Summary: Anything that we put ahead of God in our life will be destroyed in the end.
The Perils Of The Rich And Famous
Text: James 5:1-6
1. "There are people so poor that the only thing they have is money."
"He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has."
-- Henry Ward Beecher (1813–1887)
1. We tend to think that rich people have everything, but the reality is, unless they have Jesus they have nothing!
2. James tells us that for those in love with their wealth...
A. Judgment Is Coming
B. Vengeance Is God's
3. Let's stand together as we read James 5:1-6.
Proposition: Anything that we put ahead of God in our life will be destroyed in the end.
Transition: James makes it very clear that for those in love with their wealth...
I. Judgment Is Coming (1-4).
A. Have Become Worthless
1. You know you're in trouble when your Dad or Mom starts the sentence with, "Look here!"
2. That's exactly what James does with, "Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you."
A. These rich people are probably not believers, but rich nonbelievers. Very likely the wealthy landowners are the objects of James’s scathing rebuke.
B. These rich people have lavish surroundings, plenty of food, plenty of money. But there are terrible troubles ahead of them—not earthly suffering, but eternal suffering—and they should be wailing in sorrow for what they will lose then.
C. Groan: In the New Testament the only occurrence of the onomatopoeic verb is also in a negative context, where “to cry with a loud voice” is well expressed as “to groan with anguish.”
D. Those who become rich at the expense of their hired workers and commit other sins against innocent ones 5:4-6face the prospect of weeping and wailing when they endure the misery that is coming upon them as judgment from the Lord (verses 1,4) (The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Lambda-Omicron, Under: "3512).
E. The words weep and groan were often used in the Old Testament by the prophets to describe the reaction of the wicked when the Day of the Lord (the day of God’s judgment) arrives.
F. Jesus said that those who would be excluded from God’s Kingdom would be weeping and gnashing their teeth (Barton, 1089).
G. We must remember, however, that in Scripture people are not denounced because of wealth but because of its misuse and abuse.
H. Abraham, a man of great wealth, was a friend of God (2:23). God called Job a perfect and upright man (Job 1:8).
I. The rich mentioned here, like those in 2:2-6, were apparently not members of the congregations.
J. They were not called to repentance, but rather to "weep and howl" for their coming judgment. It is assumed they will remain unrepentant.
K. The warning came to believers who might be tempted to make wealth their chief object (The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude, 242).
3. James continues his rebuke saying, "Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. 3 Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment."
A. The instability of wealth is the clearest warning of the coming “troubles” of the rich. Goods that are rotting and clothing that turns to rags indicate the impermanence of life.
B. Their money, security, lavishness, and self-indulgence are as good as rotted because they can do nothing for them in eternity (Barton, 1089).
C. In Bible times objects of wealth included foodstuffs, costly clothing, and precious metals. The corrupted riches here probably refer to grain which had rotted while in storage.
D. The rich fool stored up vast quantities of crops. While people starved, heartless men allowed food to spoil.
E. Their silver and gold would lose their value. They would become as worthless as thoroughly rusted iron.
F. In the Day of Judgment, whatever the nature of the wealth possessed, it would have absolutely no positive value.
G. In fact, the wealth they had dishonestly acquired and selfishly hoarded, and which they valued so highly, would become a witness against them in the Day of Judgment.
H. It would insure their condemnation and intensify the fires of judgment. Only treasures of righteousness will stand the test (The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude, 242).
4. In v. 4, James points that God is a righteous, holy, and merciful and just God when he says, "For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies."