Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
Let’s just get right to the point here. God does not like those who have stuff to mistreat those who do not have stuff. The truth of the matter is that even among Christians, there is sometimes a tendency to consider those with less than we have as somehow being less than we are.
We talked at length way back in James Chapter 2 concerning the way the poor were being treated by the more well to do in the church. We learned early on that God is not a respecter of persons in regard to material wealth. Here, we have more than just casual mistreatment of the less fortunate. Here, James is describing the exploitation and abuse of the less fortunate in order to gain more.
Before launching in to some descriptions of what the wealthy were doing, James gets right to the point. He describes clearly and graphically the punishment that is going to come upon these people for their maltreatment of the poor.
He starts out with a real attention getter, “Now go to.” Really this could be rendered something like, “Hey listen close, this is very important!” In other words, the words following are going to be worth listening to.
“Weep and howl.” Weep in this instance is a word that is used often to describe the weeping or crying that accompanies the shame we might feel regarding our sinful behavior. But to reinforce the idea that in this case, there was no weeping of repentance, as these people were not actually remorseful over their actions. James adds an additional word, “howl” here, and this is the only place we see it in the New Testament. It simply means literally screaming or shrieking. Put the two words together, and we get a picture of what is about to happen. This really paints a picture of almost overwhelming grief and despair. Why?
“For the miseries that shall come upon you.” That’s why. James is pointing out to the wealthy people that some day they will be held to account and judged for the way they have treated those less fortunate than them. As usual, Jesus had something to say about this topic:
Luke 6:24,25 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
Interested in further reading? Go to Luke Chapter 16 and read the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man.
Yes, God will judge us for the ways in which we deal with those less fortunate than us. He will hold us to account for how we looked at our wealth, what we did with it, and how we acquired it.