All those rich people.....

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
James 5:1-6

We're in the home stretch of our trek through James.  The last chapter.  I hope you've fallen in love with this letter as I have.  More importantly, I hope it's taken up residence in your heart and that you've embraced its Truth.

Today's passage requires some grappling with in order to embrace it....let's have a go at it....

We established many weeks ago when we started our study on this book that it is a letter written to believers.  To encourage them, to direct them, to counsel them particularly in the face of trials.  It is unclear in these six verses exactly whom James is addressing.  Perhaps he is making rhetorical statements to an absent audience, for the sake of his intended readers.  Rhetorical statements, perhaps, but warnings to be sure.

Here's what he says:

Without equivocation, James proclaims that judgment will be severe to those who misuse the wealth God has entrusted to them.  What a departure from the worldview that what we have is because we deserve it and therefore we deserve to employ it to please ourselves.
James says NO.

He issues strong caution against
1)placing trust in material wealth
No matter how secure that gold and silver and luxurious trapping seems, it cannot sustain your trust.  It will fail you.  You can't buy enough security or save enough security or display enough security to protect you because, ultimately, God controls it all.  He's just entrusting it all around to see how it's handled.  And however you handle whatever He allots you will be the evidence of your relationship to Him on the Day of Judgment.  The consequences of trusting in wealth will be devastating.  Horrific.  Damning.  And unavoidable at that point.  The time to choose where to place trust is now.....He alone can save. 

2)mistreating people for the sake of your gain
This passage takes a severe view of oppression.  As well it should!  In James's time, many Christians relied solely on their wages as day laborers .  (The same situation is also true in many places today)They were so poor that their survival depended on this daily pay.  Were it withheld from them, either from fraud or lack of opportunity, their very existence was threatened.  James proclaims that God hears the cries of those oppressed and He will avenge them.

3)excess/personal indulgence
Here, James lashes out in righteous indignation at the excessive lifestyles of the rich.  He points out the personal accountability of one living luxuriously while one nearby dies from lack.

The warning of these verses is abundantly clear.  Judgment will come based on our use of the resources God has entrusted.  He will not overlook greed and injustice and oppression.  He will avenge the poor and weak and needy.

What might not be so clear is how the message applies to us.

I mean, after all, we're not oppressing the poor or hoarding our riches or living excessively.  Gracious me, we're not even rich!!

Or are we...............

I checked numerous sources (Compassion International, UNICEF, WHO,, Global Issues) just to be sure I wasn't misrepresenting or slanting the data.
Here's the conservative numbers of who's rich and who's not:

Including food and shelter -
20% of the world's population live at or below $1.25 a day
50% of the world's population live at or below $2.50 a day
80% of the world's population live at or below $10.00 a day

That's not including clothing, healthcare, or education.

I think it's safe to say my pets live better than over half the world's people.

I think it's also safe to say I am rich.  How about you?

I think I have a long way to go before my life exhibits the truth of 1 Timothy 6:8 - But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content

Soooooooo, is James talking to believers or unbelievers in the first 6 verses of chapter 5?  I don't know. 
But I do know that I am rich.
And that God has entrusted these riches to me NOT
so that
1)I can feel secure by hoarding
2)I can miss opportunities to pay people and help them
3)I can enjoy excess

Instead, I can use my wealth to store up the TRUE riches in Heaven, where I can enjoy them forever.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Matthew 6:19-21