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Unjust Riches

Unjust Riches

Words of Faith 5-22-2020

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2020


Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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James 5:1-6

        Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.  Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.  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.  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.  You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.


       James 5:1-6 is one of those Scriptures we will not likely memorize or share as a favorite in a small group.  There isn't much that is warm and fuzzy here!  The harsh words of James are reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets and their scorching criticism of injustice (Isaiah 13-21, 23; Ezekiel 25-32.) 

       Some scholars give us a little comfort in noting that this does not seem to be directed toward believers but toward pagans. They note that it is not addressed to "brothers.”  But we would be foolish to turn away too quickly from the sting of James' words. 

       Now, we could chuckle and assume these strong words must not be aimed at us, unless someone has miraculously paid off our credit cards.  But the simple fact is that if we are reading these words in relative comfort, we are among the top percentage of wealthy people in the world.  If we live with only one family in our house, usually eat a meal or two a day, have more than one pair of shoes, and have some access to modern medical care, we are among the wealthiest people on the planet.  We are the rich folks.

        So, what is this about?  The sin condemned here is not "being rich.”  Many wealthy people around Jesus were not condemned for having riches.  James mentions here four specific sins that are attached to the trappings of wealth and are condemned.  These sins are hoarding, failing to pay wages, luxurious self-indulgence, and the murder of innocent people.  

        Hoarding? Hopefully, we got through the pandemic without acquiring too much toilet paper. But this is about more general times and asking the question - How much is enough?  You don't have to be a billionaire to find yourself accumulating more stuff than you really need. Is there some stuff that could be given to the poor? Are there some things we have in the garage or closet that might be a blessing to others?  Do I really need more? Is there a simpler way to live?

       The wages of workers?  Sadly, there are occasions when employers don't pay a just wage.  This happens even with Christian employers and church employers.  Some will try to get by without paying what is due.  Sometimes what is technically legal is not right or fair or just.  Are you in business or management? Pay fairly all of every wage. 

        How about luxurious self-indulgence?  That probably happens any time we spend beyond bare necessity or splurge on a brand name.  It is difficult not to buy beyond the generic brand. Still, it is certainly something we can watch and even balance in special giving.  It is good to look into the mirror occasionally and ask:  Am I self-indulgent?  Is there a better way that the Lord might have me to use His resources?

        Hopefully, we have not participated in the killing of innocents, especially since James was probably referring to Christian martyrs.  But we may give thought to whether we have responsibility for damage or even death that comes to people through a corporation we support or a system we benefit from.  Do we have any social responsibility for a company we do business with?  What about those corporations that budget for legal damages rather than recall a dangerous product?  In the wealth of our highly technical culture, the answers will be more and more difficult. 

        We cannot miss the innocent elephant in the room. During the last 50 years in America, more than 46 million innocent preborn babies were not permitted to breathe air in this world. 

        With great wealth comes great responsibility.  How will we make it?  Only with the grace of God. Only with a humble and contrite spirit. Only by a walk of confession and repentance.


       Lord, is there something You want me to change?  Have I been unfair?  Is there a part of my lifestyle that I could change?  Could I live more simply?  Is there something more that You would like for me to give?  Are there some things that I just don't need anymore?  Lord, show me how to be connected in ways that give life.  Give me the grace to carefully manage the wealth You have entrusted to me.  In Jesus Name, Amen.


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© Jeffrey D. Hoy 2009, 2020

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy - Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA)       

2820 Business Center Blvd.

Melbourne, Florida 32940 (321)-259-7200


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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.