Summary: The aim of this warning is to awaken all Christians who are tempted to adopt worldly goals & standards rather than God’s goals & standards. The secondary purpose is to assure suffering Christians of the Divine judgment coming upon their oppressors.
THE USE OF WEALTH / A Source of Spiritual Numbness
[Amos 5:11-27/ Mt. 6:19-21]
The last section dealt with arrogant self-centeredness. Arrogant self-centeredness is demonstrated by planning a future without placing God’s will first and it can lead to more dangerous possibilities. Those who begin to get absorb in a plan for future gain may become unjust, unscrupulous and unfair in order to fulfill their plot. Such a quest for wealth and power can consume all our energies and deaden us to spiritual and moral matters.
Nothing in the Bible exceeds the rebuke here unleashed against the selfish rich who live for material prosperity. He warns both the rich and poor concerning the numbing effects of total absorption in getting wealth and power. The prideful self-centered wealthy are anesthetized to the fact that Divine judgment will come upon them for their greed and misuse of wealth (CIT).
Neither money nor wealth is evil, but the love of money leads to all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). The aim of this warning is to awaken all Christians who are tempted to adopt worldly goals and standards rather than God’s goals and standards. The secondary purpose is to assure suffering Christians of the Divine judgment coming upon their oppressors.
I. HOARDING OF WEALTH, 1-3.
II. GREED GAINED WEALTH, 4-6.
James begins his warning in verse 1 with a forceful pronouncement of impending judgment. Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.
Having addressed the haughty self-confidence of merchants (4:13-17) James now sharply addresses wealthy landowners who live in arrogant disregard of God. Verse one indicates the severity and certainty of God’s coming judgment upon the self-absorbed rich. These rich (plouto, wealth and krateria, rule or power, thus meaning people ruled by the god of wealth-plutocrats) estate owners were not believers but were making life miserable for their victims, some of whom were Christians. They are called upon to weep and wail which represented a full and intense outburst at the realization that they have ignored God’s demands and now faced impending judgment. They would most certainly cry and howl if only they recognized their doom. (Howl is used 21 times in the O.T. to describe the violent grief of those who stood face to face with divine judgment).
The strong word miseries points to hardships, wretchedness, and difficult times which will strike the wealthy who had abused their financial power. The use of the present tense coming suggests that waves of successive judgment could be seen on the horizon. Like tidal waves, nothing could stop them.
James spoke with the authority and passion of an Old Testament prophet like Amos, Micah or Jeremiah as he sought to help oppressed Christians avoid the deceitfulness of riches.
Four sins precipitate severe judgment upon the wicked rich. They are condemned because their wealth was uselessly hoarded, unjustly gained, self-indulgently spent, and ruthlessly acquired. Selfish hoarding is addressed in verses 2-3. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. (3a) Your gold and your silver have rusted;