Saturday, April 19, 2014

James 5:1–6

1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. 4 Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5 You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.

Vs. 1-3 The Apostle James in continuing his reprimand that began in 4:13, here sets out to shatter every false confidence that those who are living in opulence, arrogance and greed may have about having a peaceful eternity. It is then a message of meant to shaken the wealthy and affluent out of their arrogant complacency (consider Rev 3:17-20). And so like the prophets of old too whom similar messages first came (consider Isaiah 1:21-26; 2:10-12; 3:13-26; 32:9-11; Jeremiah 5:26-31; 17:11; 22:13-17; Zephaniah 3:1-5; Habakkuk 2:5-17; Micah 2:1-5, 11; 6:9-14; 7:1-4 etc.). The Apostle James likewise regards neither their person, nor their wealth, nor their "stature" in this world, in delivering his strongest denunciation yet in his epistle.
And so instead of commending the rich for the abundance of everything that they have acquired for and laid up for themselves. The Apostle James here calls the rich to weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon them (vs. 1). Saying their riches are corrupted (literally rotted) and their garments are moth eaten (vs.2). Thus neither their wealth, nor their fine apparel will be able to deliver their souls in the day of God's wrath (consider Psalm 49:6-9). And so their once gorgeous apparel that they arrayed themselves with, has been reduced to nothing more than moth eaten rags at the Judgment seat of Christ. In contrast, those who trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ, no matter how poorly clothed in this life, will be magnificently arrayed in everlasting rich robes which He Himself will provide for us all who believe in Him (consider Zechariah 3:1-5, vs. 4; Rev 3:18; 7:9; 19:14). And so all their luxury and splendor that they themselves once lived in, and outward grandeur that they adorned themselves with, will utterly fail them in the Day of the Lord. Those once cherished riches that they themselves so fiercely pursued and so strongly defended and thus trusted in (antithesis Job 31:24-25, 28; Psalm 71:5; Jeremiah 17:17), have only become corroded. And there corrosion, "...will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire." vs. 3 

Therefore neither their wealth nor their fine apparel will bring them into God's favor when they stand before Him to be judged by Him. Instead these will be a witness against them, because instead of honoring God with their abundance which He gave them, or relived the miseries of the poor which He also commands of us all (Deut. 15:11) they only sought their own pleasures and gain, nothing more (Luke 16:9-13; 19-31). And so in their relentlessly acquiring and hoarding wealth, and living in all manner of greedy opulence, they only denied God above. Therefore all that they have acquired for themselves will only be a witness against them at the finial judgment. Indeed, even their fine apparel will, as the Apostle James says here, eat their flesh like fire, when God who is a consuming fire judges them. For living in and justifying all manner of greed and covetousness they only made an open mockery of God's commandments. Therefore the rich here are not those rich which the Apostle Paul commands to be "rich in good works, ready to give willing to share" (see 1 Tim 6:17-19). No these are those whose "god" is their riches, and whose appetite for their riches (like Satan's) is never satisfied. Indeed their desire for it is like death that knows no end, or the grave that can never be "filled up" (consider Prov 27:20; Habakkuk 2:5). And so they spend their lives in their greedy pursuits and super-abundance, living lives of self-indulgent opulence, all the while being knowingly indifferent to the many legitimate needs all around them. Therefore neither their wealth, nor their finely set apparel will bring them into God's favor at His Judgment. Instead all of their hoarded abundance of what they once so cherished, will only be a witness against them, before God repays them for all their self-indulgence, extravagance, and endless greed which they had pleasure in.

