James 5.1-6 Defrauding and Indulging

December 20, 2009 Series: James | Retro-Faith

Topic: New Testament Passage: James 5:1–5:6

James 5.1-6 Defrauding and Indulging

December 20, 2009

Sam Ford


James 5.1-6 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.


What do you have that was not given to you?

What do you have that was not given to you?  In Matthew 18 Jesus says that we must become like children if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven.  I don’t believe that means we must go back to diapers.  I am more inclined to believe that we’re supposed to realize that we’re already there—making a mess of ourselves all the time.  We are such a prideful people, pretending are diapers are not full, pretending we don’t stink, running away from our Father who wants to help us as we say, “I don’t need you…I’ll do it myself.”  In our pride, we believe that we have much more than we do figured out.  Ever since the Garden of Eden, we have declared ourselves independent and secure when, in reality, we’re desperately dependent and in need.


My children are desperately dependent upon me for everything.  If I don’t provide them food, they will starve.  If I don’t provide them clothing, they will freeze.  If I don’t give them a place to sleep they will suffer.  If I don’t encourage my boys and their mannishness; give them my smile, my high five, or my “well done”, they will be insecure, and if I don’t actively cuddle and speak of my daughter’s beauty in a way that can see, she will not feel loved.  How much more are we children when compared with the infinite Father who loves us; how much more do we depend on him for everything, for our needs, our acceptance, our security, joy and our very identity.


Give Him my heart…keep your hands off my money

I am convinced we don’t really believe we NEED God to save us as much as we THINK stuff will save us.  And we’ll listen to pastors talk about “moral living”, but don’t dare start talking about practical living—even though Jesus himself talked about practical living more than anyone.  In other words, I’ll give Him and his church my heart…keep your hands off my money.


This is going to be one of those sermons where you assume (or hope) that I am speaking to someone else.  James is going to start talking about our money—the “rich” people.  Of course, no one thinks their rich.  And there are a few people in this church who do not idolatrize money.  But for the rest of, the other 99% of the church, you are like the rich young ruler.  He loved to talk about “good” behavior like being “sacrificial”, but when it meant actually sacrificing the thing he loved most—money…he failed!  And then Jesus warned his disciples  Matthew 19.23 23 …“Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter thekingdom ofGod.”


v. 1 Call to Repentance

James is going to begin his sermon with a call to repentance—so that is what I am going to do.  And more than half of you are going to ignore it because you believe that “being rich” is a particular tax bracket, income level, or career choice.  I am not talking about that.  I’m talking to people who find meaning in the gospel (good news and promises) of STUFF instead of the gospel of the Jesus.


You are acquiring wealth, arranging your life in such a way to get a bigger house, a better job, or a newer thing because you believe and LIVE as if THIS LIFE IS ALL THERE IS…and we are all searching for meaning & purpose!  “Acquiring wealth to cure the problem of meaninglessness is like drinking coffee to solve the problem of exhaustion.” It will mask the problem for a time, but it will never ultimately cure it. You fail to understand that your life, and all that is it in it, has the primary purpose to glorify God—everything does.  Your life, your pain, your joys, your stuff, your home, your marriage, your children…God did all of those for His Glory…your prayer, your words, your thoughts, even your evangelism,  has the primary purpose of bringing God glory.


And therefore, anything you have IS GOD’S!  You’re delusional if you think ANYTHING you have is yours.  YOU SAY…”But I’ve worked so hard for what I have.  When other people were unwise with their money, I was wise.  When others wanted to play, I worked.”  I SAY YOU ARE AN ARROGANT NUT JOB to believe that what we have is our own, of our own efforts, and a result of simply hard work.  Exodus 4.11 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?   All is a gift, everything good is from God…your mind, your education, your abilities, your capacity to grow, your desires to understand, your muscles, your fingers, your ability to walk, run, swim, your gifts of music, your ability to dance, your family history, your personality is from  God for his glory.


Miseries that are coming

James says if you don’t change the way you live, especially with your wealth, you will experience misery. Because those who persevere in pursuing anything other than God, money, sex, wine, or any other aspect of creation ends up getting what they want.  You’ll pursue it all the way to the point of howling in Hell (Luke 16).


v. 2-3 The Hoarding of Wealth

2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.


In verses 2-3, James gives us a general overview of the heart of the problem.  The “rich” HOARD their wealth.   They are acquiring wealth and stockpiling, accumulating, and collecting as opposed to giving, dispersing, and sharing.  Their COINS are corroding because they are not used and their CLOTHES are being eaten by moths because they are not being worn (Caylin Story with Tags on clothes) The Sin of hoarding is denying the PROPER use of WEALTH, wrongfully TRUSTING in wealth, and PRESUMING you will live to use that wealth another day.  1Timothy 6.17-18 17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (THE ENJOYMENT IS-à). 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.


