This world confronts us with two painful sights. On the one hand, the wealthy have so much unused wealth; on the other hand, many of the wealthy abuse the poor financially and physically.
This is not only painful, but tests our faith in God. James 5:1-6 helps ease the pain and comfort our hearts by showing us God’s view of the situation. Let’s see what God sees, and hear what God hears.
NB: Before we do so, though, it’s important to note that this passage addresses only the sinful use and abuse of wealth. There are many wealthy people who are godly and use their wealth in God-honoring and people-helping ways. Also, we don’t need to be wealthy to abuse what we do have and those under us!
GOD SEES THE UNUSED RICHES
In verse 1, God calls wealthy oppressors to “weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.” Why? Three reasons:
- Your unused riches have corroded (2-3a): “Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded.”
- Your unused riches will witness against you (3b): “Their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire.”
- Your unused riches will corrode you (3c): They “will eat your flesh like fire.”
Our riches may help us eat well, but they may eventually eat us.
“But it’s not just that they don’t use their money well, they don’t pay their workers well.”
GOD HEARS THE UNPAID WAGES
Yes, God sees the unused riches and hears the unpaid wages.
- You didn’t pay your workers for work (4a): “Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud.”
- The unpaid wages cry out against you (4b): “The wages are crying out against you.”
Unpaid wages may lift you high, but their cry goes to the Most High.
“But they do worse than fail to pay wages. Wealthy oppressors also abuse their workers.”
GOD HEARS THE ABUSED WORKERS (4C-6)
God sees the unused riches, and hears the unpaid wages and the abused workers.
- You’ve pampered yourselves (5): “You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.”
- You’ve abused your powerless workers (6): “You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.”
- God hears the workers’ cries (4b): “The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
While we’re partying and joking, God may be preparing judgment.
God has a very different perspective on the abuse of wealth. Do you see and hear what God sees and hears?
LIVING THE BIBLE
Be comforted by what God hears and sees and by what he says to wealthy oppressors.
PRAYING THE BIBLE
Infinitely rich God, you see the way we are oppressed and the way we can oppress others.
Encourage the oppressed that you see, hear, and will take action to defend them.
Warn the oppressors that you see, hear, and will take action to judge them.
If we are oppressed, help us to look to you for judgment rather than do it ourselves.
If we are wealthy, help us to use our wealth to lift others up rather than put them down.
We worship you, O God, because you are the richest person in the universe, and because you are just and merciful in the way you use your wealth for the good of others. Amen.