Jun 18, 2017
James 5: 1-6 Warning to the Rich
“Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into
ruin and destruction.” 1 Timothy 6:8
“God would rather our hearts be heavy under adversity than careless under prosperity.”-John Flavel
After addressing the uncertainty and vanity of trusting in our abilities, James rebukes those who would trust in wealth
and encourages those who are suffering and oppressed by reminding them of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus.
Jesus said, “A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a
camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Matt 19:23)
Why did Jesus say that? What is it about riches that would hinder one from entering the kingdom of God?
Who are the rich that James is addressing? What does it mean to have riches? (1 Tim 6:7) Are riches a good or bad?
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you...
Jesus told the unrighteous, arrogant rich people of the world who "laugh now" that they will one day "mourn and
weep." James here is calling upon the ungodly rich to do now what Jesus said they will do at the judgment.
James uses harsh language to pronounce judgement upon the ungodly rich and to wake up those with riches because
of the deceitful effect they have. (Matt 13:22) Riches are compared to thorns that choke the seed of the word.
What is it about riches that deceives men? (Deut. 8:17). (Prov. 18:11). (Prov. 30:8-9).
The measure of worldly success is often wealth, this can lead to pride and selfish ambition.
Riches can often be spiritually deadening, prosperity often deafens the ear against God. (Jer 22:21) They are deceitful
for they promise security and lure the heart from trusting the Lord. External prosperity often blinds internal realities.
Remember the Laodicean church (Rev 3:17)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim 6:9). We see the fruit born by hearts set upon worldly wealth
James’ indictment against the ungodly rich is proved by 4 witnesses who bear their testimony :
1. Vs 2-3 Hoarded wealth reveals self-love and worldly trust (1 Cor. 3:12-13; Luke 12:19-20). James shows the
foolishness of amassing riches as they will not last. Even the gold and silver will corrode!
2. Vs 4 Unjust cruelty - greed leads to oppressing laborers (Lev. 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14-15)
3. Vs 5 Fattened hearts - continual selfish indulgence of pleasures and distractions hardens hearts to any spiritual
sensitivity. Like fattened sheep. (Amos 6:4-7; Deut 32:15; Hosea 13:6) The heart is the seat of desires- plenty
gives rise to harm; and when all things are possible, people think all things lawful. (Ezek 16:49-50)
4. Vs 6 Persecuting spirit- Condemnation and murder of the righteous man (Christ? Acts 22:14, Acts 3:14)
Note the righteous man’s response (Matt 5:39, Isa 53:7) Christ loved our justification better than his own
reputation; when his innocence was questioned, he would not answer a word.
Sobering note: Jesus’ murder is attributed to the Jews corporately. (1 Thess 14-15) Many in our culture are
willing to murder their own children for their pursuit of comfort.
So then, if riches often prove to be a snare, why does God give good men riches? That good may be done with them!
Application: How do we use riches rightly? (1 Tim 6:16-18)
1. “If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.” (Ps 68:10) We must guard our hearts against the
deceitfulness of riches. This should be the constant request of rich men, “Lord, let me not trust in what I have,
but in you; and this is a greater blessing than the greatest abundance in the world.” Seek to be poor in spirit.
2. Give the firstfruits of both your time and money to the Lord. (Ex 20:8; Mal 3:10; Hag 1:4-6)
3. Refuse to compromise with even the appearance of ungodly business practices. (1 Thess 5:22)
4. “Possess as not possessing.” (1 Cor 7:30, Hag 2:8) Hold things of this world loosely, actively seek to give
away what extra the Lord has provided. “Your office is not that of a treasurer, but of a steward, to have them
in your hands, not in your hearts; otherwise not you but your chest is rich.” - Thomas Manton
5. Remember the poor, the afflicted, the orphan, the widow, the elderly especially in the household of faith.
6. Treasure Christ above all. Consider the fleeting nature of wealth. Lay up treasure in heaven.
James 5: 7-12 Patience in Suffering
James now turns to encourage the oppressed. Riches are the gift of God to his people, but so are afflictions! (James
1:2, Phil 1:29) If riches have the danger of blinding internal realities, sufferings have the benefit of exposing our need.
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.
What is Christian patience? It is not indifference, self-satisfaction, or laziness. It is the ability to wait for something
that you passionately desire even amidst great suffering. Christian patience differs from complacency and stoicism,
presupposing a sense of evil and taking the form of the whole soul submitting to the will of God. (Heb 11:1)
We must see that the whole of Christian life is providentially ordered to conform us to Christ. God is too just to do us
wrong and too kind and wise to do us harm. (Rom 8:28) It is not possible to be a faithful Christian without suffering.
To proclaim faith in Christ as the only path of salvation will inevitably arouse hatred from the world. (1 John 3:13)
What are the benefits of Christian patience?
1. Those who are patient do not lose their stability. “Stand firm” (Psalm 112:7)
2. Patience preserves us from destroying the stability of the truth. “Do not grumble” Grumblers always focus on
trivia, not eternity. You grumble because your eyes are focused on the temporal. When the gaze of the church
is on the eternal glory of Christ, grumbling ceases.
3. Patience means you don’t lose your integrity. Vs 12 “Let your yes be yes”
How do we learn to be patient? Often through our sufferings
1. Vs 7 Lesson from the patient farmer:
Why is the farmer not angry that his crops won’t be fruitful now?
He is waiting for the land to yield its valuable fruit. The crop means more to him than the irritation of having
to wait for it. The secret learned is to have our eyes fixed on the coming of the Lord Jesus. Your ability to be
patient as a Christian in suffering is in direct proportion to look forward to the glory of God. (2 Cor 4:16-18)
We must learn to live the Christian life backwards from God’s glory and not forward from our own
2. Vs 8-9 Be patient because the Lord’s coming is near. He is just outside the door!
We are now in the last days, the next major event in God’s calendar is to return in glory. Long for his coming!
But, wait for it. (Heb 10:37) (Rev 22:20) Remember Christ's promise: “I’m going to prepare a place for
you...” (John 14:3) Life is short, but eternity is long. The nearness of Christ and the extensiveness of eternity
give us all the more reason to not live for this life, but to live for the world to come. Those who have done
most in this life for God are those whose hearts are most set on the life to come. He is at the door as a judge.
What will he judge? What we will be in eternity, by God’s grace, is just what we are now- turned inside out.
People are not saved simply by dying. If you’re not living now with an aim to glorify Christ, how in the world
will you do that for eternity? If we live day by day for this world and for temporal things, what will Christ as
judge say? Paul called himself the chief of sinners, but he knew his hope was set only on Christ! The only
way to know you’ll trust and love him in eternity is to trust and love him now!
3. Vs 10-11 Patience from knowing the testimony of the Holy scriptures
The prophets who suffered knew that the momentary light affliction worked for them an eternal weight of
glory. Job prostrate worshiping God saw the reason for his suffering. “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”
The Lord will always be compassionate and merciful to his saints, especially when he calls them to suffer.
4. Vs 12 Godly sincerity- God knows our inward being so we don’t have to pretend to be sincere.
We see the trial of riches, the blessing of riches, the trial of suffering, the blessing of suffering. Denying Christ by
either trusting in riches or despairing under sufferings are both the product of living by sight, not by faith.
Christian contentment is the answer for both. (Phil 4:11-12) “All the winds of providence blow us towards heaven.”
“Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet,gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in
God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” - Jeremiah Burroughs
Rest in the robes of Christ that no moth will ever destroy looking to the gold streets of heaven that will never corrode.
Here we have two tests to know if you love Christ: Where is your treasure? Do you have patience in suffering?