Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.
James now turns his attention to the behavior of the world. Which is to store away an excess for ourselves to indulge in our desires and pleasures. Specifically, James is asking the congregation, “why hoard fine clothing, money, expensive items which we know can be lost to the world?” It’s important to understand that James is not speaking against prudent planning and saving money for emergencies. What James is speaking against is chasing after the wealth of the world in order to spend it on the fulfilling of sinful desires. And why do so at the cost of hurting others? In other words James is speaking against the overabundance of wealth, and the over-spending on things beyond our needs. This in turn gets back to the Biblical principle of God blesses us in order that we can provide for ourselves, our families, bless those around us and help those in need. Not so we can have more for ourselves. This really speaks once again to ignoring God, and rebelling against God in order that we can obtain more excess for ourselves. What James has in mind in this particular passage is the wealthy landowners who often defrauded the day laborers, in order to have more for themselves. If we were to put this into our modern vernacular “business is not just business” in God’s eyes.
How we do business, how we run our business and how it affects others matters to God. James follows this up with a very critical statement. He tells us that the wealthy who behave this way, are in God’s eyes, storing up fuel to feed the fires of their own destruction. They are in fact providing fuel for the fire when God pours out His wrath on them. Moreover, their wealth will serve as the witness against them, thereby proving their guilt. James even starts this section of scripture with a word of advice to the wicked wealthy, which is to begin “weeping and howling” now, because their destruction is certain. The phrase “weep and howl” literally means to burst out in tears. Why? Because their miseries in God’s eyes are certainly coming upon them. Again, it’s important for us to understand the wrath against them is not because of their wealth. It’s because of their hearts, which are in rebellion against God and their love affair with the world. In addition, it’s about how they accumulated their wealth, which was by defrauding others and those less fortunate than themselves. And most importantly, because they used their wealth to replace God in their hearts. To them gold and silver became their god. They sought to cast the Lord and His commandments aside in order to fulfill the lust and desires they had for more. And they desired to do so even if it was at the cost of hurting others.