We are discovering together through this Epistle that the intended Christian lifestyle from start to finish is for us to be living by faith. Those who have not only entered the strait gate of racial separation, but are now wanting to be on the narrow way of walking in the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God, can use this Epistle as a guide for life. Though discussing the rich has been a part of this Epistle previously, James focuses on the various ways brethren mistreat one another in regards to riches. Whether it's from outright hoarding and refusing to help those in need, or by just not paying their workers a fair wage, here we see the pitfalls and consequences caused by the rich mishandling their wealth.
1 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.
The Scriptures help us to see what it means to have riches from the eternal perspective. Our Father expects us to do more with material wealth than selfishly and fearfully hoard it away, with the needs of our brethren going unnoticed, therefore being left unmet. The mishandling of wealth on the part of "rich men" in general, has led to immeasurable neglect and unnecessary destruction throughout the history of our race. God has provided enough for all of His people to have a happy, blessed life. However the rich among us have failed at their responsibility to distribute that wealth as it is legitimately needed. There will be serious consequences for them because of this:
1 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.
James says, specifically to "rich men", if "Ye have heaped treasure together", be ready at some point to "weep and howl for your miseries". Though they may not think they need it, rich white people should be in a hurry to take heed to the Scriptures, especially when it comes to how they should handle their wealth. He is telling the rich to see material wealth for what it is: a tool providing opportunities and resources to be utilized and given away, not hoarded.
In essence what James is dealing with here is based upon principles from the Old Testament, specifically King Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes. It's one thing to be rich or even for God Himself to bless you with riches and wealth; it is quite another to receive the ability to enjoy them:
19 Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.
To deny that "God hath given" or blesses His people with "riches and wealth" is to deny the Scriptures. As James has already stated in chapter 1: " Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights". Yet we also see that Yahweh also gives the rich in our race the "power" to enjoy their material blessings as well. This thing of being stingy or withholding wealth from helping others is a part of what leads to the wealthy not having the ability to enjoy their wealth. James states it this way: "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." In other words if one mishandles his wealth, he better not be surpised by the "miseries that shall come upon" him. Solomon also goes on to explain the other side of this truth as well:
2 A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.
Though Solomon does not give the cause of God giving or not giving rich people the power to enjoy their wealth in these verses, James covers it very well. THE MORE THE RICH NEGLECT THE NEEDS OF THEIR BRETHREN, THE LESS THEY WILL BE ABLE TO ENJOY WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN THEM. Therefore we should never ask God for "riches, wealth, and honor" if deep down we know we would never be willing to help others and give of it as we should. If it is easy for you to make excuses or to think the worst of people when needs arise, you are wasting your time asking God for more.
Whether one is rich or poor, anyone's lust for riches can lead down a road of selfishness and destruction, as does any obsession, overindulgence, or misuse of just about anything. Materialism plagues our land regardless of how much or how little is actually possessed by the individual. It is not the possession of riches but one's perception and subsequent mishandling of riches that can be evil. Yet as we've already seen in this Epistle, asking for God's blessings, even material blessings, is not evil in and of itself, as long as a person's motives and intents are pure and in the direction of the kingdom's work. To want material possessions just to say, "Look at me" indeed is evil. However to ask God for something, regardless of the amount or size, with the intent of "Look to Christ" is entirely different.
Those who cannot distinguish between what it means to want God to give you the very desires of your heart and that of being lustful, have something wrong in their own heart. It is not the Scriptures, but the twisting of it that seeks to prove anything to the contrary. If you cannot ask God for something including wealth, without having lust in your heart, then by no means should you ask for it. But if you can genuinely see something as a God-given desire, resulting in being a visible testimony of His power thru your life, then you may be knocking on the door of His abundant blessings. Therefore there is no need to be jealous of those who have been blessed, or critical of others who want to be more blessed of God, materially or otherwise, as long as their motives are founded upon righteousness. Just be thankful for how God may use and bless them to be more effective for His glory.
James is telling all rich white men who hoard and withhold their riches that they are on their way to nothing except grave disappointment. Realize money, wealth, and riches are not the ends but a means. They are not the destination but the vehicle, and are not the finished product but the tool. James is saying "ye rich men" who do not come to understand and heed this warning will "weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you". Those of our people who are rich have a tremendous opportunity to be a blessing to their family, friends, and their people. Yet if you neglect the needs around you, know that from God's perspective "Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you" when it comes to righteousness and laying up treasures in heaven. REPENT OF YOUR SELFISHNESS AND BE CURED OF THIS "EVIL DISEASE".
