Summary: The message deals with the attitude, acquisition, and application of riches and the dangers involved.
A well-worn one dollar bill and a similarly distressed twenty dollar bill arrived at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired. As they moved along the conveyor belt to be burned, they struck up a conversation.
The twenty dollar bill reminisced about its travels all over the county. "I’ve had a pretty good life," the twenty proclaimed. "Why I’ve been to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the finest restaurants in New York, performances on Broadway, and even a cruise to the Caribbean."
"Wow!" said the one dollar bill. "You’ve really had an exciting life!"
"So tell me," says the twenty, "where have you been throughout your lifetime?"
The one dollar bill replies, "Oh, I’ve been to the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, the Lutheran Church ...."
The twenty dollar bill interrupts, "What’s a church?"
We really should not be joking about money today. Money can be hazardous to your health. Two medical researchers at the University of Louisville have been looking into the question and have found that "13% of the coins and 42% of the paper money carry disease-producing organisms." Small denomination coins and bills are more dangerous because of their rapid turnover. Percentage of all paper money in the U.S. that contains traces of cocaine: 97%. (I had better not see anyone sniffing or licking the offering plate this morning.)
Weep and Wail
James 5:1 - Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.
Weep and wail implies expresses another level of distress. The agony will be a double portion. It is a deep, deep down distress, anguish to the "nth" degree. Scripture does not tell us what the calamity was to strike the rich but it was to be horrible not does it tell us if it refers to this life to the next.
Notice that it is coming upon them now. I might refer to the fact that the rich receive their reward now instead of the kingdom.
I believe James was referring to the moment when Jesus revealed an important truth about the Kingdom of Heaven to the disciples. Jesus said in Matthew 19:24,
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God’"
James 5:2 - Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.
Wealth in this verse means the grain stores, the supplies needed to exist day to day. It has stayed in the storehouses so long it is spoiling.
Rotted comes from the Greek word (sepo) which means to "cause rot or corrupt". The idea is that a person hoards all there is and keeps it instead of sharing with others and it spoils where it sits.
Billy Graham said "there is nothing wrong with possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess men."
James 5:3 - 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.
The riches, gold, silver, precious metals, have all begun to rust away. The Greek word means they are oxidizing quickly.
But why are they rusting away? It is unused and sitting in the same spot. The owner has no intention of ever touching it. He will not part with any of it even though he owes people money. He is stealing from the poor; the poor, who need it to feed themselves, feed their family and provide for basic daily needs.
"Nothing is so hard for those who abound in riches as to conceive how others can be in want."
James 5:4 - 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.
The verse leans on what has been said, you have hoarded and as a product, you have cheated and stolen from everyone around you. The problem for the rich man is that they have called Almighty God.
The movie The Shawshank Redemption tells of the brutal life of an innocent inmate in the 1930s-40s. On the wall of the warden’s office hung a stitching that said, "Judgment cometh and that right soon". In other words your time is coming. Get ready to be judged. It is time to reap what you sow.
James 5:5-6 - You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.
This is a very powerful and harsh statement. The luxury and self indulgence mean that this rich man has lived without fear of anything or anyone because of his dollars.