Abusive Wealth “Real Life” [James] Series  James 5:1-6
JAMES’ WARNING AGAINST ABUSIVE WEALTH PURPOSE: What is James’ purpose of denouncing the rich unbelievers who practiced abusive wealth in this letter to the Christians? First, it is to ENCOURAGE the believers in suffering by letting them know God, their Avenger will judge and punish the wicked rich who abused them. Secondly, it is to WARN the believers not to envy the wicked rich, their wealth/power and their luxurious lifestyle.
11 "Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery... 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’” Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 17
JAMES’ WARNING AGAINST ABUSIVE WEALTH DENUNCIATION: What coming miseries are waiting for those who practice abusive wealth in the Judgment Day? 1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. (vs.1-3a) Their loss of wealth will be complete and miserable. Their guilt will be from their hoarded wealth as the evidence against them [greed & covetousness]. Their pain from being devoured in the judgment will be painful and horrible. Hence, these miseries are coming surely and swiftly upon all those who practice abusive wealth.
WHEN DOES WEALTH BECOME ABUSIVE? 1)Wealth becomes abusive when we acquire it through INJUSTICE. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. (v.4) The first charge is “wrongful gain” through various means of injustice—rather than integrity and justice. Some examples are (1) to not pay for the wages; (2) to delay the wages wrongfully, (3) to pay unfair wages, (4) to gain from others’ loss (“zero sum game”). Why? The root cause of these unjust business/work practice is greed and covetousness.
WHEN DOES WEALTH BECOME ABUSIVE? 2)Wealth becomes abusive when we hoard it stingily or use it for SELF-INDULGENCE/LUXURY. You have laid up treasure in the last days... 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. (vs.3b, 5) The second charge is “hoarding & self-indulging” in how the wealth is used—rather than using it for God’s glory. Hoarding wealth is rooted in the perspective that “everything I own is mine and for me only.” Luxury and self-indulgence are due to self-entitlement of the wealth. Hence, we abuse our wealth/possessions when we use it to serve our materialistic self-absorbed cravings.
The Rich Man and Lazarus [Luke 16:19-31, ESV] 19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.‘ 25 But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.
The Rich Man and Lazarus [Luke 16:19-31, ESV] 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27 And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29 But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30 And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
WHEN DOES WEALTH BECOME ABUSIVE? 3)Wealth becomes abusive when we use it to OPPRESS the defenseless. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. (v.6) The third way is “oppress the defenseless” by their power. In those days, the rich had a power to manipulate the judicial system (in subtle ways, they still do because “money talks”). They wrongly accused and murdered the innocent person (figuratively and literally). In our cases, it is to abuse people by the power of money— to use money to bully people or take advantage of others.
The Dissatisfaction of Money Money, in truth, is one of the most unsatisfying of possessions. It takes away some cares, no doubt; but it brings with it quite as many cares as it takes away. There is trouble in the getting of it. There is the anxiety in the keeping it. There are the temptations in the use of it. There is the guilt in the abuse of it. There is the sorrow in the losing of it. There is the perplexity in the disposing of it. Two-thirds of all the strifes, quarrels, and lawsuits in the world, arise from one simple cause – money! - J.C. Ryle
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR OUR EVERYDAY LIFE 1.In your lifestyle, practice VIGILANCE AGAINST GREED AND MATERIALISM. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5 Stay away from the lures of materialism. Root out any tinge of greed and covetousness. 2.In acquiring your possessions, practice INTEGRITY AND JUSTICE ALWAYS. Never compromise your integrity in your business/work. Never make a profit from unjust or shady means.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR OUR EVERYDAY LIFE 3.In using your possessions, practice GENEROSITY AND GOOD STEWARDSHIP. Share it generously for God’s kingdom. Use it as God’s good steward (all belongs to God)! 4.In all ways of your possessions, practice GOD-CENTEREDNESS WITH AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE IN MIND! Seek God’s glory with it. Seek God’s desire and guidance with it.