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James 5:1-6 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:54 mins 43 secs

Money is Not a Stress Buster; James 5:1-6


We all know that money is helpful in addressing many problems in life, but money is not the ultimate solution, the ultimate solution is in the Lord. The problem here is that if they are facing adversity, rather than ultimately relying upon the Lord and His will they were operating in arrogance. They had perfected the use of the arrogance skills: self-absorption, self-indulgence, self-justification, and then self-deception. In self-absorption they were concerned about their own problems and their own solutions and God was not a part of their plan. James corrects them, and the thing is that if you make your plan you need to include the Lord: "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that."

James 5:1 NASB "Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you." This is one of those passages that can easily be misinterpreted as some kind of an anti-money, anti-wealth passage, and that is not true and is the furthest thing from the truth when we get into the Scriptures. Some of the greatest believers ion both the Old Testament and the New Testament were also the wealthiest men in their generation—Abraham, Job, Barnabas, for example. This verse begins with the Greek word AGE [a)ge], an interjection. It is something that emphasizes the following statement and is designed to grab their attention. Listen! Pay attention! James is going to force them to think about the past and how they have been solving their problems. "You rich" emphasizes their background. 

What has happened among this congregation is that these believers have been on negative volition for some time and they are deep in reversionism. They have backslidden, are operating on the sin nature, and they are going to be miserable because they are going to reap what they have sown. Hosea says that if you sow the wind you will reap the whirlwind, and that is exactly what is happening in these verses. We need to realize that we have all kinds of tests in life and every test provides an opportunity to make a decision for or against doctrine. If we make a decision for doctrine then we go through a certain series of growth steps. If we are walking by means of the Spirit we will produce divine good, we will have capacity for life and a quality of life, and our life will be evidence in the angelic conflict indicating that God's plan is good, acceptable, perfect and wise. This leads to steadfast endurance which is the point of James 1:2-4 to challenge these believers to walk in endurance and to continuously obey the Word and apply doctrine in their life. This leads to the adult spiritual life eventually. It is really a cycle. You go through more tests of doctrine, you apply doctrine positively, you continue to advance. On the other hand, if you are negative, then you are operating on sin human good and this leads to temporal death. You are separated from God and your life will become miserable. You will become weaker and weaker in your soul, producing instability, according to James 1:7, 8, and this leads to a spiritual regression and a hardened heart.


Eventually, when you enter into stage three glorification and you are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord, if you have been operating a maximum amount of time in fellowship, walking by means of the Holy Spirit, then you will have rewards and an inheritance in heaven. If not, then you will lose rewards and there will be temporary shame at the judgment seat of Christ. All of this is in view as background in this passage. When we hit tests of doctrine we need to be thinking in terms of ultimately standing at the judgment seat of Christ, and whether we want rewards and inheritance or loss of rewards and inheritance? That means that if we are handling tests of doctrine where we are thinking in terms of long-term application in heaven, then that means that we understand what it means to have a personal sense of our eternal destiny. We are going to make decisions now based on our impact in eternity.


These reversionistic believers that James is addressing have forgotten all about this and are putting all of their hope on temporal wealth. They are called "you rich" – HOI PLOUSIOI [o(i plousioi], the masculine nominative plural of  plousioj, which means rich, wealthy, and it can apply to riches. The rich man needs to learn to rely upon something else other than his money, other than material things to give him success and happiness and security in life. "Weep and howl" begins with the aorist active imperative, second person plural of the verb KLAUO [klauw], which means to weep, to wail, to lament, to cry. Here a good translation is to lament. This is not simply an emotional reaction, this is the kind of weeping and wailing that is the result of extreme pain. This is a command to weep and it means to recognize the misery that you have in your life. This is what happens with the arrogance skills—self-absorption to self-indulgence. This first verb is a present active imperative. That means it is a priority, it is urgent to obey this right now. That is followed by a present active participle, OLOLUZONTES [o(loluzontej] from the Greek word OLOLUZO [o)loluzw], and onomatopoeic [a word that sounds like what it is expressing] verb, which means "howl" or "scream." It sounds like what it is communicating. It is an excessive expression of misery. It is not something that is manufactured out of guilt or an emotional response but is the reaction you get when somebody comes up and kicks you as hard as they can in the shin. It is the automatic reflex to what is real misery and pain. The interesting thing about this grammatically is that it is not a finite verb. The way it is translated in the English test is as if there are two commands here: weep and howl. This isn't an imperative, it is a participle. It is an anarthrous participle, which means that there is no definite article. The l;ack of a definite article means that it is adverbial, and it is an adverb of manner describing the weeping. So it is "weep by screaming upon your misery."


That brings us to the next phrase in the Greek which is EPI TAIS TALAIPORIAIS [e)pi taij talaipwriaij]. The preposition means "over"—"Weep by screaming out over your miseries." It is a recognition that you are facing divine discipline and misery in your life. Although the context here is very emotional the emphasis here is not on emotion for emotion's sake. When you hit misery, when you come under serious divine discipline—and Galatians tells us that a man reaps what he sows—and reaping the consequences of years of bad decisions and are in serious self-induced misery, it has a deep emotional response. You are miserable emotionally, and if you react and respond on the basis of that emotion alone without turning to doctrine it is just going to make matters worse.


