James 026 – Wealthy Oppressors

James 026 – Wealthy Oppressors
James 5:1-6 • Dr. Andy Woods • May 5, 2021 • James


James 026

Wealthy Oppressors

James 5:1-6

Dr. Andy Woods

May 5, 2021

In James 5, James writes a book to the scattered Hebrew Christians, and he is teaching them per items 6-10 on the slide, Answering Eleven Questions, he is teaching them about practical righteousness.  The assumption is that these folks are already believers, and James is writing them to teach them how to let their practice catch up with the position.

The first half of the book, to review, is about the walk of faith; we are saved by faith, and we need to continue to walk by faith, which means doing these five things (see Slide on James Structure):

  1. Adopting God’s mindset on trials
  2. Obeying God’s Word
  3. Not showing favoritism
  4. Doing good works
  5. Taming the tongue

Then in James 3:13, he switches topics and begins to talk about the walk of wisdom.  He defines wisdom as knowledge applied, and then he begins to apply wisdom to every area of life.  He applies it first to our spiritual lives per James 4:1-12 (we finished that last session), and then he begins to apply wisdom to our commercial lives.  The walk of practical righteousness involves the issue of finances and money.  He explains in 4:13-17 the necessity of depending upon God while planning.  It is okay to plan but to make sure to include God in your plans in the sense that you are keeping your plans loose enough to allow for God’s intervention.

Tonight, we move into James 5:1-6, and while speaking of commerce and money, he moves right into the use of wealth.  As you probably know, in the original manuscript, there were no chapter divisions; the chapter divisions were added later, so the Holy Spirit did not put that chapter divisions where they are.  The chapter divisions can be helpful, but sometimes they bifurcate one section of the Bible from another unnecessarily.  What is happening at the end of James 4  where he talks about commerce and money and the need to plan as if God can interrupt our plans because of His sovereignty.

From that subject of money, he moves right into the use and misuse of wealth, so that chapter division doesn’t really give you that impression but when you take the chapter division out, which is how it read in the original manuscripts, you will see how one topic flows nicely into another.

He begins to deal with the use of wealth, and he issues one of the harshest things you can find in the entire book of James, and probably in the whole Bible in James 5:1-13, where he predicts divine judgment coming upon wealthy oppressors.  Not people who are merely wealthy, but those who became wealthy by trampling on someone else.  He does this in 5:1-3 and in 5:4-6, he gives the reasons for the coming judgment.  Why is God upset at these wealthy oppressors?  We know that judgment is coming upon them in James 5:1-3, and in 5:4-6 three reasons are given as to why God is upset with wealthy oppressors.

So, let’s start off here with 5:1-3 as you get a glimpse of predicted judgment coming upon wealthy oppressors.  Look at 5:1, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.”  You will notice this expression, ‘rich,’ and one thing to understand is that I don’t think that God is against people simply because they are rich.

1 Timothy 6:17 says, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”  God supplies all things richly for people to enjoy and the problem isn’t having resources to enjoy, but according to 1 Timothy 6:17, the problem is with being conceited because you have those things; in other words, allowing those things to make you think that if you have them, you are more important than others.  They become a problem if you fix your hope on those things because they are uncertain; one day you might have them, and by the next day they could disappear.

So, I believe that a proper understanding of the Bible is that it’s not so much a blanket condemnation of people who have more resources than they need, which is how I define ‘rich’ by the world’s standard.  The problem is not having money; rather it is if your money has you.  The problem isn’t having possessions; it is a problem if your possessions possess you.  We can go through the Bible and see many examples who walked with God and were very wealthy.  Think about Job, early on and at the end of his life; Abraham, and a number of others.  In fact, Jesus was buried in the tomb of a rich man.  Matthew 27:57, “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus.”  So, Joseph of Arimathea, the one in whose tomb Christ was ultimately buried, is called here in Matthew 27:57, not ‘just a rich man,’ but a ‘rich disciple.’  So, apparently you can be both if you aren’t making money your idol.

Thus, the Bible is not down on money, but on the love of money.  Probably one of the most misquoted verses in the entire Bible is 1 Timothy 6:10 and is typically misquoted as ‘money is the root of all evil.’  But what it says, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  Matthew 6:24 says, “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.”  You start to see a pattern that the Bible is against serving money or loving it or putting your hope in it; yet having money in and of itself is not sinful as long as it isn’t gained through oppression, but the reason these rich people are in trouble with God is because they got wealthy by trampling down someone else.

