James 5:1-6 - The Rich Man—Hoarding Wealth

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Does the Bible condemn rich people?  Are riches a blessing or curse?

Abraham was a man of great wealth, & was called a “friend of God”—James 2:23

God called Job a perfect and upright man—Job 1:8

Problem: Solomon lauded (praised) great riches as a blessing from God, saying, “In the house of the righteous there is much treasure (Prov. 15:6; cf. Ps.112:3).  However, James warned the rich to “weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!” (5:1).  Which is it?

Solution: The text that speak about God blessing the righteous with riches refer to the general promise of God to supply the needs of those who live righteous lives (Matthew 6:33). 

James is warning those who idolize their riches, setting their affection on riches rather than on God.

The Bible only condemns the rich who store up their wealth instead of using it to reach the lost, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, shelter the cold & homeless, nurse the sick & use it for the spreading of the Gospel.

1.      The N.T. gives many warnings of the dangers of letting money & things possess a person’s heart.

2.      The Sermon on the Mount—Jesus spoke of “treasures on earth” & “treasures in heaven” and called upon His followers to be careful of which treasure they chose—Matthew 6:19-21,24

3.      True wealth is counting all things loss for Christ—Philippians 3:8-11 cf. Matthew 13:44-46

Background—A strong summons—weep and howl if you are accumulating wealth (v.1)

Summons #1—Weep & howl, for wealth is not lasting (v.2-3)

Summons #2—Weep & howl, for hoarding wealth condemns you (v.3)

Summons #3—Weep & howl for the way you are living (v.4-6)

I.                   Background-A Strong Summons—Weep & Howl If You Are Accumulating Wealth—v.1

A.       Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you

1.      This is a direct address to rich as in 1Timothy 6:17

—     Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.

2.      Apparently here James has in mind the rich as a class, whether believer, as in James 1:10 or unbeliever in 2:1,6.

3.      “Weep and howl”—means to burst into weeping (James 4:9), and howl with grief if you are hoarding money.

4.      Why?  For your miseries that are coming upon you-What are these miseries?

—   Afflictions, emptiness, loneliness, purposelessness, insecurity, passion,

—   miseries in this world, eternity, judgment, hell

II.              Summons #1—Weep & Howl, For Wealth Is Not Lasting—v.2-3

A.     Riches are uncertain & will vanish: Note 3 Things

1.    They are corrupted-rotten—v.2

This would refer to such things as farm produce, wheat & vegetables or building products like wood or wallboard.  This refers to those who gaining wealth through farming or construction or some industry whose products eventually rot away.

2.      Their garments become moth-eaten—v.2

This would include the textile and clothing industries. 

3.      Their gold & silver is corroded—v.3

This refers to mineral, chemical, metal, and mining interests of the economy. 

James is saying: If farm produce, building products, & garments sit unused, they are moth-eaten.  If gold and

Silver, sit unused they become coated with filth and eventually corrode and waste away. 

The point is this: If wealth, money or anything else is hoarded, it does nothing but sit there and eventually will be gone.  It is not being used for the good that it could.

–        Jesus said, in Matthew 6:19— “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;

–        Matthew 6:24—“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

–        All of these things are subject to decay, theft, fire, or other forms of loss. 

–        Paul said, “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ—Philippians 3:7

III.             Summons #2—Weep & howl, for hoarding wealth condemns you—v.3

A.       Wealth condemns us in three ways

1.      Their corrosion will be a witness against you—v.3a

a.       Now and in the Day of Judgment

Now—James sees their wealth decaying, & their character eroding

Future—This judgement will be before God-Jesus Christ will be the Judge—James 5:9

2.      Will eat your flesh like fire—v.3

a.       This is a present judgment as well

b.      The poison of wealth has infected them and they are being eaten alive by their own money.

c.       The passion to hoard more & more money will burn deep within us.  This passion will become lust and this lust will burn so deep that it will consume us!

