James 5:1-6


Bible Study Notes
Worldly Riches Are Temporary
James 5:1-6


The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.

Intro - When we talk about the things that are considered important in this world, we are quickly brought to the matter of material wealth.

While it is certainly true that many people in the world are fully occupied with trying to eke out an existence, it is equally true that for much of the world the pursuit and acquisition of wealth is a primary concern.

Even in places where most people are extremely poor, we find the inequities of the very wealthy clearly evidenced. The Bible does not condemn wealth or people with wealth, but it does give strong warnings about the dangers that the pursuit and possession of wealth brings.

James has already alluded to the rich in his letter. In 1:10,11 he gave some instructions to wealthy believers. In 2:6 he referred to the rich who pursecuted the believers.

He now turns his full attention to the rich and their foolishness in amassing wealth in the face of the coming of the Lord in judgment.

This section is very similar to the Old Testament prophets in their condemnation of social injustices (cf. Isa. 10:1-k; Mal. 3:1-5).

It seems clear both in the emphasis in this section and in the contrast in the following section (5:7-11) that the rich in view are unbelievers (cf. 2:6). If there are some believers included here, they are not addressed as such.

5:1 -
Come now (cf. 4:13) is again a forceful call for attention, this time on the part of the rich. James first deals with the judgment that they are about to face (vv. 1-3), then he addresses the particular sins they have committed (vv. 4-6).

The reason for speaking to the unbelievers this way is both to comfort the Christian who has suffered at their hands and also to warn the believers of the true condition of the wealthy.

weep and howl - This is not a call to repentance, but indicates the response of the rich when judgment falls on them. It is a reference to the judgment that will be executed at the coming of Christ (cf 5:7,8).

5:2 -
The words rotted, moth-eaten and rusted reveal the real worthlessness of the wealth these people have accumulated. Three main sources of wealth are dealt with by James.

riches have rotted - This is a reference to corn and grain which were key sources of wealth (cf. Luke 12:16-20).

garments have become moth-eaten - In the East, garments were an important form of wealth. The outer robes were often elaborately sewn and decorated to further evidence the wealth of the individual. Moths could destroy their value, however.

5:3 -
gold and silver have rusted - The point James is making is that even the most durable forms of wealth are worthless.

The grain becomes rotten when it is stored and not used. When the clothes are stored and not used they are liable to become moth-eaten. This also seems to be the point in the rusting of the silver and the gold. It has been hoarded and unused.

The presence of this wealth in the Day of Judgment will testify to the selfish life-style of the rich. This accumulated wealth will add to their suffering in that day.

The irony is that this wealth has been stored up "in the last days." This expression refers to the days of the Messiah, a period which began with the first coming of Christ (cf. Acts 2:16,17; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Pet. 3:3; 1 John 2:18).

The concern here is upon the imminent Second Coming of Christ, which will bring judgment on those upon the earth.

The presence of this hoarded wealth on the Day of Judgment will testify to the selfish worldly pursuits of these people.

This should cause all of us to consider carefully what we do with the wealth that we have. We are to use what God has given us to accomplish His purposes and to meet the needs of others.

5:4 -
James now sets forth some of the specific sins the rich have committed.

The day laborer was dependent for his very survival on the wages he received each day. The Scripture requires that he be paid at the end of each day (Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:14,15).

Lord of Sabbaoth means Lord of Hosts and identifies Him as the majestic God who will act on behalf of the oppressed.

5:5 -
The rich have led lives of ease and selfishness.

The adverb luxuriously refers to luxury, ease, and self-indulgence.

wanton vice - This carries the idea of wastefulness. The rich have squandered their wealth on self-indulgent pleasures.

James compares them to the ox that is fattened for the slaughter; it continues to eat to the very day of slaughter. The rich continue their selfish life-style in the face of impending judgment.

5:6 -
The rich have been ruthless in their treatment of others. They do whatever they see as advantageous to acquire more for themselves (cf. 2:6).

he does not resist you - (cf. Matt. 5:39; Rom. 12:19).

Conclusion -
So many people in our society today are intent on accumulating all the possessions they can, totally oblivious to the fact that we are living in the last days. Judgment is indeed coming.

Believers need to be careful that they do not become infected with this same attitude. We get caught up in the same pursuits - acquiring all that we can - while ignoring the fact that we are living in the last days.

What will our store of wealth say about us when we stand before Christ? (cf. 1 Tim. 6:8-10, 17-19).

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
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