Summary: “Spoil” has two meanings-both of which are applicable in this passage. The rich had spent their riches in self-indulgence (spoiling themselves). At the same time, their selfishness caused them to be hoarders. And because the rich were hoarding what they h
INTRODUCTION: “Spoil” has two meanings-both of which are applicable in this passage. The rich had spent their riches in self-indulgence (spoiling themselves). At the same time, their selfishness caused them to be hoarders. And because the rich were hoarding what they had accumulated their wealth has rotted (spoiled).
1) Spoiled happiness and spoiled riches (vs. 1-3).
• Your wealth has rotted away. James describes why they were going to be weeping and wailing-he saw where their selfish greed was going to take them. They would be brought to a place where what they trusted in would rot away. Part of the goods of the times would have been perishable things like food or clothing. They would build up and pack away and since they amassed more than they could use there was rot and decay. Their gold and silver became corroded. Among the ancients, the gold and silver which any one possessed was laid up in some secret and safe place. After sitting too long in a damp place the gold and silver would tarnish, contracting a dark color that resembled rust. All because they wanted it all to themselves and didn’t want to be rich toward anyone else. Luke 12:16-21.
• Their corrosion will eat your flesh like fire. That is, the rust or discoloration shall bear testimony against you that the money is not used as it should be, either in paying those to whom it is due, or in doing good to others. Fire, like wealth, is both useful and dangerous; depending on how it’s used. When we hoard our material goods, we don’t possess them, they possess us. Eventually, our love for them and our obsession with holding onto them consumes us; it eats away at us. The “eating away” aspect is described as being similar to our riches becoming “a canker that produces gangrenes and ulcers in their flesh, till it should be eaten away from their bones.” A young man was driving his BMW around a curve when he realized the car was out of control and about to plummet over a cliff. The young man jumped out, but in the process his left arm was severed from his body and stuck in the car as it crashed at the bottom. He stood there looking down at his burning BMW and said, “Oh, no! My car! My car!” A man, who had stopped to help, said, “Mister, you have just lost your left arm, and you’re crying about your car?” The young man looked down and said, “Oh no, my Rolex, my Rolex!” You have hoarded wealth. It’s not just the rich who are hoarders or misers. Any of us, regardless of our financial status can have the tendency to be this way. We hoard our “wealth”. We guard our possessions and are resistant to give to those who are in need. We find reasons why we need to hold onto what we have; just like a hoarder does. We could have 10 of something but we justify why we can’t give one of them to you. We stockpile our money instead of helping someone with a legitimate need. We stash our money instead of giving a portion of it to the church each Sunday. Perhaps we are all hoarders on some level. Corrie Ten Boom once said, "I have learned not to hold on to things in this life too tightly because it hurts when God pries my fingers loose from them." If we do this we won’t be spoiled.
2) Spoiled integrity (vs. 4).
• Withheld wages. The rich were taking advantage of and benefitting from the hard work of their employees but were withholding pay. In keeping wages from workers there is a lack of integrity and honesty. In this I have to ask myself, “Have I gained any of my wealth by dishonesty? Have I cheated anyone?” William Barclay writes that in Palestine the day laborer lived on the verge of starvation. His wage was small; it was impossible for him to save anything. Therefore, if his wage was held from him for the day, it meant he and his family would not eat. That’s why there were passages like Lev. 19:13 which says not to hold back the wages of a hired man. And Deuteronomy 24:14-15 which has to do with not taking advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy. And, Jeremiah 22:13 which says Woe to him who builds his place by unrighteousness and injustice, making his countrymen work for nothing. And in Mal. 3:5 God said he will pass judgment on those who defraud laborers of their wages. However, this principle applies to all of us, not just the rich boss. This deals with selfishness. This deals with looking out for oneself without giving thought for our fellow man. Prov. 3:27-28. Selfishness transcends socioeconomic status to include the rich, poor and middle class. Generosity isn’t about having enough to be generous with; it’s about being generous with what we do have. When we withhold our wealth it rots before our eyes but when we have a generous spirit others are blessed.