James 10: Dealing with riches

James 5:1-6

1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.

2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.

3 Your 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.

4 Behold, 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.

5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.


In our family, I am the financial controller. I am the one who does the budgeting, pays the bills, and controls the money. “Okay, Eleana, your budget for milk this month is over. You need to drink less milk from now on.” I am not saying that I am financial expert. I don’t know much about investments. My aim is to save money, and I am using a financial tool called ozbargain.com. I know that some of you are using it too.

So often, I find myself easily becoming irritated when we don’t meet my budget. I become easily annoyed, and this affects how I communicate with my wife, as if she is solely responsible for our overspending. I talk to her as if we won’t have any money left next week and won’t be able to afford food. It’s shocking how easily money can control our hearts. Its influence is incredibly powerful, especially in this time of financial uncertainty (with food prices and fuel costs rising). It’s easy to see our budget as our true security, and money as our treasure. Let’s keep reminding ourselves that Jesus Christ is Lord, even of our wallets.

This is what we are going to learn together: money. One main message that James wants us to know is that if you have a relationship with God, you will have a healthy relationship with money. Some of you who are very spiritual might think, “Really? Having a relationship with money? We should not have any relationship with money; money is evil.” That’s what we will learn today: what the Bible teaches about money and riches. I will divide my sermon into 3 points.


1 – THE WARNING (verse 1)

1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.

This is such a strong warning from James. To whom is this warning directed? ‘Come now, you rich.’ This warning is for rich people. Does it mean we cannot be rich? Before we go deeper, let me ask a quick trivia question. It is a true or false question. Is it true that the Bible says in 1 Timothy that money is the root of all kinds of evils? Raise your hand if you think it is true. The answer is false. It is not that money is the root of all kinds of evils but rather ‘the love of money.’ It is true that money is not the main problem but ‘the love of money’ is the issue. But so many Christians use this statement to take it easy on this money issue. We say, ‘The problem is not money. It is the love of money and I don’t think I love money.’ Straight away, we brush off this issue of money. Yes, in this verse, the Bible tells us that money is not the main problem. But at the same time, this verse also wants to warn us that money can be dangerous and trap us because money is very powerful.

In previous chapters, James addressed the issue for the church, repeatedly using the term “brothers and sisters.” However, in this section, James spends six verses giving a warning to rich people who are outside the church. James, why would you write something to someone who never reads this warning anyway? Here, James wants to encourage those who believe in God to remain faithful and steadfast. We may be tempted to follow and envy those ungodly rich people, but James reminds us that we don’t need to be jealous of them. They seem to enjoy their lives without any problems. James said don’t follow their life. Why? At the end of verse 1, it is because they will weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon them. They will cry at the end. Why? Because Judgment will come upon them.

If people decide to pursue money instead pursuing God, their judgement is coming at them. I want us to see this warning is very strong warning from James. In the Old Testament, “howl” is used 21 times to illustrate the intense sorrow experienced by those confronting divine judgment. James warned us that “you don’t want to be on that spot, guys! Trust me! These people would certainly cry and howl” If you think you are like these people who loves money, James said don’t wait and repent now.

So, back to the question: “Is being rich a sin?” No, being rich is not a sin. Having more money than others is not a sin. Money is not the problem. We can use money for good or evil. But if we are not careful, we will see that the desire for money becomes everything, and this can lead to all kinds of sins such as living a life of luxury, becoming greedy and selfish, mistreating others for the sake of gaining more money. They use money for themselves instead of using it to glorify God.  It is important to be careful while handling money since it has the potential to mislead and trap us. We should always strive to use it in a godly manner.

How do we know we use our money in godly manner? How do we know we love money? Having money doesn’t necessarily mean we love money. We need money for our day-to-day activities. How do we know if we fall into the sin of loving money? Because real faith shape your lifestyle including how to use money.

 This leads me to my second point.


2 – THE SIN OF HOARDING (verse 2-3)

2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.

3 Your 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.

During James’ time, garments and gold and silver were the indicators that you were rich people. It was normal to only have one or a few clothes. So it was a sign of wealth when you had more than one cloth at that time. James Said that you could have more than you needed and stored but your clothes would be eaten by moths and worth nothing. Same thing for silver and gold, they would be corroded and have no value.

So, let me say some things at the very beginning, just to kind of make it clear. Today’s sermon is not an evaluation on how much money you have. That’s really not the point. I will not ask how much money or silver you have. That’s not the point in this passage. Again I say being rich is not a Sin. Having more money than others is not the sin. But I want us to really look to our heart and see how we use our money.