d.      The fire of passion & lust for wealth will destroy us now and forever

e.       It will eat our flesh and become our consuming fire & passion of our lives until it eternally destroys

Money in and of itself is not sinful, but “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”—1Timothy 6:10

a.       Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord for 30 pieces of silver—Matt. 26:14-16; 27:3-5

3.      You have heaped up treasure in the last days—v.3b

a.       This refers to the coming days of judgment—Revelation 20:11-15

b.      Heaped up—day-by-day, treasures on earth--& wrath against himself in the day of God’s judgment


Romans 2:5-10—Treasures of wealth heaped up become treasures of wrath heaped up and will fall upon the rich person.

c.       The Last days—indicates that James believed that the coming of the Lord was near 5:8-9

d.      It is important to make the most of every opportunity-redeeming the time.

Note—It is possible to be “poor in this world” & yet rich in the next—James 2:5

It is also possible to be “rich in this world” yet poor in the next

The Rich Man & Lazarus—Luke 16:19-31

“The Danger of Misusing Riches”


The two characters of the story

A.       The rich man—v.19

1.      Clothed in purple and fine linen

2.      Fared sumptuously—lived in luxury

a.       Greek word translated fared, glutton or gourmet

b.      Greek word translated sumptuously lampos

–        Radiantly, flamboyantly

–        A flashy display of his comfort and luxury.

B.       A certain beggar named Lazarus—v.20-21

1.      He lay at the gate of the rich man's house.

2.      Full of sores open & running sores.

3.      Sought the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table.

a.       In those days they did not use utensils to eat their food, but picked it up in their hands, after dinner they would wipe their hands with a piece of bread, this is what the poor man desired.

4.      The dogs came and licked his sores.

C.       Greater contrasts could hardly be drawn.

D.       One thing common to them both, death—v.22

1.      The poor man died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom.

a.       The Hebrew word for grave is Sheol, it is the place of the departed spirits of those who have died. The Greek equivalent is Hades.

b.      Prior to the death of Jesus Christ all who died went into Sheol.

       2. The rich man also died and was buried.

a.       No mention of Lazarus being buried, for the poor in those days were not buried but their bodies were cast into the valley of Gehenna where the trash of the city was constantly burning.

b.      And in Hades or Sheol he lifted up his eyes being in torment.

c.       He saw father Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom.

d.      Going back to the statement of Jesus to make use of the unrighteousness of mammon so that when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. This is something the rich man failed to do.

E.       As there were vast contrasts in their lives, now there are vast contrasts in their conditions after death.

1.      The poor man is being comforted in Abraham's bosom—v.25

2.      The rich man is being tormented in the flames of Hades—v.24

F.       His cry to Abraham, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue."—v.24

G.       The response of Abraham—v.25

1.      Son remember, you received your good things

2.      Notice the faculties that he still possessed though his body was lying in some tomb.

a.       Lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham.

b.      He had the capacity of speech, he cried to Abraham.

c.       He could recognize Lazarus.

d.      He had the sensations of heat, and torment.

e.       He desired that his tongue be touched with water.

f.       He could remember his life on earth and his brothers who were still alive on earth.

The return of Jesus Christ will make some people rich and some poor, depending upon their spirituality

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”

Where is your treasure?


IV.             Summons #3—Weep & howl for the way you are living (v.4-6)

Four Descriptions are Given

A.       Holding back the wages—v.4


1.      Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out—v.4


a.       Laborers were hired and paid by the day and did not have any legal contracts with their employers

b.      The tense of the verb “kept back” in the Greek indicates they will never get their salaries.

c.       To not pay these men would be steeling

—    “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates.  “Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you. (Deuteronomy 24:14-15 NKJV)

—    `You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning. (Leviticus 19:13 NKJV)

1)      The person who lies in order to get wealth is a person seeking death—Prov.21:6

2)      The person who oppresses the poor is going to meet a day of severe need—Prov.22:16

