NKJV - 1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!
Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.
I don't believe that James was universally condemning wealth as such, or the people who possess it. I think that the subsequent verses in this chapter shed some light on the specific type of people to whom James was referring. They have placed their priority (as noted in verses 2 and 3) on the acquisition of material possessions such as gold, silver, clothing, and perishable items, which (as Jesus also mentioned in Matthew 6:19-21) are subject to deterioration and theft, rather than focusing on the accumulation of eternal, imperishable treasure in heaven. They have hoarded wealth for its own sake (verse 3), rather than using it to perform actions that would benefit others. The wealth that they HAVE spent has been devoted to cheating those who work for them, while the possessors of the wealth have lived in continual self-indulgence (verses 4 and 5). They have brought about the death of innocent people who were not opposing the wealthy in any way (verse 6). It was rich people such as this whom Jesus also condemned as fools (Luke 12:15-21), and of whom He was speaking when He said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle that for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 18:25). Like Jesus, James' focus was on those who, instead of viewing wealth as a blessing from God to be used for His purposes, allowed their wealth to come between themselves and God.
God and eternity applies to both rich and poor. So does the requirement of honesty. Furthermore, if the greed of the rich is wrong, so is jealousy of the rich on the part of the poor (Prov. 30:7-9; Phil. 4:11). It would seem that many rich professing Christians known to James had the same faults, but this should not lead us to think that it is wrong for Christians to be rich. In the Old Testament, Solomon (2 Chron.1:11-12) and Job (Job 1:1-3) were very wealthy, as was Abraham; while in the New Testament the Lord was helped by rich women (Luke 8:1-3) and was buried in a rich man’s tomb (Matt. 27:57-60). But, because of the dangers that wealth brings, Jesus himself said it was difficult to be both rich and a true Christian (Matt.19:23-26). That I think is what James is eluding too when he speaks against riches. Do not let riches and wealth have you. Nor lust after them. And do not let them chose who you are or how you look at others. Weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Weeping and wailing are the cries of mourning when the person is dead and life has finished. This is what the selfish rich ought to feel at the prospect of the just judgement of God. The misery that James warns about can take different forms. It may be a reference to the ease with which riches can lose their value, or even to the violence of robbery. The poor can be thankful that they do not have worries like that! Riches do not always bring happiness and they can be a source of dispute and discord, or they may no longer give pleasure or satisfaction to those who have them. Having wealth and not letting wealth or the lust of it have you as well.
The book of James was written to Jewish Christians scattered all over the Roman world (Jam 5:1). The people James is speaking to are rich people who are claiming to be Christians and have associated with the local church. James writes the entire book to "brothers and sisters in the faith" (James 1:2). Each chapter of his book is dealing with behavioural issues in the church. Believers are conducting themselves in ways that are contradictory to the faith they claim to have. In James 5:1-6 harsh words are reserved for the rich who have hoarded their wealth, exploited workers by not paying wages and living self-indulgently with no regard for others in need. He even accuses them of murdering innocent people. Such words may lead us to believe that these rich people were not even Christians. However, we need to remember that when people come to faith in Christ their behaviours in life don't instantly become God-pleasing. The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit takes time. But it also takes a willing heart. James harsh warnings are intended to bring these rich Christians to confess their sins and repent. He is admonishing them to learn the bible's principles for managing the wealth entrusted to them. James is really saying that their actions are demonstrating they have no faith at all and are in danger of facing judgement instead of receiving salvation. See James 2:14-26 for his argument that faith without deeds is no faith at all. Phrases like "weep and wail because of the misery coming on you", "your corroded wealth will eat your flesh like fire", "fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter" and "condemned and murdered the innocent one" all speak of a dire warning to repent of their evil behaviours or face the judgement of hell. It sounds like he is speaking to people he thinks are unbelievers in the church. Just because someone claims to be a Christian does not mean it is true. Jesus said we would know a tree by its fruit. An evil tree would produce rotten fruit. A person's behaviour demonstrates what is in their heart, whether or not they have been born again. The longer a person has conducted themselves according to the culture of our world, under the direction of the evil spiritual forces, the harder it is to break sinful behaviours and adopt godly ones. The challenge for rich people is that they learn to put their trust in their wealth. How then do they put their trust in Christ for salvation and put their trust in the Holy Spirit to instruct them how to use their wealth to honour God and fulfill his purposes. Jesus said this is impossible for man alone but anything is possible with God's help for anyone who is willing.
All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.
A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.