Hello Summit family!
In his final narrative about the “trials” that come from being rich, James has encouraged the rich to take a mournful look at their wealth:“weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on 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.”
Most people with a wealth of gold and silver are hesitant to weep and wail. They probably feel as though it is those WITHOUT gold and silver who are most prone to be mournful. With these statements, James is was most certainly getting the attention of those in his audience who were wealthy.
How can one’s wealth rot? What is suggested by the statement “moths have eaten your clothes?” How can gold and silver, some of the most refined metals in the world experience corrosion? BY LACK OF USE! As unpopular as it is in today’s world, James is making a direct reference to the stewardship followers of Christ have as it relates to the resources they have been given.
It takes a long time for gold and silver to corrode, but it can happen. Personal note: while I was in high school, I had an after-school job in a local grocery store. The proprietors were not only members of the same church my family attended, they also became strong encouragers to me as a young high schooler. Over the course of my high school years, the owner would present me with an Eisenhower silver dollar. I made the decision to put them away, saving them until one day when they were worth more than just a dollar. It has been almost fifty years since I received the first silver dollar. I still have them tucked away in a safe place. From time to time I take them out of storage to have their value estimated. (Unfortunately, they still aren’t worth much more than their original value!) I have been amazed at how less polished and smooth the coins have become. Their lack of usage has truly caused a corrosive texture to develop.
James couldn’t be more direct with his statements. He is accusing those who have hoarded their wealth have demonstrated a lack of stewardship. Based on his accusation, there has been a long-term lack of usage with the wealth they have accumulated, at least usage as it relates to being obedient to God.
In chapter two, James has already encouraged his brothers and sisters to have mutual care and concern for each other. He has gone so far as to declare that if we see a brother or sister in need without doing anything about meeting that need, our faith is dead. Is it possible he is referring to people whose primary concern was meeting their own self-indulgent needs at the exclusion of those within the family who had needs? Remember also, James has already challenged his reader to keep the royal law, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (2:8)
It appears there were wealthy people either in the church or some known by those in the church who had “hoarded” their wealth. Ironically, they had chosen to hoard their wealth knowing they were living in the last days. Such an approach to life suggests that their only concern was for their earthly life and the security it was providing in the present.
Jesus taught against the attitude of hoarding wealth in contrast to the commitment of using it for kingdom benefit. In Matthew 25:24-30, Jesus taught about a wicked servant who had received gold from his master and rather than using it for good, went and hid it in the ground. The verdict – he was condemned for being worthless and thrust into darkness.
Hoarding is condemned elsewhere in scripture. Jesus said in Luke 12:33-34: “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Paul instructed Timothy: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their trust in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17)
We may not consider ourselves wealthy by worldly standards. However, as followers of Christ, we are truly rich beyond anything this world can offer. It is fair to ask ourselves the following question, even if we do not consider ourselves wealthy by this world’s standards. What are we doing with the resources God has given us?
God supports providing for our families. Paul shared that truth with Timothy: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8) However, James is addressing a situation beyond acquiring resources for provision’s sake. The issue is hoarding resources for the purpose of meeting our selfish evil desires. Are we hoarding our resources to meet our selfish worldly desires or are we using them to fulfill God’s royal law in our lives?