of their rightful wages. Because they did not receive what was owed them, they were unable to provide for themselves or for their families. Therefore, they were compelled to do without the necessities of life. Moreover, those who are defrauded did not resist the cheating—they are powerless!