Withholding help from a brother in need will result in God's fiery correction of the rich in this life, expressed by how "the rust" or not using "Your gold and silver... shall eat your flesh as it were fire". Though you may have everything you want and more, if you ignore the needs of your brother, your riches "shall eat your flesh as it were fire", producing hell on earth to your "flesh" whether it be marital or health problems, or even trouble with your children. We have seen this over and over with the wealthy in our land. James is teaching that those who are rich, who feel it is more of a blessing to receive than give, will be in their own hell because God will chasten them for their selfishness.
It is not being willing to let go of riches once we have them, which is evil. When the opportunity comes to be a real blessing to someone else and we make excuses or refuse, that is the problem. Sudden wealth could indeed ruin some people's lives if they are not spiritually mature and/or already have certain problems such as selfish pride or even substance abuse issues. Again it is what the motive and intention of the heart is in wanting the riches, just as we saw in the previous chapter, by asking "amiss". This is important for those who are asking for God's blessings, but as we see here, it is an immediate consideration for those who are already rich. OUR HEART MUST BE IN THE RIGHT PLACE ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO HANDLING RICHES.
James has us thinking about "the last days" in a whole other way here. Suffer a little now stingy rich man thru processing in your mind how much time you've already wasted by not even looking for ways to help anybody. Bring your flesh under subjection before it is too late. Given these verses, it would be impossible to imagine any rich white man who is stingy like this, ever being raised up any other way except in shame and everlasting contempt at the resurrection, if he fails to take heed to James' words. This and all of the following examples here of the mishandling of wealth, give further support as to why Christ said it was so difficult for rich men to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23-24).
So in and of itself, there's nothing wrong with having riches and material gain. But we should never assume that having riches or more material things will exempt us from difficulties and problems in life, especially if we neglect our brethren. Unfortunately, trusting in riches and not in God runs rampant in the hearts and minds of most in our race and should be of tremendous concern. Rich men must work continually at keeping themselves humble. We should never see our possessions as permanent or even totally our own. Everything God blesses us with in one way or another, whether we consider ourselves rich or not, should be used for good.
Though riches may make our physical lives more comfortable and easy, they are not the cure all. We are still totally dependant upon God by following His Spirit from within, to handle what we have properly. Here lies the problem: "Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days." Mishandling wealth by placing our trust, security, and confidence in anything other than Yahweh, is a huge mistake and the cause of future "miseries". There is no lasting security in riches and we should not seek them for that purpose. Regardless of whether we are rich, poor, or somewhere in between, we should use what we have for the good of our brother and the glory of God.
So any honest Bible student will recognize that James is not saying having riches is evil. But if one has "heaped treasure", not trusting God to take care of them, even in "the last days", that is what's evil. There are people that are not even rich who are not trusting God to take care of them to the end. We shouldn't be putting our trust in anything other than Yahweh, especially in the last days.
Now the stingy rich know how their Creator feels about their selfish ways. In effect James is trying to help the rich see how God views the hoarding of riches and their uselessness to Him in that way: "Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them"- all qualities reflecting the affects of a duration of hoarding away and becoming of no innate value to Him. In this way money does become the root of all kinds of evil.
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.
Of course we are still in the context of rich white men, except in this verse we have an example of a more subtle way the rich mishandle their wealth. If you own your own business or farm which necessitates "the hire of... laborers", what is your attitude towards them? What do you feel is your due towards those who work for you? Most give their workers the least they can give them to still work for them, rather than looking to give them what they actually need. This of course is part of what has led to our ladies having to leave the home to enter the work force. Yet if well-off white men would not mishandle their wealth by treating their brethren who work for them with love and dignity, this would not be such a problem. For this is the way of the jew, who in his stinginess, squeezes everyone they possibly can so to store away and hoard their riches. If the brother or sister you have hired does their job, as their employer, it is your duty to make sure they are well taken care of for their labor. Are you doing everything you are able to do for those whites who are under your "hire"?
Our concern should be more upon taking care of those who've helped us build and maintain our farm or business rather than the riches themselves. It's the same as if you were a farmer and you forgot the ones who physically helped you "reap down your fields" for you have surely forgotten "the Lord of sabaoth" Who gave it all to you in the first place. Again we find this principle taught by King Solomon in Ecclesiastes:
9 Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.
Certainly "the king" wasn't involved in the actual reaping of "the field". Yet he was to appreciate those who were, so he could eat. Once again we see what James is teaching here certainly relates back to the words of King Solomon. Do you really believe God created this earth and put His Adamic creation here to not provide us enough to live? God provides more than enough for the whole Adamic creation. Though so many of our people are deceived and have been duped into giving much to non-whites, there is still enough for us, if only the rich would appreciate their workers just as a king had to appreciate his subjects who worked in his fields.