3)      The person who steals to get riches will suddenly die right in the midst of his day—Jer.17:11

4)      The person who builds his estate by fraudulent means is warned and condemned—Jer.22:13

5)      The person who gets gain dishonestly shall be smitten by God’s won hand—Ezek.22:13

6)      God will never forget a single one of the dishonest works of the rich—Amos 4:8-7

7)      The person who oppresses the worker shall face the judgment of God—Mal.3-5

Cry out—the cheated person cries out in his suffering—v.4

The Lord of Sabaoth—Hebrew meaning: Lord of Hosts or Lord of Armies, referring to God’s Omnipotence, His unlimited power to help the poor, the disadvantaged, and the oppressed—God will execute judgment-v.4


B.       Living in luxury—v.5

1.      You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury—v.5

a.       Jesus said, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15 NKJV)

The Fool—Luke 12:16-21

“The Danger of Covetousness”

The parable that illustrates the difference between man's calculation of himself, and God's calculation of him.


1.      The man was rich, he had gained more than he could possibly ever use or spend. His barns were running

over, he had so much, he had no place to store his goods.

a.       He planned to pull down his barns and build bigger so that he could store even more.

b.      He thought to himself, “I have enough to last me many years, I am going to take it easy, and just eat, drink and be merry.”

2.      That was his estimate of his position, but God said, “You fool this night you are going to die, and then who will possess your goods?"

3.      Jesus said, “So is the man that has laid up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

4.      The man that lives in the plane of the flesh, who lives only to fulfill the desires of his flesh, is dead while he is still alive. He is living only for the now. The man who lives after the Spirit, and seeks to walk after the Spirit, is living for eternity.

5.      The bottom line is found in verse 34, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. If your treasure is in earthly things your heart will be in earthly things. If your treasure is in heavenly things, then your heart will be in heavenly things.


Where are you today? Are you walking after the flesh or after the Spirit? Is your treasure in earthly things or in heavenly things?

–        Each one of us must take inventory of his own life, and then determine if I am satisfied to walk the path of death or do I wish to walk the path of life. Will I live after my flesh, or will I live after the spirit.

–        1Timothy 5:6—She who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives

–        Many people are making the grave mistake of thinking that they can sow to the flesh and reap of the spirit. If you sow to the flesh, you will of the flesh reap corruption, but if you sow to the spirit, then of the spirit you will reap life everlasting.

–        What is really important is not what you are saying about yourself, but what is God saying about you!

C.       Making themselves fat—v.5

1.      You have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter—v.5

a.       A day of destruction—This is just adding more & more condemnation for the coming day of judgment.

—     But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,  who “will render to each one according to his deeds” (Romans 2:5-6 NKJV)

b.      Their souls were satisfied as in the days of Noah—Matthew 24:38-39

D.       They condemn & kill—v.6

1.      You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you—v.6

a.       The selfish-rich do not like to hear, “Give to the poor and needy to meet their needs”

b.      Therefore, the rich reject & condemn the righteous

Note: The righteous does not retaliate—This is a picture of Christ!

1.      Isaiah 53:7—He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.

2.      1Peter 2:23—who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously

3.      Matthew 11:29—“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Have you found rest for your soul?  Are you seeking riches here on earth or in heaven?

Do you want false riches of this world that will pass away?  Or, true riches, which only come from God?


The True Riches Are Found in Christ

1.      Ephesians 3:8—To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ

2.      1Corinthians 1:30—But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God----and righteousness and sanctification and redemption

3.      Colossians 2:3—in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

4.      1Peter 2:27—Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious


The Example of Someone who is Truly Rich

1.      Matthew 13:44-46—is there anything that you are holding on to that is more precious that Jesus?

2.      Philippians 3:7-8— have you given everything up that you may gain Christ?

3.      Luke 10:38-42—do you sit at the Lords feet and fellowship with Him daily?

4.      John 1:45-- Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote----Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."


Read Revelation 3:14-22—Give invitation!

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