James 5:1-6 - Rotten Wealth
Ill gotten gain will spoil quickly, so build up your treasure in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Read / Listen
Read James 5:1-6
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
Listen to passage & devotional:
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 110
Q. What does God forbid
in the eighth commandment?
A. He forbids not only outright
theft and robbery,
punishable by law.
But in God’s sight theft also includes
cheating and swindling our neighbor
by schemes made to appear legitimate,
inaccurate measurements of
weight, size, or volume;
or any other means forbidden by God.
In addition he forbids all greed
and pointless squandering of his gifts.
There are many ways that someone can be guilty of theft. In today’s passage, James speaks out against wealthy landowners who fraudulently held back wages from those who labored in their fields. This action is declared to be an act of fraud, and as James warns, the cries of the harvesters who have been wronged are heard by God. This act of theft is seen as an intentional action to fraudulently grow one’s wealth at the expense of the less fortunate.
The Old Covenant law made provisions for guaranteeing the timely payment of a worker’s wage. James’ warning against the withholding of wages echoes what is recorded in Deuteronomy 24:15, “15 You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the Lord, and you be guilty of sin.” This shows how even things that stop short of theft, such as an unnecessary delay in pay, are sinful because of the harm they cause to those who are counting on those wages.
Just because you can get away with something does not mean you should. In fact, our actions should be directed by what is right, not what we can get away with. There are various cities around the United States who have determined to not prosecute theft under a certain dollar amount. The outcome of these policies has been an increase of shoplifting and “smash and grabs” as more people feel emboldened to commit these types of crime knowing that they will not be prosecuted.
However, avoiding prosecution in the criminal justice system does not mean you have gotten away free and clear. Just as the cries of the laborers were heard by the Lord of hosts, so too are the cries of victims of theft today. As James warned those who sought ill-gotten gains during his time, when you sacrifice your morals for earthly treasures you are choosing that which will decay and perish over that which truly lasts.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: The LORD Almighty, whose ears hear those who cry out to Him;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God that you (likely) are treated honestly in your work, and pray that you will prioritize righteousness above worldly gain;
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - John 2