1Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.
2Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.
3Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.
4Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
5You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
6You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
I have friend who used to be a drug dealer. He was a criminal and did time in prison for his choice of careers. Then the Lord found him and his life is completely different. Just because he doesn’t sell drugs today doesn’t mean he can’t remember that life, and so he has some pretty interesting stories to tell. What I found most fascinating was that he would put his earnings from the drug sales in the closet in his bedroom as it was all cash. He said that there was so much money in there he had no room for his clothes and shoes. He never even knew how much was there. Much to his surprise, he found that the money that was stored in the back of the closet started to rot. It actually disintegrated! Having a closet full of so much cash it doesn’t even get used is rather weird, but it certainly sheds a light on today’s reading.
Rotted cash doesn’t spend very well. It is useless and may as well be burned. The correlation between that rotted cash and the rotten soul of the greedy person cannot be missed. Both are destined for destruction. We are well warned to avoid that pit.
The temptation here is to allow the pendulum to swing too far. Money is not evil. It in fact can be an incredible tool and accomplish great things when used to bring glory to God. The problem is that we become so very fascinated with riches. When we are rich the pressure of trusting in God for everything we have is lightened. Suddenly is seems like we can provide for ourselves. That is a great delusion. That God would give us monetary riches with which to buy what we need shouldn’t be surprising. It is His choice to bless us any way He wants. What is surprising is that we are then quick to begin to rely upon the gift rather than upon the Giver. We become like Bart Simpson who when asked to pray over the meal said, “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing!” We allow our attitudes about our riches to get between us and God. And thus we have James’ warning about the dependence upon money. It can make us mean. We forget about our brothers and sisters and allow them to struggle so that we can have more and more. Our actions show what is happening in our hearts.