This is what James wants to say in verses 2-3. This is one indication that you love money. Instead of using your money for God’s purpose, this is what you do: hoarding your money.

Do you know why these people hoarded the money? Because they see money as their source of security. When I have money, I feel secure. This is the definition of hoarding: the act of collecting large amounts of money or other valuable things and keeping them for yourself, often in a secret place. You carefully guard these things because you see them as everything; your true security, your source of power. You don’t want people to know because they are yours. What about you? What do you have stored away? What is your precious? Your bank accounts? Properties? When we put our trust in these things, basically we say to God: “God, are you going to take care of us?” “I don’t trust you”

What James is describing here is massive and unthinkable waste—ridiculous waste. He’s saying that instead of using what you have, you just store it all away. What ends up happening is that the most luxurious food sits in the corner, untouched. The fanciest clothing just gathers dust. When you have so much and never use it, things start to corrode and rust. James sees all this as senseless—what is the point of feeding moths?

Listen what James said next- Verse 3 – their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Your money, gold, and silver that you hoarded will testify against you on the Judgment Day. They will testify about your lifestyle of self-indulgence.

Real faith will not see money as their security but as stewardship.

Ownership Vs Stewardship

James wants us to understand the difference between ownership and stewardship. Ownership says, ‘I deserve what I have. I worked hard for it. This is mine.’ That’s fine.

But the reality is we are called to be steward of God’s gift. Every gift of treasure has been given to us, so that we would be a good Steward of It. We have a job, your responsibility to take it from the sender to the receiver. That is what our job is with every good gift.

You are a steward, which means someone entrusted something to you. God didn’t give it to you to hoard, but to share it. If the blessing has come to you, let it flow through you. That’s how true faith sees money. It’s a gift to be stewarded. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Your bank account and your credit card statement say about the condition of your soul.

Does it mean we can not save some money for our children or grandchildren? Does it considered selfish hoarding? I think this passage does not forbid you to save money for the future. We are encouraged to be wise with money including saving. But the main message of James here is to make this “saving” or hoarding as the primary thing. We look at this saving as our true security.  We will protect this saving. Even one day there is need to share to others, we will not touch this saving. So the primary concern for us is to store away and keep for ourselves. It’s not about you. Am i willing to share this saving if needed? If the Holy Spirit pulls you to share, are you willing to touch that saving?

It does not mean we can not enjoy our money. It doesn’t mean after this service you are going to cancel all your holiday trips. If God has given you a gift, enjoy it. But it is not the only purpose of your gifts.

James warns the rich to prepare to weep and howl, not because they had money, but because they kept it all for themselves. They hoarded the money. The question for us: Am I hoarding what I think is mine or am I generous with what God has given me?

The principle is whatever God entrusted you with, hold it with open arms, allowing Him to entrust you with more if He chooses to do so. At the same time, allow Him to take whatever He wants because it is His.

Understanding that everything belongs to God is the foundation of a biblical perspective on money. Being faithful stewards means we manage money with the owner’s interests in mind. We find guidance from God, go to the scripture and seek His wisdom how to use our money so that we can we can effectively use His resources to love Him, care for our families, support our neighbors, and help the needy. Yes, to support our neighbours and people in need. It leads me to my last point.


3 – THE SIN OF GREED (verse 4-6)

4 Behold, 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.

James was saying that rich land-owners were doing wrong by not paying their workers fairly for their hard work. We’re not sure if they weren’t giving the full amount promised or making excuses, like saying the workers hadn’t done enough. But this was a problem talked about many times in the Bible, so it must have happened a lot.

In that economy, many workers relied on getting paid each day to support themselves and their families. If someone withheld their pay unfairly, it would mean they couldn’t buy food for that day.

Most of us aren’t in charge of paying workers, but if we are, we should be fair and kind. And even if we’re not, the rule still stands: it’s never okay to cheat others just to make more money for ourselves.James is telling these Christians, “Hey guys, remember, God is like the leader of a big army, and He’s going to step in and deal with this.”

Here’s how the world think: “It’s just business. It’s just business.” They probably thought they had good reasons for not paying these workers, “well you know, inflation or rising prices.” They treat everyone like playing monopoly. I’m just trying to get this building, this business, this properties. They acquiring more and more money. Yes that’s fun if it’s monopoly. But the Christian life is not just about profit. Christian life is about God and people.

4b (these people) are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. Hey Christian bosses, listen up! You’ve got a boss, up in heaven too, and He’s keeping an eye on how you treat your employees.

