The General Epistle of James (Part 20)
A. James here rebukes the ungodly rich who oppress.
1. Such as these drew the poor brethren before the judgment seats. JAM 2:6.
2. Such as these were given preferential treatment in the assembly. JAM 2:1-4.
3. Such as these blasphemed the name of Christ. JAM 2:7.
4. Such as these exploited their brethren for financial gain. JAM 5:4.
5. Such as these were defined by pleasure and voluptuousness. JAM 5:5.
6. Such as these were responsible for the death of just brethren. JAM 5:6.
7. Such as these were wrongly envied and imitated by some brethren. JAM 4:1-5.
8. Paul spoke of carnal Jewish brethren who were masquerading as influential saints as
being those whose God was their belly. PHIL 3:18-19.
9. Think it not an incredible thing that Christian churches could have such in their number:
envied or even admired by the simple and carnal, considered very spiritual by the “gain is godliness” crowd, deemed indispensable for the church's respectability and progress, thought too important to rebuke or exclude, exercising influence over the ministry or church polity, perhaps even feared by the saint of low degree, unscrupulous in business, or who milk the church for monetary gain (2PE 2:1-3).
C. But consider some errors associated with riches.
is not sinful for a Christian to be rich in material wealth. 1TI 6:17.
1. Love of money is the root of all evil. 1TI 6:10.
2. Riches are deceitful, can choke God's word, and render one unfruitful. MAT 13:22.
3. As here, riches can be acquired unjustly. c/w PRO 28:8; 21:6.
4. They may be used illicitly: perverting judgment, buying influence, purchasing sin.
5. They may be foolishly hoarded. ct/w 1TI 6:18.
6. They can ruin children while parents are alive and after they die. PRO 20:21.
7. They can make one arrogant. PRO 18:23.
8. They destroy a fool. PRO 1:32.
9. They can be a substitute for trust in God. PSA 52:7; HAB 2:9.
10. They are a major barrier to submission to the gospel. MAR 10:24.
D. These wicked rich are told to weep and howl for the miseries that they would receive. v. 1.
1. Such lamenting and howling assumes the great anger of God at hand. JER 4:8.
2. Riches will not buy off God's wrath. PRO 11:4.
3. They were currently living it up (v. 5) but their riches might be their only consolation.
4. Woe unto the wealthy church which is already miserable but doesn't know it. REV 3:17.
E. They had laid up treasures for themselves but were not rich towards God. LUK 12:16-21.
F. All of their riches were corrupting, even their gold and silver was cankered and rusting. vs. 2-3.
1. canker: v. To infect or consume with canker (spreading sore, ulcer, gangrene). To corrode, rust, tarnish. fig. To infect, corrupt; to consume slowly and secretly like a canker.
2. rust: v. Of iron or other metals: To contract rust, grow rusty; to undergo oxidation.
3. Though noble metals, gold and silver are corruptible. 1PE 1:18.
4. Their obsession with corruptible treasure showed the state of their hearts. MAT 6:19-21.
6. The rust of their gold and silver would stand as a witness to their hoarding of wealth to the
indifference of the poor they exploited and defrauded. v. 3.
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a. The rust “...shall eat your flesh as it were fire.”
b. When evidence condemns a man, it may be said that the evidence destroyed him.
c. The slow oxidation of their noble metals stands in contrast to the rapid consumption
of their flesh by fire in the day of judgment.
d. The phrase, “eat your flesh” is a poetic judgment for those who ruthlessly gain
wealth at the expense of others. MIC 3:3; MAT 23:14.
e. These were men who kept riches to their own hurt. ECC 5:13.
7. They had “...heaped together treasure for the last days” (v. 3), treasured up wrath. ROM 2:5.
a. (PRO 11:4) Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.
b. That which they hoped upon will prove their ruin. JOB 31:24.
c. It is by being rich in good works that one lays up in store for himself a good
foundation against the time to come. 1TI 6:17-19.
G. They had increased their wealth by fraudulent withholding of wages. v. 4.
1. fraud: The quality or state of being deceitful. Criminal deception; the using of false representations to obtain an unjust advantage or to injure the rights or interests of another.
a. Mind that the error here was not that the workers were deemed to be underpaid for
services but rather that there had been a breech of trust on the part of the employer
to pay according to contract.
b. Jesus taught that men should be able to freely contract in labor. MAT 20:1-15.
2. The Law, Prophets and Apostles are explicit on this point.
LEV 19:13; DEU 24:14-15; JER 22:13; COL 4:1; 1TH 4:6.
3. The cries of the defrauded laborers “...are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.”
a. This title of God implies His vengeance.
b. Strong's Concordance shows that sabaoth means armies.
(1) It is a military epithet of God.
(2) It is also rendered Lord of hosts. ROM 9:29 c/w ISA 1:9; 1SAM 17:45.
c. In view of the antics of the wicked rich, the brethren are pointed to the coming of
the Lord (vs. 7-8) Who shall surely come with the armies of heaven.
REV 19:11-16 c/w 2TH 1:7-9.
4. (PRO 3:27) Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of
thine hand to do it.
H. While indifferent to the plight of their defrauded workers, these rich were living large without
thought of answering to God. v. 5 c/w AMO 6:3-6.
1. They had lived in pleasure, which one may do in a state of death. 1TI 5:6.
2. They were wanton.
a. wanton: Of persons: Undisciplined, ungoverned; not amenable to control, unmanageable, rebellious. Of children: Naughty, unruly. 5. Insolent in triumph or prosperity; reckless of justice and humanity; merciless.
b. Their pursuit of pleasure was ungoverned. c/w 1PE 4:3-4.
3. When weeping and mourning over sin was needed, they had nourished their hearts, as in a
day of slaughter. c/w ISA 22:12-13.
I. They had also “...condemned and killed the just...” (v. 6).
1. This speaks of obvious miscarriage of justice at the judgment seats, per JAM 2:6.
a. They had likely used their wealth to pervert judgment. c/w MIC 7:3; ISA 1:23.
b. The judiciary of the Jews was known to be complicit in eliminating men.
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2. These innocent victims identify with Jesus Christ Who is called, “the Just.”
ACT 3:13-15 c/w MAT 27:19, 24.
a. He was condemned and killed by such as these wicked rich.
ACT 4:26; LUK 16:14.
b. He set the example of non-resistance. 1PE 2:19-23.
3. Affluent Mystery Babylon has in her the blood of prophets and saints. REV 18:24.
4. The wicked rich of this world have a long history of persecuting the saints of God.
5. (1PE 4:15) But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a
busybody in other men's matters.
6. (PSA 9:12) When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not
the cry of the humble.
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