“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.” — James 5:1-2
In keeping with the theme of the brevity of physical life, James also talks about the brevity of physical wealth. These brevities go together. A sure symptom of being overly wrapped up in this life is an obsession with material security.
James adds to the above verses, “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” (5:3). There is nothing wrong with wealth in itself, but this is a devastating critique of wealth and greed combined. Greed is addictive and there are those who will stop at nothing to gain more. They are blinded by their own materialism. The more they have, the more they want and the harder they fight to get it, which only leaves them more to lose and more to worry about.
Jesus told a parable in Luke 12, about a man, very successful in producing good crops and making a lot of money, but he comes to a faulty conclusion. He first says, “I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones.” That makes good sense, but then he says, “I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” (Luke 12:18-20). The issue was not this man’s wealth, but that he had built his life on riches, which becomes the total sum of who he is. He does not see beyond this life, nor does he have a desire to give. His only concern is for himself.
Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). Scripture does not condemn making lots of money, but excessive wealth comes with a warning. James gives three in particular. We can become covetous in hoarding wealth and hoarding is sin. Secondly, if our souls are contaminated with the love of money, we open the door to corruption and exploitation of others. Thirdly, we can become careless. We have feathered our own nests for a life of self-indulgence and ease, and have become completely oblivious to the needs of our world and those around us. In summary, James is saying that wealth is transient. We are not to violate our consciences or break our backs trying to accumulate it, and we are to use it to serve, not to be served. There is madness in materialism, but sanity in stewardship and generosity.
Prayer: Dear Lord, keep me from living for selfish gain, and help me to be a good steward of the blessings You have given me. Thank You, Lord.