Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
This would be a good place for a WOW. James takes quite a turn here, seemingly taking his writing in a whole new direction. This is one of the harshest, most accusatory passages in The Bible. Here, James pulls no punches in his harsh tone towards those he is addressing in this section.
So, who is James addressing here? Well, on the surface it seems he is lashing out against the wealthy; there is, however, more to the story than meets the eye. Is James talking to saved church members or ungodly people outside the church here? I don’t know, and it may or may not matter. Apparently some feel that James’ harsh tone shows he is suddenly writing to unsaved rich people outside the church. Others say the tense of the verbs he uses indicate he is continuing to write to saved believers within the churches he is addressing in this Epistle. Get a good Greek dictionary and some commentaries and read them; because no matter who James is talking to, the lessons are the same.
Before we really dissect this passage in some detail, we will just quickly cover what is NOT going on in the passage.
James is not condemning wealth, per se. Money in and of itself is neutral, being neither good or bad. The Bible is full of those whom God has blessed with great wealth: Job, Abraham and Solomon all come to mind almost instantly. Many of the blessings promised to Old Testament believers were financial in nature. So, wealth in and of itself is not being condemned.
James is not a communist. He is not teaching these rich men that they should immediately redistribute their wealth so that all would be equally provided for. This passage, among others, has occasionally been used to promote this particular economic system.
So, what is the problem? Well, there is a Scripture which is often misquoted. People say often: Money is the root of all evil. Well, that is not actually what was said. What was said was the the LOVE of money is the root of all evil.
What we have here is a problem of the heart and a problem of motivation. The issue is with what is driving these rich men, and the actions which result from the outflow of their hearts. Selfish desire once again rears its ugly head and produces corrupt behavior.
Doesn’t that seem to keep coming up over and over, and yet over again? Could it be that selfish desire and self interest might the driving force behind the entire sinful condition of mankind?