Part 12 – What About My Plans?
This is part 12 of a 15 part Bible Study on the book of James .
Compiled and written by Norma Becker – a true woman of God and God’s word.
*The Index, with links, to all 15 parts is at the bottom of each page.
What About My Plans?
“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you” (James 5:1-6).
Back in James 4:13 he says, “Now listen” or “Come now” to those who say they will go to a certain city, spend a year, do business and make money – trying to arrange their future and lives as though God did not exist. He starts chapter 5 the same way speaking to those who accumulate and spend as though there is no God.
It’s not true that poor people always go to heaven and the rich go to hell. There are some godless poor and there are some godly rich.
In the Bible There are Essentially Four Kinds of Economic Groups:
- There are ones that are poor on the outside and also poor inside.
They have none of the worlds goods and at the same time, know nothing about Jesus Christ or God’s love. They are the ones to be most pitied.
- Some are rich on the outside and also rich inside.
They have a lot of material goods and they also have a close walk with God. We know people in the world that are that way and in the Bible there were many, such as Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, Job, Joseph of Arimathea, etc.
- Then there are those who are poor on the outside and rich inside.
They have few possessions, but are born again and have eternal life.
- Then there are those who are rich on the outside and poor on the inside.
They have a lot of wealth but have no foundation of Jesus in their life. This is the group that James is writing to. In his day there were a few who controlled the lives of most people.
These last verses especially were aimed at the unbelieving, oppressing rich who were then, and who are today, spiritually impoverished.
First Crime: Corroded Wealth
Apparently wealth in those days consisted of both money and such things as grain, oil and expensive luxurious clothes. The rich had hoarded so much food and clothing that it was going to waste. Even the gold and silver they owned had been hoarded so long it had lost its luster in corrosion and rust.
He tells them their corrosion or rust will testify against them and eat their flesh. This is just a graphic way of saying that their greed will result in their own destruction. He says they have hoarded wealth in the last days. He has the future judgment in mind. The New Testament regards the whole period between Christ’s first and second comings as the last time of last days. The rich are even hoarding wealth just before Christ comes. They didn’t realize that the last days were already present.
Second Crime: Greed & Selfishness
Verse five tells of the second crime. It tells of the greed and selfishness of these men who had far more than they could ever use while their workers were deprived of their wages.
In the Mosaic Law, the prohibition of this offence is clear and specific. Deuteronomy 24:14-15 says,
“Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin.”
The very people who had harvested their fields and made them rich are crying out and have been heard by the Lord Almighty or the Lord of Sabaoth or Lord of hosts. This expression “God of Sabbath” is one of the most majestic of all the titles of God in the Old Testament, drawing attention, as it does, to His sovereign omnipotence. The use of the expression here in James emphasizes the truth they, though the poor and the oppressed appear to have no champions on earth, they have as their helper and avenger none other than the omnipotent Lord God. What else do they need?
Third Crime: Self Indulgence
Their third crime was living in luxury and self indulgence, unaware of the judgement or “day of slaughter” that was coming. They have “fattened themselves,” as in the NIV or “fattened their heart” as in the NASB. The heart is seen as desiring luxury and pleasure, and the rich are pictured as giving their hearts everything they desired.
They are likened to a calf that is being fattened. He is happy and content and goes on eating everything that is given to him, not realizing what will happen next. Something like a Thanksgiving turkey.
Fourth Crime: Murder of the Innocent
His last crime in verse six is the murder of innocent men. In James 2:6 the rich are accused of dragging believers into court; here they are charged with murder. This could be taken literally, for example: Christ, Stephen, James the son of Zebedee and, later, the author himself. More than being innocent or righteous, they were believers. They also came mainly from the ranks of the poor. The rich were guilty of attacking not merely a righteous man but a man who was defenceless or who refused to fight back.
Is He Condemning all Rich Men? Is Wealth Wrong?
Let’s look at 1 Timothy 6:8-10:
“But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
The correct attitude is: “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” God’s concern is not with actual wealth, but with our attitudes toward wealth. Also God’s counsel is not against people who are wealthy, but against the wrong priorities of the wealthy.
Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19:
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
Being wealthy raises one’s risk factor and adds pressure that can threaten to twist priorities. Pride can easily take over. Instead of fixing our hope on the uncertainty of riches, we are to focus our attention on God, “who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”
From the beginning James has talked of Christian maturity, in chapter four he talked about humility, and verse 10 he said:
“Humble yourselves before the Lord.” A lack of humility is a sign of pride.
Part 13: Let God be the Judge
Index of James Bible Study
Part 1 Who is James?
Part 2 When and to Whom Was James Written?
Part 3 How to Welcome Trials with an Attitude of Joy?
Part 4 What Does ‘Tempt’ Mean?
Part 5 What is the Key to Responding to Trials?
Part 6 Those with True Religion Should Serve
Part 7 Expression of the Character and Will of God Himself
Part 8 Spiritual Maturity
Part 9 Spiritual Maturity continued…
Part 10 What Causes Fights and Quarrels Among You?
Part 11 Is This How We Are To Be?
Part 12 What About My Plans?
Part 13 Let God be the Judge
Part 14 The Power of Prayer & Praise
Part 15 Summary and last part