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A Warning to the Rich

Come now, you rich people, weep and wail over the miseries that are coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted and your clothes are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasure in the last days. (James 5:1-3) With some connection to the warnings of self-centeredness of the last chapter, James specifically warns the rich, even more specifically wealthy landlords who were oppressing the poor. It is safe to say that this group did not include any believers, for James does not make any reference in these verses as “brothers” or “sisters.” In fact, it is very likely that these individuals were oppressing the believers, hence, James writing this section to address these landowners on the believers’ behalf, starting with verse 1, “Come now, you rich people, weep and wail over the miseries that are coming on you.” The phrase “weep and wail,” is the same mournful response that James stated in James 4:9, “Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” Yet, the time of repentance seems to have passed, since the “miseries” are already on their way. As Anders writes, “Misery points to hardship, wretchedness, and difficult times which stood poised to strike at the wealthy people who had abused their financial power.” Then, in verses 2-3 describes in detail the miseries that are set to come, “You wealth has rotted and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasure in the last days.” In the ancient near east world, wealth was usually measured in three areas: food, clothing, and precious metals. We see in the passage that gold and silver corroded, a “symbol of the corrosive effects of greed on the human soul” (Lea). These corroded metals are a witness to their greed and lack of concern for others, causing them to experience divine judgment in the form of eternal fire, as they had made money the chief goal in their life rather than God. Jesus warns of such a foolish pursuit in life, as seen in Matthew 6:19-21, “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” With this all in mind, wealth in itself is not evil, for it could be a blessing from God given to you to bless others. And that’s the key: to recognize that we are stewards of God’s blessings. Yet, when we fall and start to pursue wealth over God, we fall under God’s discipline; and if you are not a believer, His eternal judgment. Blessings, Isaac De Guzman www.my-wbc.com https://www.facebook.com/WestsideBaptistChurchSBC

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