The Book of James
This is the last chapter of James. The younger brother of Jesus is writing to the Jewish Christ followers that are teaching Gentiles “the way”. That’s what the gospel was known as when the apostles were spreading the good news and people were accepting Christ as the Messiah.
As you can imagine, there were a lot of issues in the early church. James is addressing some of those here as he describes the general characteristics of a christian and straightening out some of the false teaching.
First, if you’d like to take a few minutes to catch up you can start with the James 1 study here. We’re going to focus on just a few verses of Chapter 5 below. I know you have stuff to do and if I tried to fit the whole chapter in one post you’d be here an hour and then be behind schedule and be mad at me. I don’t want you mad at me 😉 so we’ll soak up a ton of teaching from six short verses and cover the rest another time. Here we go!
Warning to the Rich
Side note – don’t stop reading just because you’re thinking “whelp, that’s not me”
1Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. 4Behold, 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. 5You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
If you feel a verse falls into a different category, by all means highlight it that color! If you check out the Good Morning Girls website and social media, you’ll see all the categories. You’ll also see beautiful versions of other’s highlights. They’re all different! Then while you’re over there, you might as well sign up for one of her amazing bible studies! Why? One, they’re free. Then two, she knows her stuff. She has a Bible degree. Three, you’ll be astounded at how God works in your life when you’re spending time in His word. James is actually the first of her studies I ever took!
Here are the categories I sorted the above verses into.
- Verse 1= instruction
- Verse 2= teaching
- Verse 3= teaching
- Verse 4= teaching, sin, teaching, God
- Verse 5= sin
- Verse 6= sin, teaching
I love how the Bible is a cohesive unit. It all fits and flow together, even though written at different times by different authors. It’s one of the hardest things for atheists to try to prove false. By the way – have you seen “The Case for Christ” from 2017? Ermawgosh, so good!!! And I’m not usually a fan of low budget christian movies.
Back to the point, James 5 is cohesive and complimentary to Matthew 6. Jesus is teaching about prioritizing eternal things over earthly treasures. James is warning the rich new believers (think Zacchaeus) who aren’t using their resources for the glory of God but rather lying and cheating people to hoard money.
Are You Rich?
I’m rich by one definition. I live in a nation of abundance. I have a house filled with furnishings, two vehicles, and some money in the bank. Randy Alcorn would classify me in the top 5% of the world’s wealthy according to his book Money Possessions and Eternity. You might fit into this category as well.
But comparing me strictly with my fellow Americans is a different story. Our two vehicles are paid off only because one is a free hand-me-down from my mother. We have money in the bank for emergencies but our children don’t have trust funds set up or prepaid college. We’re not hopping on a plane regularly for fun weekend vacations. We are surrounded by people who have much more than we do.
The Questions to Ask
Still, James has something to teach me. Money is not the issue. The heart is the issue. Matthew 6:21 says “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Money is not sinful. We all have to have money to live and support our families! It’s not a sin to be wealthy. You see in verse 4 that James is talking to the rich who have exploited their employees to put more money in their own pockets. Love of money is a sin. Love of money is this:
- Do I credit money for my happiness or lack there of?
- Do I desperately yearn for more money so life is easier?
- Do I hoard money out of fear of the future and a lack of stability?
- Do I exploit others or twist circumstances in an effort to get money?
- Do I spend my money on myself without giving any of it to those who need some?
- Do I resent others because they have more money than me?
God exposes some issues in my heart if I answer these questions with honesty. We started a family so early and have four children to support. Sometimes budgeting is stressful. Do you ever wish you had more money so things wouldn’t be so hard? Not a flippant thought but a consistent question in your heart of “why?!” can’t there just be more in the bank account so there’s more happiness in life.
It’s hard for me to say this but I truly value transparency. Transparency helps us grow as Jesus followers. There are times I’m resentful towards the people who seem to have it so easy because they have family money. I know I’m not the only one that struggles with this. But I know that’s an issue. It’s not a righteous reaction to others.
But with conviction comes repentance, teaching, forgiveness, mercy. Therefore I’m thankful! I want God to continue to teach me and mold me. It is indeed a life long process. So the pressure to obtain perfection is null and void. Good! Because I’m faaaaaaaaaaaaaaar from it!
These six short verses give me such encouragement (which seems opposite the expected reaction). They redirect my heart to prioritize what really matters. People matter! The home furnishings don’t matter, the elaborate vacations aren’t priority, the cushion in the bank isn’t where my safety comes from. When I prioritize people in my mind and heart, money issues are so clearly minuscule. It’s so freeing! I’m taking care of of and pouring into hearts. Now that’s heavenly treasure!
Son’t let this warning to the rich be a bad read to digest. I don’t want a guilty feeling to discourage you if you answered yes to any of the questions above. I did too. We have reason to celebrate. Christ has already paid the price for any love of money that we struggle with. We are not condemned. We are striving to learn and live for God.
Use these questions to uncover issues of the heart that need to be handed over to God and allow Him to cut them out. Yes, it sounds graphic and painful. Sometimes, it can be. But He promises to never leave us or forsake us. He’ll continue to care for us, heal us, and restore us.
Thanks for reading!
Need verses when you’re out and about during the day to lean on? Use these printable cards for everyday to day situations (like running late – one of my most common). They’ll give you that dose of God’s word that you need right in the moment! Enjoy!
- A Quick Bible Study Through James 2; Teaching About Favoritism & An Active Faith
- Bible Teaching From James 1; Building Endurance, Wisdom, and Following the Word
- T.H.I.N.K. Think About Your Words; Wisdom on Taming the Tongue From James 3
- James 4; A Warning Against Worldliness & Boasting from the brother of Jesus. A Lesson in Examining Your Heart.
- Wisdom From Above; An Excerpt from James 3