James 5:1-6 KJV
1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
6 Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
James now turns his attention to those who were considered rich. In those days, many of the rich were landowners who hired people to reap the crops. They would bring them in for a day at a time and pay them at the end of the day a wage that was agreed upon when they were hired. This was the common practice in those days, and the men that were hired trusted the landowner to pay the wage they agreed to. We can see an example of this in Matt 20:1-16, where a landowner agreed with various workers all day how much he would pay them. When the first ones there found out that the last ones got the same wage, they were irate. But the landowner told them they had agreed upon a wage, and he was just carrying out what he said he would do.
But James tells us that the rich ere depriving people of their wages, and that they were hoarding the crop to themselves. In the law, God told them to leave some of the crop behind for those who did not have much (Deut 24:19, Lev 23:22). This simple law was there to help those who may not be able to buy food because they could not get hired for some reason, or because they were just passing trough the land, or were widows who ad no provider to take care of them. God cares about all of His children!
I know that the practice of hiring laborers day to day still happens all around the world, and the employers are still defrauding those they hire. I have a young friend in Uganda who tells me this happens to him and many others on a regular basis – they get hired for the day at $1 a day, and after they work hard the boss says they will get paid the next day. They come back for the wage and the boss say work today and then I will pay you, but he does not. This cycle goes on, and the law does nothing bout it. In our country we have labor laws that aid in this not happening, but many countries do not have that protection for the workers.
God sees these rich that defraud others and hoard their goods. He sees those who break promises to others. He sees those who will not help someone else when they have the means to do so. This follows this previous verse for a reason. These rich folks know what is right and good, but they continue in their wicked ways, and James is making them aware that it is sin tor them to not do the right thing. They may be rich on this earth, but it is only here that they will have that empty enjoyment.
I believe God gives to us solely so that we can give to others. He never expects us to hoard it for ourselves. We are a blessed in different ways, we all have different gifts and talents. He did not give these to us for ourselves, but to be a blessing to others. God expects us to develop those talents He has given us so there is more than He gave (Matt 25:14-30). This allows us to further bless others.
We live in a blessed country (USA). I am not a rich man – I am below the average income (because I am in cancer treatments right now) in this country but would be considered very rich in many countries. God has provided me everything I need and more. He expects that I will do good with what I have. That I will be a blessing to others any way I can. That when He speaks to me about giving to someone, or praying for someone, or giving a word to someone that I will do it. If I were rich, more would be required because more was given by God.
The only thing I feel rich in is words. But this portion of scripture can apply to those riches as well. If God gives me direction to share words with you in this log, or to craft a poem for my Psalmist blog, then I need to do that. There is no value in holing them for myself, and it would be sin for me to do so because God says this is a good thing. If He instructs me to do god, and I don’t do it, it is sin to me, remember? We must all be diligent to share our gifts whenever we are given the opportunity. That is the essence of what James is saying here. It’s not just for the rich – it’s for all of us.