James 5:1-6 “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. (2) Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. (3) 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. (4) 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. (5) Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. (6) Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.”
James is warning his congregation to be on alert. Trouble will not only knock on your door; it will barge right in. This will particularly be true if you have built your life around covetousness. Our lives will be empty, lonely, and bitter because that which we are chasing gives us nothing in return. When we chase wealth, we end up robbing ourselves of the greater riches that God has to give us.
I was talking to a Pastor this past weekend where I was preaching in Michigan. He reminded me that our Nation right now is reeling as a result of covetousness. Our current administration wants to take “from the rich and give to the poor”. The whole system is built on covetousness. No wonder our National debt is going sky high. What we chase is temporary and will rot, so why would we place our trust in it? The fundamental basis of our lives and that our Nation cannot be focused on gain, at another’s expense.
Even those things we think are important usually are not! People who place their trust in wealth, accomplishments, education, self, or… are headed for trouble as it takes them away from God just as chasing the devil does, both lead to the same end which is separation or alienation from God.
Wealth, in and of itself, is not condemned here or any other place in the Bible. Wealth can be blessing from God if we use it as a tool and not as devotion. Proverbs 10:22 “The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” The condemnation James gives us the example here of gain by the oppression of the poor. This is a manner of the heart, as our checkbook will show where our loyalty, commitment, and interest currently resides.
Verse 4 reminds us that the poor will not be ignored by God; their cries reach Him. Our responsibility to care for them must be heeded! There is never an excuse to cheat or take advantage of another person. It is our responsibility to help them learn scriptural principles to live within their means and learn to enjoy labor and its benefit. Proverbs 21:13 “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.” Can you see how this root attitude will bring nothing but destruction? God will not even acknowledge our cry.
The theme in these verses is clearly covetousness. To make one prosperous by the manipulation of another may seem to be a good business model and may make sense in the ways of the world, but it is evil in God’s eyes. One definition of covetousness signifies taking advantage of a situation as the motive. Our Nation and our personal lives will struggle if we use covetousness as a motive to do good or evil. Let us never be guilty of covetousness.
Remember, when we draw near to the world, God is pushed away! The warning is two-fold; one, we are not to oppress the poor and needy. There is never a reason to do that; rather, we are to help and provide, educate and motivate.
One of the hardest things to do is be a Christian with worldly wealth because it most always leads to worldly interests that lead to worldly activities. Wealth can be done and be done for greatness, but most of the time, it only brings darkness to light and buries the Christian soul in the desires of the world. Mark 4:19, “And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”
Pastor James continues to exhort us to patience, watchfulness, and most importantly stablished hearts. James 5:7-9, Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. (8) Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
If you are prone to live a life based on covetousness, then misery, madness, and misfortune will barge in your space over and over again. But… if your life is based in Him, you will be patient, prepared, and most of all planted in the sure foundation that will stand. Proverbs 28:16, “The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days.”