Evidence of laying up treasure

These guys are putting their faith in that which corrodesIn the greek- the same word is used for corrosion and venom.  It’s the idea of an unwanted poison seeping out of something. The truth is that everything in this world corrodes.  There are some that will say yes, the MOST important thing is relationships.  In reality, even relationships corrode and even poison us.  There is only ONE thing, ONE person who does not change or fade—Jesus.  Jesus himself warned his listeners about this:  Matthew 6.19-21  19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 


There is no sin in being rich.  The sin is always in HOW it is obtained, HOW you use it, and WHAT place that wealth takes in our hearts. The danger of wealth, however, is that it provides an earthly cushion that can often dull us to the spiritual urgency we are called to live with. It often opens the door to carelessness and insensibility to needs of others. And, in the end, it denies the gospel of Jesus.


v. 4 -5 Behold!

James then moves beyond the GENERAL overview, into a more specific description of exactly what happens when someone is guilty of using wealth wrongfully, he says BEHOLD, here is the EVIDENCE, what laying up treasure on earth looks like: . 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.  



James gives us specific examples from his context what someone who lays us earthly treasure LIVES like. In James context, the harvesters and workers are being defrauded.  The Old Testament taught in Deut 24 that people were to be paid their wages the same day they worked.  But these men are keeping back the payment, either not paying what they owe, not paying on time, or not paying at all. Why? Greed. The rich, defined as those who possess wealth and NOT a love for Jesus, make decisions on what is MOST PROFITABLE and not necessarily by what is right or radically loving.  People become tools and “right” become situational.  Now, not all of us have businesses or fields with workers under us—but we all know what it means to obsesses with making money to the point that people become opportunities, every friend is a client, and every contact we sign negotiable if not working for us.  


You have LIVED Luxury & Self-Indulgent Lifestyles

Now not all of us are greed, there are many people who give to others.  At the same time, even among those who give, we are guilty of living luxuriously—literally a “SOFT LIFE”.  So the question is not whether I am rich or poor.  Most of us think we’re “middle class” because we don’t like to claim we’re either.  The life of a “rich”, is a life of pleasure, a life w/o self-denial, not necessarily corrupt in every way, but certainly will to sin if it promises comfort and enjoyment. IT IS the VERY OPPOSSITE of living like Jesus.  I am not suggesting we take a VOW of poverty, sell everything, keep one pair of clothes, takes one shower a week, walks to work, and eats top Ramen to save money!  The question is, are you living sacrificially?  Is your faith costing you something?  Mark 12.41  41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”


You have FATTENED your hearts

There are TWO meanings here for the “day of slaughter” in verse 5.  We are either FEASTING or being SLAUGHTERED.  The rich of this world are less interested about feeding anyone else, and more interested about feeding themselves.  There is an image of eating and eating and eating, not knowing that you are simply  fattening yourself up for the day of slaughter.  And in that day, you will be selected to die because you are the obese feast and the thin ones are safe.  We fatten ourselves on all kinds of things…other than the glory of Jesus.  None of them satisfy—but they certainly make us fat—ripe for slaughter. What are you fattening yourself with?  Relationships?  Things?  Money?  Food?  Pleasure?


v. 6 You are a murderer

6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. 

Finally, James concludes his condemnation of “the rich”, by calling them murderers of THE righteous person—literally “The Righteous One”.  The righteous person that James alludes to does not resist, but in fact takes the direct harm inflicted.  Though that person could resist with word or deed, He does not.  The truth is, OUR TREASURING of the WRONG things condemned Jesus.  Matthew 6.21, 24 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 24  “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  Using your money to glorify God isn’t just a “good idea” it is a matter of love and hatred, of life and death.  


Conclusion Matthew 26.6-16/John 12.4-6

I’ll end with an account from Matthew and John of the same story. We are all someone in this historical account.  Our tendency is to always choose to be Jesus, of which none of us ever are.  And though it is tempting to be serving Martha in the background, we’re going to choose the more active people in the story.  It is not my place to TELL you who you are, but to ask you to consider who you are.


Mary, Jesus, Judas

Matthew 26-6-12 6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” (John 12.4-6 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.) 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”  Mary takes a pound of expensive ointment.  Consider, that at this time she Women reacts with SACRIFICIAL LOVE, Jesus reacts with pure DELIGHT. Judas act with disgust. And in the next story:


Jesus was still betrayed

Matthew 26.14-16 14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. We’re either Mary or Judas—living sacrificial or self-centered lives.  That is James’ point.  It was for a love of money that Jesus was betrayed and it is often STILL out of a love for money that we betray Jesus.  Do you love Jesus like Mary?  Will you love Jesus like that? Truly? Practically? Radically? Generously?  Sacrifically?  Those who believe the gospel, confess the gospel.  Those who confess that Jesus has redeemed us from slavery to sin, that Jesus gave up ALL THERE IS TO OWN, and humbled himself, giving himself to us that he might be glorified by our salvation.  Our willingness to dedicate our wealth to God is a confession of the gospel.  Giving so God will love us, or even prosper us is not believing the true Gospel.  But NOT giving to God, for fear we won’t prosper, out of guilt or duty, is also not believing the gospel. Those who believe the gospel let go of their “stuff”, deny themselves, and they give and love in line with how much they KNOW they have been given, and how much they have been loved. 


More in James | Retro-Faith

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James 5.19-20: Wandering and Finding

January 10, 2010

James 5.13-18 Praying and Healing

January 3, 2010

James 5.12 Oaths and Vows