Summary: James warns the rich about materialism and unfair treatment of those who work for him.
1. Open your bibles to James 5:1-4.
2. In this passage James has a large number of warnings for those who are rich.
(1) Please understand that the term “rich” doesn’t mean that if don’t have an abundance of money and material things then these warnings are not for us.
(2) These warnings are far us even if we are classified as “poor” and only have very few material things. A poor person can misuse and mishandle small amounts and be just a sinful as those who are extremely rich. The “one talent man” of Matt. 25:14-30 went to hell because he didn’t use his “one talent” like God wanted him to.
(2) James 5: 5&6 also present warnings to the rich, but we will discuss those in another lesson.
3. Other passages in the bible inform us that many of God’s most faithful servants were rich. This helps us to know that it is not riches “per say” that condemn an individual.
4. Riches become sinful when more trust in shown in riches than trust is shown toward God. Riches also become sinful when riches are used for the wrong things.
5. Let’s begin our discussion of the warnings that James gives in these four verses. DISCUSSION
I. FIRST, JAMES 5:1 WARNS THE WICKED RICH THAT THEIR FUTURE IS GOING TO REAP MISERIES. The misuse of money and misery usually exist together!
1. Let’s read James 5:1. “ 1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!”
2. James is warning the wicked rich that the punishment of Gehenna [the Greek word for hell] will be the final and eternal destiny for the wicked rich.
(1) The wicked rich are advised to weep and howl in anticipation of the horrible miseries that they will experience.
(2) The tenses of these verbs “weep” and “howl” show that they are to begin to weep while on earth and to continue to howl each day that they live because the “miseries” for the future will be unbearable.
3. Turn to Matt. 25:30. This is one among a few verses spoken by Jesus that give descriptions of the miseries that will come upon the wicked rich in hell.
(1) Let’s read Matt. 25:30, “And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
(2) Drop down and let’s read v. 46, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
(3) Turn & let’s read Mark 9:48, “where ‘ Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.”
(4) Turn to Luke 16:19 & ff. This is a report of a wicked rich man that neglected to use his money to help the poor. Let’s start reading at Luke 16:19, “19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
5. There are a lot of other passages that warn the wicked rich about the horrible future that that they are going to experience, but this should be enough to motivate us to not misuse and not have the wrong trust in our material blessings.
6. In summary of this first point: wealth and misery very often go hand in hand. James is not saying that wealth, per se, is bad, nor that wealth, per se, causes misery. But he is saying that there are certain tendencies inherent in the possession of wealth that can cause misery. Paul teaches in I Timothy 6 that the man who craves being rich pierces himself with many sorrows. His money never satisfies him. It always disappoints him -- whether he gets the money or whether he doesn't. If to gain wealth is our aim then misery is always our lot.