The background for this really comes from a verse in the palms: Psalm 106:15 KJV "And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul." The word translated "leanness" is the Hebrew word razon which means emptiness and barrenness." God went ahead and even though they were asking for the wrong thing and it would not give them happiness, He supplied it in order to demonstrate to them the bankruptcy of their focus on life. This is the same thing that we have here in James. This group, whoever they were, has pursued business, they have made their business their priority, they have not paid attention to doctrine, have not applied doctrine in their life, and now they are facing some serious catastrophes and adversity and there is nothing in their soul to get them through, and they are absolutely miserable.  There is no better way to guarantee misery in life than to put your hope in any of the details of life for security and happiness. The result is an overwhelming and miserable fragmentation of the soul. This is like the torturous scream that emits from the depths of a person's soul when they realize that they have invested their life in nothing but emptiness, and now they are called to account for it. This is a warning to all of us that we need to make sure that when we face life that we have our priorities on the eternal issues of doctrine as defined by the Word of God, and that we are solving problems not on the basis of our own resources and abilities but on the basis of the problem-solving devices and stress-busters outlined in Scripture. James doesn't stop here. He twists the knife; he really wants to make sure that they and we understand the seriousness of this problem.

James 5:2 NASB "Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten." First of all, to understand this verse we have to identify what the riches and the garments are here. The riches are all of the financial resources they have amassed thinking that somehow by being wealthy they would find happiness and they would be able to solve their problems. Their garments refer to that outer wrapping and trappings of life that somehow we think will impress people with our success and our ability and that this is the veneer of our success. But there is no internal capacity, it is all on the outside, there is no internal strength, no internal capacity for handling problems. James says here that their riches have rotted. The word for "rotted" is the perfect active indicative of SEPO [shpw]. It means to rot, to decay, to corrupt, to perish. What it shows is that wealth and riches have a temporal value only and no eternal value. Thus it cannot solve the real core problems in life. For the core problems in life the issue underlying all suffering is not what it appears on the surface. All suffering stems from the fall, therefore every adversity and every difficulty and problem in life is a spiritual issue. Therefore the solution must start spiritually.

When we look at this passage we realize that the details of life are temporary. One day we might have them, the next day we don't. Here specifically it is talking about money.

Looking at some principles:

1)  There is nothing inherently wrong with wealth or the possession of material things.

2)   What is wrong is using the details of life, whether it is money, friends, family, possessions, whatever it might be, to solve problems and to be a source of happiness. Any time you put your source of happiness on something that can change then you are saying you are a slave to that object. You have just enslaved your emotions to something that may be here today and gone tomorrow. We must put our focus on that which is immutable otherwise our happiness will be mutable. The only source of anything that is unchangeable is the person and character of God, and so that alone needs to be the source of our happiness.

3)  The details of life have failed these believers because the details of life were never designed to solve problems. They are there for our enjoyment, our pleasure. They are to be enjoyed to the fullest but kept in the proper perspective.

4)  It is not the money or the details of life that are corrupt, it is what these things do to the soul of the reversionist believer who has no capacity.

James 5:3 NASB "Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!"         One of the first things that we ought to notice here is that the word for "rust" is KATAIOO [kataiow], a perfect passive indicative. The perfect tense indicates the present result of past action. In the past they have continuously failed to apply doctrine. The passive voice indicates that the subject of the verb which is the gold and the silver is acted upon by some outside source: the discipline of God upon all that they have accumulated in life. We know that gold and silver do not rust. He is using an image here that the gold and silver are no longer of any value to solve their problems. But we also have another issue here, and that is a very bad translation in the second clause, "and their rust." That is not what it says in the Greek at all. In the Greek there is the definite article HO [o(] plus the noun IOS [i)oj], "poison." It is the consequence of what has gone on inside their soul. It refers to the venom that is in their soul and that is eating away at every aspect of their life. All this lust is a venom in their soul and this will testify against them at the judgment seat of Christ. There is sarcasm in the last sentence: "It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!" James wants us to realize that we are storing up treasure for heaven. If we are living in obedience to the Lord, walking by means of the Spirit, applying doctrine under the filling of the Spirit then we are laying up divine good for which we will be rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ. If not, if we are trying to solve our problems through human viewpoint thinking, worldly systems of problem-solving, then that is the kind of treasure we are going to lay up in eternity. It is going to be wood, hay, and straw, and it will be consumed at the judgment seat of Christ. So the issue is a personal sense of eternal destiny.

There are social implications, verses 4-6. James 5:4 NASB "Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, {and} which has been withheld by you, cries out {against you;} and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth." They cheated people. They labourers expected to be paid at the end of the week. Instead of being paid at the end of the week the wealthy held on to their money and refused to pay them, and found some excuse for why they shouldn't pay the labourer. So these labourers have sought the Supreme Court of heaven for vengeance. They are apparently believers who have been maltreated by these wealthy reversionists. "Lord of Sabaoth" is Hebrew, meaning Lord of the armies." Here it relates to the fact that the Lord stands at the head of all of the angelic hosts and He is the one who utilizes the angels as His messengers to execute judgment on the earth in time. The problem here is their self-indulgence. This goes back to a principle in the Law in Deuteronomy 24:14, 15 NASB "You shall not oppress a hired servant {who is} poor and needy, whether {he is} one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the LORD and it become sin in you." The Lord recognized the importance of economic honesty among those who are employers and put this into the Mosaic law.

James 5:5 NASB "You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. [6] You have condemned and put to death the righteous {man;} he does not resist you." They really didn't care about the Lord, their priority was on personal pleasure, personal happiness and doing whatever they wanted. They have provided everything for themselves and now there is a time of testing: "the day of slaughter." They will be held accountable. The righteous man, the man who worked for them, who was maltreated, does not resist the rich man who has mistreated him. The believer operating on divine problem-solving devices does not react in bitterness, does not react in anger, he takes it to the Supreme Court of heaven no matter what it costs him. He recognizes that the Scripture says, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord."