The Book of James – Don’t be Materialistic

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“Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you.  Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags.  Your gold and silver are corroded. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This corroded treasure you have hoarded will testify against you on the day of judgment.  For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter.” James 5:1-5

We can know a lot about God and believe or assent to truths about Him, but it becomes more obvious where our true faith lies when we look at how we are living, especially what we are anxious about. What treasure are we really lying up for the last days? The worldview of the preceding paragraph was that God rules over time and requires our obedience to his will in all use of it. The same worldview is extended now to encompass material wealth: God rules over wealth and requires our obedience to his will in all use of it. James is not saying that it is a sin to be rich. After all, Abraham was a very wealthy man, yet he walked with God and was greatly used by God to bless the whole world. James was concerned about the selfishness of the rich and he advised them to weep and groan. There was going to be judgment one day. James was concerned with the way they got their wealth. The Bible does not condemn having money and being rich. It does condemn how you got your money. The rich that James is talking about become rich by illegal means or for illegal purposes. One way that the rich acquired their money was that they were not paying the people that worked for them. They were using their employees to become rich and not taking care of the ones that made them their money. “Never take advantage of poor and destitute laborers, whether they are fellow Israelites or foreigners living in your towns. You must pay them their wages each day before sunset because they are poor and are counting on it. If you don’t, they might cry out to the Lord against you, and it would be counted against you as sin.” (Deuteronomy 24:14-15) James is telling us that we should not be materialistic. Nothing we acquire in this world of material things will last.  It will all rust and mold. We should put our treasures in heavenly things.

“And the Lord says, “What sorrow awaits Jehoiakim, who builds his palace with forced labor. He builds injustice into its walls, for he makes his neighbors work for nothing.He does not pay them for their labor. (Jeremiah 22:13)

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