or anything else after you’re gone
5 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. a 6 You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.
Those who have more money than us (in other words: the rich), are usually the object of envy. Here James is making them an object of scorn and condemnation. The phrase “weep and wail” could be elaborated as “burst into tears” and “howl with grief”. How long do the pleasures of money last? For as long as you have it. The second you spend it, it’s gone! And with it the pleasure of having it. Have you ever really wanted something that was pretty expensive? You save and save and when you buy it you find you yourself a little sad. Why is that? Money is only fun when you have it! When you don’t have it, money isn’t fun…
James is reminding us it is a foolish decision to put your trust in things that will pass away (by rotting or decaying) (verse 2).
Was James against saving? (verse 3)
Some have used verse three to say we shouldn’t save anything. They sometimes go to the extreme of saying to save is a sin. It is first important to note that James is talking to individuals. He is not talking to churches as a collective body. Personally, churches should save some in case of catastrophe but the church was never called to be an enterprise that makes money and stashes it away simply to say they have it. The church is called to invest in ministry.
Simply put, no. This verse is not talking about the savings of retirement or saving for a “rainy day” which, in and of themselves, are wise things to do. James is talking about the treasure of evil motives and deeds they have hoarded—not intentionally but nevertheless have collected.
What evil deeds with fowl motives have they collected?
The point for us: our deeds are put into God’s account. We will answer for them all. Our salvation is not in question, but our rewards are in question. Wealth, whether measured in dollars, talents, or intelligence, will not make any difference in the kingdom of Heaven.