“Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. Your gold and silver are corroded. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This corroded treasure you have hoarded will testify against you on the day of judgment. For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” — James 5:1-4.
It might have been a good thing to give you some type of warning before I hit you with James’ harsh condemnation of greedy rich people. It is certainly not the typical way to start a devotional. In chapter 5, James continues his thoughts from Chapter 4 where he is talking about how some people trust in their arrogance, and make their own plans which do not include the Lord. James speaks about those who trust in their riches instead of in God. Not only do they trust in their riches, but they have obtained their riches at the expense of others.
James 5 echos Matthew 6 where Jesus is teaching about prioritizing eternal things over earthly treasures. James is warning the rich new believers who aren’t using their resources for the glory of God. The question is what constitutes rich. When we hear the word “rich” we think of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett; the people who buy jets and yachts costing $100 million each. But many of us are rich as well. We live in a nation of abundance. We live in a house, drive a car, and have money in the bank. That alone puts us in the top 5 percent of the world’s wealthy. But James is telling us that money is not the issue.
The heart is the issue. Matthew 6:21 says “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Money is not the problem. We all have to have money to live and support our families. It’s not a sin to be wealthy. You see in verse 4 that James is talking to the rich who have exploited their employees to put more money in their own pockets. These verses in James redirect my heart to prioritize what really matters. People matter. People matter to God so they matter to us. Materialism and the material things we desire don’t matter. When I prioritize people in my mind and heart, money issues fade into the background. Helping people and changing hearts is what we should be pursuing not things.
Jesus is better than the perfectly decorated house, or a full closet, a fulfilled wishlist, an unlimited budget, or a substantial bank account. The material things we accumulate will fade and disappear one day. As Charles Studd sais, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”
- What did you think of James words when you read them?
- What can we do this week to prioritize people over possessions?