What's more important, people or wealth? Today we will deal with the stewardship of our wealth and the people in our lives. I believe that this passage will deal with all of us as we read it today. The heart issue is our greed or love for material possessions which unfortunately is normally bigger than our love for others.
(vv1-3) THE RICH: "Come now you rich, weep and howl...", actually means, burst into tears. Why would a rich man cry? He should have all that he could ever need or want. Well... not actually. As we see in verses 1-3, wealth is temporary, it might make us happy for a moment but then it rusts and fades. Just like James says, "...your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted." As you all know, when we first get something new it's really cool... for the first week. The things of this world don't satisfy. This is why James tells the rich to burst into tears, because they have put their trust, their love, and even their very lives into their stuff, and upon seeing the vanity of it all, and how it doesn't last, their reaction should be that of sadness. They've wasted their lives on collecting worthless junk and now the rust and decay of their stuff is a witness against them.
(v4) WHAT REALLY MATTERS: What really matters in this life? Is it money, cars, houses, stuff, or maybe the Kingdonm of God? Maybe it's the people that God has placed in our lives. Just as the rich here have invested their lives in things that don't matter, they also have rejected the thing that really does matter, the Kingdom of God, that which is unseen. Many times in this life we reject that which is really valuable for a cheap plastic imitation. Let's reach out for the Kingdom of God and not be like the rich man who refused to pay his workers their salary. The Lord desires that we might be giving, not hoarding. He desires us to invest in His eternal Kingdom, in the lives of those who need Christ. These are the works that will last, the things that won't rust or fade away.
(v5) BE AFRAID: James recaps here, talking again about the life of wanton pleasures that the rich live. James' comparison is very short but should inspire a healthy fear inside of those that are living a life of wanton pleasures and neglecting the Kingdom of God. He compares the rich as a fattened calf ready for the slaughter. This was probably a good expression for the Jewish audience who might have seen many fattened calves slaughtered in sacrifice. This is an example of what a greedy life will earn us.
(v6) PUT YOUR LIFE INTO WHAT COUNTS: Again recapping, James puts more emphasis in how the rich oppress the righteous. Their world view is twisted and instead of pursuing riches they should be helping those whom God has placed in their life.
CONCLUSION: Today we've learned some tough spiritual truths. One thing I don't want you to hear is that money is bad. There is nothing wrong with money in itself, but we must take care of our motives and greedy attitudes. We must use our stuff to please the Lord and advance His Kingdom, not to hoard it and spend it on our own desires (James 4:3). God doesn't give us things for our own pleasures, but that we might use them for His purposes. Let's seek the Kingdom first and also seek to honor the Lord with all the things He has blessed us with.