This title "the Lord of sabaoth" is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #2962 and #4519, kurious sabaoth which is supreme... controller... of armies... a military epithet of God expressed in other places in the Scriptures as "the Lord of Hosts". Yahweh Almighty is the "Lord of sabaoth" or hosts, Who commands His inconquerable armies, hears every single cry of those who are being mistreated and oppressed. This should envoke fear in all white men and families who are wealthy to check their hearts and repent of any of their selfish ways. It should also give peace that our Father will vindicate all that are oppressed and mistreated among His people.
So again, it may not be so much that the rich are deliberately storing up riches, but rather are not paying their "labourers" enough. Though it is more subtle, it is still the mishandling of wealth. When we fail to take good care of our workers, in essence we are guilty of what James has already addressed. Hoarding isn't just hiding or storing your wealth but also withholding it by not paying your workers enough to make a decent living. Realize money and riches are not the goal, but a tool. If you are rich, the sooner you figure this out, the more you can expect for God to give you. Acquiring abundant blessings from God is about having a heart of distribution. SO EVEN THE RICH MUST LIVE BY FAITH OR ELSE THEY WILL BE GUILTY OF MISHANDLING THEIR WEALTH.
It is more important for us to have a good conscience toward our workers because we have paid them a fair wage then it is to have stored up more treasures. We should pay and reward whites who work well for us, remembering they are our brothers. No matter how wealthy you become, don't forget them; they should be well taken care of.
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.
Though Yahweh wants us to be happy and content, that doesn't mean life is all about our own personal gratification and "pleasure", especially if it is at the expense of others. This goes on in our world today; poor whites unnecessarily suffering and being oppressed, while rich whites are living it up.
The term for "slaughter" is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #4967 which is defined as butchery (of animals for food or sacrifice, or (fig.) of men [destruction]). The imagery here is: for some to have so much and yet they do not want to share any of it with others, as if it is like fattening themselves up on the destruction of their brothers. Ultimately what we see here is that what we have is not our own, no matter how rich we think we are. The rich who live as if they are in their own little world, must not remain oblivious to the way they are oppressing the poor around them, in effect killing their brethren slowly with their selfish indulgences.
The selfish rich are killing their white brethren for no cause. For the poor "doth not resist" them, for how can they? There is no real way for the poor to oppose the rich in their neglect of them. James's description of how they had "been wanton" is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #5171 which is to indulge in luxury. By their luxurious living, the rich devour the innocent, the "just" who are poor who do not have the power to "resist" this condemnation of the wealthy. There is nothing they can do about this lack of empathy and voluntary neglect.
The rich person must choose whether he wants to recognize the plight of his needy brethren, for as we have seen, he will be held accountable by God. James attributes their mishandling of wealth and neglecting the poor as a kind of slow death, for the rich "have condemned and killed the just". The self-indulgent rich set themselves up as judge, jury, and executioner when they fail to help those of their brethren in need.
As we conclude this lesson, let us be reminded of the theme of wisdom woven throughout this Epistle which outlines how to live before, during, and after God's abundant blessings. We begin by asking God for wisdom by faith (1:1-12). We learn to avoid lust by looking to the Father of Lights (1:13-18). We recognize the importance of seeking righteousness (1:19-27). We do not discriminate against our brethren based on economic or social standing (2:1-13). Our daily activities are to be headed in the same direction as our faith (2:14-26). Our words have powerful consequences, especially for those who are teachers of the Scriptures (3:1-12). As much is possible, peace should be our overall pursuit with one another as a race, and is necessary in maintaining a lifestyle of faith (3:13-18). Having the right motive behind what you ask God for is just as important as being sure you have the right desires (4:1-3). God opposes those who lift themselves up above their brethren, and abundantly blesses those who are humble (4:4-12). It is God's will that we live by faith in the NOW, each moment of each day, expecting God to intervene and move in our lives (4:13-17). James now begins to conclude his Epistle by warning us to not misuse the blessings God has given us by withholding them. Next, he will give us examples of powerful faith as was displayed thru the lives of Job and Elijah.
If one misses the depth of James' instructions, they may as well expect to continue on in a life of jealousy, fear, worry, and frustration, leading to short-sightedness and being critical of not only others, but even the Scriptures. Is it your desire to be in active pursuit of the kingdom of God, displaying His power in and thru your life, or just an armchair critic, standing in judgment? No matter how rich or poor we may be, a clear indication of what's in our hearts is how we treat others and how we handle whatever it is we do have to give.