Now that the Apostle James say's that they have "heaped up treasure in the last days" (vs. 3) is not condemning those who have bank accounts, or in Canada  RRSP's, or similar saving devices by which people prepare for their, or their children's future's, or elderly years, or retirement etc. No James is here condemning the heaping up of wealth, and thus of having ones heart greedily fixed on it as ones treasure, and not the Kingdom of heaven (consider Matt 13:44). Therefore we must always remember Jesus' commandment to first lay up our treasures in heaven, since these other "savings devices" are suspect to failure, and will only rob us of eternal riches if we ignore Jesus' commandment to lay up our treasures in heaven here and now (see Matt 6:19-24). Which is something we all can do, regardless of our income status. For it's not the amount given, it's the proportion to what one has, that one gives, that will be repaid (consider Luke 6:38; 21:1-4). Therefore don't hoard the wealth which God has given you. Instead use it (as it seems good to you, 2 Cor 9:7-9) for good now while you can. Because God will not credit it to your heavenly account after you are gone. And so the Apostle James has strong condemnation against the rich for heaping up their treasures in these last days, because the urgency of the Gospel demands that we channel our energies and God given resources and talents into it's furtherance. For that is why we are here, and the church exists, to be His witnesses and workers of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us all.

Vs. 4-5 4 Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5 You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.

In continuing his rebuke as to why miseries are coming upon the rich, the Apostle James here lays out more charges against their unrighteous deeds. Previously he charged them with heaping up treasures in the last days, a time which began with the crucifixion death then resurrection from the dead of the Lord Jesus Christ and will conclude when the Lord Jesus Christ returns for the His bride the church before, He executes God's wrath on the unbelieving and unrepentant world (Isaiah 66:16). The interim then being referred to as the last days when ungodliness and unrighteousness will reach it's zenith on the earth, culminating with the appearing of the lawless one before the Lord's return (Acts 2:17-21; 2 Thess. 2; 2 Tim 3:1-5; Heb. 1:2; 2 Peter 3:3-9). And that is why repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ must be preached to all here and now, so that all have opportunity to repent and believe before the Lord's return and the doors to the Kingdom of heaven are shut forever (Matt 24:14). For the Lord Jesus Christ will upon His return both destroy the lawless one (2 Thess. 2:8), before gathering all who believe Him to Himself. And then He will judge all peoples and nations (Matt 25:31-46) before passing an everlasting verdict on them (Rev. 20:11-15).
Therefore to be living a greedy and self indulgent existence, is only to be storing up great wrath on oneself (vs. 5). And so here the Apostle James in rebuking such, also charges them with robing their laborers, of keeping back their wages by fraud (vs. 4). Something that God, who is a God of justice not only condemns in the Scriptures, but always executes His fierce wrath on (consider Lev 19:13; Isaiah 58:3-12; Jeremiah 22:11-23 etc.). And so though the rich may be indifferent to their laborers cries for justice, equity, and fairness, the Lord surely isn't. And that is why the Apostle James calls Jesus Christ the Lord of Sabaoth, because the Lord Jesus Christ is not only the Lord of Justice (Isaiah 30:18), but also the Lord of Sabaoth, that is Jesus as Lord brings rest and refreshing (Matt 11:28-30). And yet the rich who were entrusted with much from God instead of causing the weary to rest, as Jesus does, only laid heavy burdens on them. Demanding in their insatiable appetites for more and more maximum work for minimum pay. Indeed not content to poorly pay those whose labors take care of them and cause them to rest. They went so far (when it was possible for them) too not only exploit their employees, but also rob them of their wages by fraud! Something that the most dastardly amongst them will even enshrine for themselves in law (consider Isaiah 11:1-5). And so in an escalating crescendo of condemnation against them, the Apostle James concludes by saying of them: "You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you." vs. 6
That the Apostle James says that they have condemned, that they have murdered the just is literal, of having someone not deserving of death sentenced to death, and thus in effect committing murder. Something that the rich and powerful in Israel did also to the Lord Jesus Christ using their influence to sway Pilate to not only sentence Jesus to crucifixion death, but the chief priests also stirred the people up so that they asked for Barabbas, when Pilate wanted to release to them Jesus instead.

 Scripture Citations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982

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