James 5 Commentary

Practical Christian Wisdom from the New Testament Book of James

Warning to the Rich (5:1-6)  

Verse 1: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you” (James 5:1 NIV). 

Is James condemning all rich people? No, as we read previously, he is condemning all those who are seeking to accumulate wealth irrespective of God or man. He describes whom he condemns — “you [who] boast in your arrogant schemes” (James 4:16 NIV). Why should they “weep and wail” (5:1 NIV)? He answers, “because of the misery that is coming on you” (5:1 NIV). To what misery does James refer? Jesus described the misery of more than one rich person, possibly because riches are associated with someone who has been blessed. The rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) illustrates how a homeless beggar goes to his reward in Abraham’s bosom, and a rich man descends from his luxury into the fiery torment of Hades, both defying what many would expect as their outcomes. The moral of their story is not to seek the outward evidence of wealth as a signpost to Heaven, and not to reject the evidence of poverty, as a certainty of Hell. Both must pay heed to the claims of Scripture, without the benefit of miraculous events, to find their way to Heaven. “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31 NIV). The rich fool and his storehouse (Luke 12:13-21) shows us how foolish it is to place our confidence in earthly riches, as a sign of prosperity, happiness, and security. “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry” (12:19 NIV). God terminates the rich fool’s life with the epitaph, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (12:21 NIV). 

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