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.
I have read several commentators who have made the valid point that, in many ways, the manner in which a person considers money in their lives is one of the most accurate reflections of what is in their heart. How we view money and material possessions is truly a barometer of the heart.
We will get more specific on thoughts about particular verses in this passage over the next few days, but today will be one more general overview of the general situation here.
We already discussed that devotion to self and selfish needs was the basic issue these men were facing. In a more specific sense, the very way they were putting their selfishness into action was in the ways they obtained and used their financial resources.
These men loved their money more than anything else. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment was to love God with one’s all, followed by loving one’s neighbor as oneself. The Bible has many things to say about what our relationship with money versus our relationship with God should be.
Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Matthew 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Clearly, we can not be loyal to both our earthly treasure and to God. If we put our money first, then the first and greatest commandment has already been cleanly disposed of.
As we move on through the first part of Chapter 5, we will also see that the overflow of the hearts of these men was causing them to treat believers in the churches, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable ones, in very bad ways. Now, the second greatest commandment has been cleanly disposed of as well.
The Old Testament Prophets had much to say about the rich abusing the poor. Let’s take a look at what Isaiah had to say as an example.
Isaiah 10:1-4 Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless! And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory? Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
Amos also had the following to say.
Amos 4:1-3 Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink. The Lord GOD hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks. And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the LORD.
So, to recap here, we have two issues. Issue one is we are to not love our wealth more than we love God. Issue two is we are to not love our wealth more than we love our fellow humans.
Who, or what, do you love?