Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. Your gold and silver are corroded. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This corroded treasure you have hoarded will testify against you on the day of judgment. For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. You have condemned and killed innocent people, who do not resist you.
Even if we lead comfortable lives of relative prosperity, most of us don’t act like Ebenezer Scrooge. You remember Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, right? He’s the old miserly businessman who begrudges every penny paid to his clerk Bob Cratchit and wishes the poor would make themselves useful in workhouses or else die to “decrease the surplus population.” With a “Bah! Humbug!” Scrooge dismisses Christmas cheer and all those less fortunate than himself. Dickens may well have had these verses from James in mind when he wrote his story, and we would be well served to measure our ways against them.
Scripture has a lot to say about the perils and temptations of wealth. For James, who believed so strongly in proving faith through action, lusting after the luxuries of this world, especially at the expense of others, gives evidence of a corrupt soul destined for judgment. James did not fear offending the rich and wrote this passage as a prophetic warning against those – whether outside or inside the church – against greed and injustice. To be fair, scripture does not condemn being wealthy, owning property or operating a successful business. Financial resources can and should be put to good uses. But James witnessed, as have many people throughout history and in our own society, the misuse of wealth and the abuse of vulnerable, powerless people. Using worldly wealth to push others down and to satisfy your own desires is antithetical to the Gospel and to Jesus’ command that we love one another.
So, what good can you accomplish with the resources God has entrusted into your care? You can provide for your family, giving them opportunities to lead healthy, productive and Christ-honoring lives. You can support the work of God’s Kingdom in the church and through other ministries that share Jesus’ love and message. You can be generous to people in need, loving your neighbors with gifts of time and treasure. You can invest wisely for the future so you will be able to continue caring for your family, church and neighbors. There are many ways to honor God with your resources, and it begins with the humble acknowledgment that what you have – whether you’re rich or poor – has been given to you by God to serve his purposes.
Father, You are kind and generous. Thank You for providing for my needs and giving me more than I deserve. Teach me to be generous. Show me how to invest in the work of Your Kingdom so others can receive Your grace through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian