Thursday, February 22, 2024

2024.02.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ James 5:1–6

Read James 5:1–6

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does James 5:1 address? What does it command them to do? Why? What is the true nature of their supposedly pretty riches (James 5:2)? And of their garments? And of their gold and silver (James 5:3)? What two things will this gold and silver do? What have they done? During what days? About what does James 5:4 now speak? Whose were these wages? What had the laborers done? But what happened to those wages? How were they kept back? What do the wages now do? Whose ears to those wages’ cries reach? What else reaches those ears? Where have these rich lived (James 5:5)? In what way? By this, what have they done, in what sort of day? What else have they done to whom for profit (James 5:6)? What does the righteous man not do?

Why is wealth so dangerous? James 5:1–6 prepares us for the second serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that wealth poses the dangers of false security, hoarding, theft, fraud, self-indulgence, betrayal, and murder.

Just reading that list, we see that, the love of money truly is a root of all kinds of evil (cf. 1 Timothy 6:6–101 Timothy 6:17–19). In the context in which I write, believers are more wealthy than nearly any other time or place in the history of the Christian church. How necessary for us to heed this passage!

Weeping over wealth? James 5:1. Most think that they would rejoice and laugh over being rich, but verse 1 says to weep and howl. If our rejoicing is from/in the Lord (cf. Philippians 4:4), then we may use riches rightly (cf. Philippians 4:12). But if riches are our joy, then we are on the brink of devastating misery!

False securityJames 5:2-3. The imagery in this verse is of thinking that something is solid but having this hope shattered. They try to use their wealth, but it has been rotting and just crumbles in their hands. When they take it out for trade, it instead witnesses against them. 

They try to put on their fine clothing, but it’s so perforated with holes that they appear impoverished and naked. And that which they touch to their flesh, they find not silky and comfortable but burning like fire. False security is one of the great dangers of wealth. It sprouts wings and flies away (cf. Proverbs 23:5). 

Hoarding, end of James 5:3. All of our days are our last days. The Lord may not return for thousands of years, but He will very soon summon each one of us from this world. We must live as those who have pleasure and purpose in the Lord, and use the things of this world in that manner. 

What folly it is to accumulate for accumulation’s sake! Wealth is not a purpose; it has a purpose. By it, one may enjoy the Lord and His goodness. Using it, one may employ it for the Lord in His service. When we treat it as its own purpose, we let it make a mockery of us.

Theft and fraudJames 5:4. The fields that the laborers of verse 4 were contracted to work have been thoroughly harvested. But the wages that were promised them are still in the pocket of the rich landowner. And how did this happen? By fraud! Some cheating, some deception, some false technicality. 

This is so commonplace now, and apparently it was common then. For, the Spirit reminds them that the Lord of Hosts is listening to those wages and those reapers, who are now crying as Abel’s blood once did. Theft and cheating are brazen atheism: treating the God Who calls Himself “Lord of Armies” as if He does not see us or hear us or care about justice!  But wealth poses this danger; we fall in love with it, and we begin to be forgetful for God, when it will serve the purpose of increasing our wealth.

Self-indulgenceJames 5:5. Here is a companion to the hoarding at the end of James 5:3. In this case, however, the wealth is being enjoyed. But it’s being enjoyed “on the earth,” which means something similar here to the “under the sun” of Ecclesiastes. It is being enjoyed as if this world is all there is. But if that is the sort of joy you have now, then it is the only joy that you will ever have. Very soon, the one whose pleasure has been in self-indulgence will come into the pains of hell forever. But how easy wealth makes it to indulge ourselves. The Lord spare us from so living!

Betrayal and murderJames 5:6. It’s amazing here that the just man is not hostile toward this rich person. This character (cf. Matthew 5:39) makes the betrayal in James 5:6 even worse. These rich condemn even such a man as this, simply because it suits their purposes. Not only do they serve their wealth, but their ability to wield power has brought them to a point that their consciences are seared like leather.

What dangers wealth can pose to the believer! The Lord grant to you, dear reader, to know how to be abased and how to abound, to be able to do in Christ Jesus all things that you do (cf. Philippians 4:12–13). 

How have you been tempted to find your security, pleasure, or even purpose in wealth? To what lying, stealing, or cheating has it tempted you? Whom have you been tempted to mistreat for it?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for how we have trusted in wealth and served wealth. Forgive us our self-indulgence and our mistreating others as if You, the Lord of Hosts, do not see and hear. Grant, instead, that we would rejoice always in the Lord Jesus, and that we would know how to abound in Him, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP112 “O Praise the LORD” or TPH538 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

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