ILLUSTRATION: As a child, every year at Christmas time we would pull out an old VHS tape.
It had recorded on it various Christmas movies and commercials that my parents had recorded off the tv.
I’m not entirely sure if there were any recording licenses violated or not, but as a kid, we weren’t worried about that kind of thing
I remember a few of the shows that were recorded on that VHS:
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the cartoon version)
Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (the claymation)
The Town Santa Forgot and The Twelve Days of Christmas (both lesser known cartoons)
But I remember the one on the VHS that may have been our very favorite
There was never a year that went by that we didn’t watch it.
“A Mickey’s Christmas Carol”
To be honest, I didn’t know that there was a book or a live action movie until far later in my life.
Bob Cratchet was played by Mickey
Marley - was played by Goofy
Scrooge - played by the uncle of Donald Duck… Scrooge McDuck
And in much the same way as the actual book, it tells the story of Scrooge McDuck, who is only concerned with gaining wealth for himself.
He does it at the expense of his employee, his relationships, and anyone else that could be helped by generosity.
EXPLANATION: As I was studying these first 6 verses of James 5, I couldn’t help by think of old Scrooge McDuck.
In the same way James had gotten the attention of his readers back in v.13 of chapter 4, he once again begins with that same phrase, “Go to now.”
“Listen up!”
And while the first warning was given to those confident business men who were making their business plans without any consideration of the God Who was in control… this warning is addressed to the rich of James’s day.
It is very likely the same rich men he had mentioned back in James 2:6-7
James 2:6–7 KJV 1900
6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
It would have been those rich men who not only weren’t concerned with God being a part of their plans, but they were comfortable mocking the very God that had given them so much.
We know from history that in this time period, three examples of wealth included the Food you had, the Expensive clothing you wore, and the Precious Metals you possessed.
That’s exactly the crowd James is addressing in these verses.
And what James has to say is one of the harshest rebukes we find in the NT.
In v.3 James gives personification to an unlikely source.
He calls to the witness stand the “rust” of the things they had gained and trusted in.
James 5:3 KJV 1900
3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
ILLUSTRATION: I once heard a message by a preacher who preached a message he had titled, “If rocks could speak”
His message was based in Luke 19, after Jesus had made his entrance into Jerusalem on the back of the colt on that Palm Sunday.
Luke 19:39–40 KJV 1900
39 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. 40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
He preached a message from the view point of the rocks and what they would cry out.
And I remember thinking, what I cool thought… but this guy is crazy.
APPLICATION: Well, things really come full circle, because today I want to preach a message here in James and I guess we could title it, “If Rust Could Speak”
And the truth is, many of us have some “rust” in our life that could tell and tale.
And we are going to see that from our passage this morning.
I’ve only been into a courthouse a few times, but today we will turn this platform into one.
And there will only be one witness that will be called to the stand…
That witness… the “rust” in your life and mine.
The “Rust” that James called to the stand all those years ago when he recorded these words for us.


James 5:1 KJV 1900
1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
James 5:5 KJV 1900
5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
EXPLANATION: James begins after addressing these rich men, by hitting right at the root of their problem.
They had a love for their things.
We find just how deep the hooks went in as James says they will “weep” and “howl” when the “miseries” would come to them.
They were living in a life of luxury.
V.5 has the idea that they didn’t just have their needs met, but they were living a lavish life.
They enjoyed the pleasures of this life.
The words “wanton” has the sense that they were overindulged in bodily appetites.
They were fattening themselves up like they may have done with one of their oxen before the day of his slaughter would come.
They were living like their was no tomorrow!
And James in a somber and painful way for them, informs them, “You may be overindulging today, but it is all going to be gone very soon!”
The day of miseries is coming!
And those things you are holding so tightly will be gone!
There was nothing wrong with them having things.
We mentioned a couple weeks ago that one of the possible signs of God’s blessing is that of material wealth.
ILLUSTRATION: Job was a righteous man that ran from evil and he had an abundance of things
Some would say, “Ya and God allowed it all to be taken away.”
True, but you must not have read the rest of the book… There are 42 chapters in Job’s book and we focus all our attention on the first 2!
When Job reached the end of his trial the final testimony of Job’s life is given in Job 42:12-17
Job 42:12–17 KJV 1900
12 So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. 13 He had also seven sons and three daughters. 14 And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Keren-happuch. 15 And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren. 16 After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations. 17 So Job died, being old and full of days.
God blessed Job with things, and it didn’t make Job evil.
EXPLANATION: The key is not that the people had riches, but that the riches had them!
1 John 2:15 KJV 1900
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 Timothy 6:10 KJV 1900
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
James makes clear that those “things” that they had loved so much had a shelf life!
James 5:2–3 KJV 1900
2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. 3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
When James writes these words he writes them in a tense as if it is as good as already done!
It’s a glimpse into the eyes of God and how He views those things that we so often hold so dearly.
And here in James 5, these rich people had placed all their confidence in what they had accumulated.
And James says, “You might as well start weeping and howling now, because all those things you love will be gone!”
In God’s eyes, James 5:2-3
James 5:2–3 KJV 1900
2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. 3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
You see your love is not supposed to be in the things you can accumulate!
Luke 12:15 KJV 1900
15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.