This is what James said if you do that – 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. What’s luxurious living? Well, it’s living in a really fancy way, way more than what you actually need. It’s spending on all sorts of stuff just to satisfy your desires. It’s all about just getting what I want. If I want it, I’m going to get it. If I can afford it, I’m going to buy it. And maybe even if I can’t afford it, I’m still going to buy it.

But what’s wrong with living like that if you’ve got the money? The thing is, God gave you that money, and you’re supposed to take care of it. Using it like that is just wasting what God’s given you.

James said these greedy people were getting all comfy and full-hearted, not realising judgment day was near. They just kept on living with self indulgence, selfishly, not caring about others. But they don’t really know what waiting for them.

Listen to verse 5b that the day of judgement is on its way. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you

The cow doesn’t realize that the faster it grows, the sooner it ends up as hamburger. James is saying they have forgotten that judgement is coming. And what they think is YOLO. You only live once. Let’s party. Let’s use our money. Enjoy life while I can. Can we be rich? Yes off course. But I think God blesses some Christians with wealth and success so they can generously support His work. Wealthy Christians should use their money to further God’s kingdom, not just for themselves.

Greed can make people do things they wouldn’t normally do. Just watch TV shows about court cases, and you’ll often find that jealousy or greed drives the crimes. The love of money pushes people to lie, steal, cheat, gamble, and even commit murder. 

I hope you can sense and feel the weight of warning from Paul about the danger of loving money. Some of you are thinking that “Drick, can you give practical application how to guard us from love of  money”. Listen to this practical application from Paul how guard ourselves from sin of greed and hoarding. ”They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,“ (1 Timothy 6:18). His solution? Generosity.

Some of you might think, “Really?! In the middle of increasing living costs, inflation?” We feel a bit uncomfortable listening to this advice. But that’s exactly the reason why generosity is a good guard for us. When Christians regularly give away some of their belongings, we will feel uncomfortable, but it serves as a reminder to trust God. It serves as a reminder that money isn’t the most important thing. Randy Alcorn said, “God prospers me not to raise my standard of living but to raise my standard of giving.” God gives to us that we might give to others.

Let’s put this way. Most of us have this fear inside of us. What fear? Fear not having enough money. That’s why we hoarding money. That’s why we don’t want to share to others. That’s why we are not generous. But the Bible goes further in warning about the love of money. We’ve talked about how it affects our relationships with others, but we must also consider why we love money. What happens horizontally, is caused by what happens vertically with God. The reason we are greedy and hoarded our money because we forgot our identity and forgot who we are. Who are we church? Listen to this – We are the recipient of the greatest acts of generosity.

Someone who have all the riches of heaven, the Scriptures tell us that he emptied himself. He chose to become poor so that we could become rich. Jesus, who has the full glory of heaven, made a selfless decision out of love for us. He expressed how much he loves us by demonstrate it through the most significant act of generosity ever recorded.

Despite possessing all the riches of heaven, He willingly emptied himself to take on human form,  so that he could overcome the power of death over us. Yes the power of death. The power of sin. We need to understand the severity of our sin. Without understanding the severity of sin and its hold over us, we cannot fully grasp the extent of our Savior’s generosity.

Despite never committing any sin, he understood the temptation and suffering that sin brings. He experienced the same trials and pains as us, and then he died in human form like we do, so we would never experience the punishment our sin deserves. If that’s not generosity, tell me what it is, church. What kind of love is that. This is why we give. We are the the recipient of the most generous act in history. In Christ alone, we have everything we could ever need – freedom, a restored relationship with our Father.  That love will never fade.

We love because he loved us. We give because we have received the greatest act of generosity. And we understand that we have a life filled with abundance that we eagerly share with others.

Remember this, God is not after your money. He is after your heart. He wants your life. Listen this, Tim Keller puts it this way: never give your money before you give your life to God. If you give your money before you give your life, it means death. A lot of people do that, they build school or hospital, they give money to the poor, they give money to the church and they give money to build the church. What is next after that? Now, God can listen to me.

I will close with this reflection question : Do I love money? If you are married, you can also ask this hard question, from the way your family spend money, does your family love god or love money?

Here some were test questions that you can ask yourself. In day-to-day conversation with your spouse or friends, if the major topic of conversation is always about money and rarely about how to disciple your children or how to reach other people. Or, look to yourself and see whether you love to compare to others; either in pride because you are doing well or envy because you don’t have.



Discussion questions:


  1. What struck you the most from the sermon?
  2. How does the warning to the rich apply to you?
  3. What is the difference between ownership and stewardship? Give examples.
  4. What are some practical things you can do to stay away from the sin of greed?
  5. How does the gospel heal the love of money?
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