James 5:4 KJV 1900
4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
James 5:6 KJV 1900
6 Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
EXPLANATION: Their misplaced love of things resulted in a mistreatment of people.
V.4 and 6 give the idea that they were willing to cheat others for their wealth and even take them to court and had them punished over it.
They had not even come by their wealth and possessions honestly.
They would have someone come and work for them, and then not pay them the agreed upon wage.
They were cheats and liars.
And when someone tried to accuse them of their dishonest ways, they would have them condemned.. and even killed according to v.6.
The ultimate level of a misplaced love is when possessions take priority over God and people.
ILLUSTRATION: You don’t have to look any further for an example than one of the very disciples of Jesus.
Judas was the money man in the group.
This lends the idea that he was trusted by the group, why else would he have been the treasurer.
But we get a glimpse into the heart of Judas just days before Christ’s crucifixion.
Jesus and His disciples were in the home of Simon who had been a leper enjoying supper.
When into the house comes a woman named Mary.
In her hands was a box of ointment made from the leaves of plants from the Himalayan Mountains, that the Bible says was very precious.
In fact, Judas later would give it a value of 300 pence which would have been roughly the equivalent of a years wages.
John 12:3–8 KJV 1900
3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. 4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, 5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. 7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. 8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
Judas wasn’t concerned with demonstrating love to the Savior.
He didn’t care about Christ’s love for Mary.
All he cared about was his love for the money.
Ultimately, he would sell out Jesus Himself for 30 pieces of silver.
His love of possessions took priority over the person of Christ!
APPLICATION: God is very clear where your love is supposed to be placed!
Matthew 22:37–39 KJV 1900
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
But the rust of all those possessions was on the stand and the testimony was clear… Their love for those things had consumed their lives!
They didn’t just have stuff, but the stuff had them!
And the thought of losing it made them lose their minds!
Weeping and Howling at the thought of losing their things!
Their love of stuff had caused them to lie, cheat, and steal from the very people that were making them money.
ILLUSTRATION: I was watching a video this past week of some of the survivors who had made it through one of the tornados that passed through the midwest just a week or two ago.
They were interviewing different people and showing some of the destruction.
At the end of the video they were talking with one of the families that had lost everything in the storm and they came to one of the children from the family and in one simple statement he spoke more truth than many in James’s day and ours understand.
He said, “You can replace everything… but you can’t replace us.”
He knew the simple truth that it isn’t about the things...
APPLICATION: And the sad reality today is in the greatest country on earth, the USA, people are more in love with their stuff than ever!
Like those in Jame’s day, they are consumed with their things and their possessions.
They live their lives to accumulate more.
And sadly, even in the church house, it is done at the expense of honesty and integrity, and often at the expense of other people.


APPLICATION: You see, no one would admit to being willing sell the Savior for any amount of money.
But while we may say we wouldn’t, why is it we sell Him for so much less, so often in our lives?
We sell our time with Him for scrolling on Social Media
We sell our worship for Him for sports or the great outdoors
We sell our faithfulness to Him, when we act like Peter around other crowds and act like we don’t even know Him.
If the Rust could speak today… if your possessions could shout, what would they say!
Would they testify of your willingness to put things over people?
Would they testify of your willingness to put things over God?
If you are a Christian today, if the rust could speak, what would it say about your “Christianity?”
EXPLANATION: But here is the most important part of James’s message.
You see, God knew the heart condition of the rich people James was writing about.
James 5:4 KJV 1900
4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
The cries of those that have been wronged are heard by the Lord!
The cries of the rust has testified against them!
Their seeking to fill the void in their soul with things has been seen by God, and unless something changed, the day of judgment was coming.
There was coming a day when they would stand before God and all their things would be gone!
And God would ask them why should I let you into heaven.
And they would point to the goods they once had, but there would be no amount of possessions that would get them in.
And God would say, based upon your works your must spend eternity in a lake of fire!
ILLUSTRATION: We have fire fighters here today that risk their lives pulling people out of dangerous situations.
They are willing to enter a burning house to save the life of someone in there!
APPLICATION: But there is a real lake of fire that no fire fighter will be able to save you from someday!
And if you are trusting in what you’ve accumulated to get you into heaven… you’ll never make it.
But for many they don’t trust in their riches, they trust in their good works.
But the problem is Ephesians 2:8-9
Ephesians 2:8–9 KJV 1900
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
There is no good thing you or I can do to get to heaven on our own!
Jesus gave the answer to access into heaven in John 14:6
John 14:6 KJV 1900
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Romans 5:8 KJV 1900
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 6:23 KJV 1900
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 10:13 KJV 1900
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
If the rust could speak, you and I would be declared guilty in our sins!
Rich or poor alike, we are all guilty.
But because Jesus gave His life on the cross for you, you can have the promise of eternal life.
While the people James was talking about were trying to build their earthly kingdoms, Jesus tells us where to lay our riches:
Matthew 6:19–21 KJV 1900
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Friend, if the rust could speak it would declare you guilty… But Jesus can declare you innocent!
Stop pursuing this earthly kingdom that will fade away, and come to Jesus today!
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