In James 5:1, he says, “Come now, you rich,… [when he says, ‘come now,’ I think that a lot of the imagery goes back to the book of Isaiah 1:18 where God says speaking through Isaiah to sinful Israel, “Come now and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.”]… So, God speaking through Isaiah says, ‘Let’s talk about this and let’s reason about this,’ and I believe that this is what James is saying: ‘Come now you rich, let’s have a reasonable discussion about this.’  James goes on in 5:1 after he says, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.”  This describes their miseries that are about to come upon them as unavoidable.

Randy Alcorn wrote a very good book that had a big impact on me as a younger Christian, called Money, Possessions and Eternity. It will take you through every single biblical passage throughout the Bible dealing with anything financial.  I very much appreciate that book because it isn’t a self-help book or about how to put together a budget—those things have their place, but if you really want to understand how God thinks about money, that is a book that I recommend, because there is a lot of scriptural support for everything he says in it.

In fact, the Bible mentions more about money, and you might be shocked to learn as I did from that particular book, than any other single subject.  Money is all over the Bible, so James says in James 5:1, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.”  One of the things that Randy Alcorn talks about in that book is what he calls the doctrine of reversal — how in this life some people get ahead while others do not.  He says that it is interesting how, in the next life, that everyone’s circumstances get completely reversed — not always, but many times in Scripture it does, so Randy Alcorn refers to this as the doctrine of reversal.  That is what is being spoken of to the rich people here: ‘weep and howl because in the next life there is misery coming.’

I am reminded of the rich man who died and went into Hades, and Lazarus, the poor man who used to beg for crumbs in front of his table or his home in Luke 16:19-25.  In this life, the rich man is on top, and Lazarus is on the bottom, and they go into the next life with their circumstances totally reversed, the doctrine of reversal.  Luke 16:19-25, “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.   And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.  22Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.  23In Hades he lifted his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.  24And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’  25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.”

It is interesting that when moving into the next life, people’s circumstances that currently seem permanent in this life will be completely reversed.  That is what James is seeing here when he talks about these wealthy oppressors who believe that God is not upset with them because they are wealthy, but they gained their wealth through oppression.  He tells them to weep and howl because in the next life, everything will be topsy turvy from what they know here and now.  Those who are being oppressed will be on top and those who are the oppressors will be in torment — the doctrine of reversal.

In James 5:2, James says, “Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten.”  Riches, when the day of judgment comes, won’t be of any help to anyone.  Again 1 Timothy 6:17, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”  It deals with those who are banking on their riches as being some sort of favor with God, yet they are putting their stock, so to speak, in something that is uncertain.  Not only are riches uncertain in this life, but riches are of no value on the day of judgment.

James 5:3, “Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire.  It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!”  Notice in the first part of the verse, “Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you…”  Your gold and silver testify against you because the gold and silver, as we will see in 5:4-6 were attained through oppression of someone else.  It is interesting that today everyone wants safe investments — what are those?  You must sink your money into gold and silver; I am not a financial guide at all, but I’ve heard it said that you must gold and silver in your portfolio because they will hold their value.  It is interesting that the very thing everyone wants is actually the witness that God will consider as He judges the rich oppressors.

By the way, in the movie Titanic, remember how the rich guy was trying to bribe people to get on the right boat, and you are ‘laughing’ because the boat is sinking and wondering why someone would want to even take that bribe; the money won’t be worth anything.  Money doesn’t help you when the ship is sinking, and that is how it will be on the day of judgment — all the wealthy oppressors have placed their confidence, sense of self-worth in their money, yet it is worthless to them on the day of judgment.  In fact, the more of it you have, the more it will testify against you if you got it by ill-gotten gain.

I want to be clear now, if someone becomes wealthy because of thrift, industry, and hard work and by coming up with a product or service that fills a need, I don’t think that the Bible stands in condemnation of them.  That is not what is being spoken of here.  It is dealing with people who became wealthy by trampling down others.  Examples would be drug dealers who become wealthy by chemically addicting others; a pornographer who gains wealth off selling the skin or body of someone else for lustful idea and purposes.  Of course, people who run abortion clinics can become very wealthy by the blood and death of unborn children.  Those are the types of scenarios James is talking about versus someone who becomes wealthy through industry, hard work, creativity, thrift, entrepreneurship, or risk.  Many people will take the Bible out of context here and make it sound as though wealth is bad; that is not true; it is how wealth is gained that is the issue as far as God is concerned.

Looking at the second part of James 5:3 that says, “…and will consume your flesh like fire…” as he speaks of this future judgment.  All the way through the book of James I have tried to point out that he is addressing a believing audience, and I still believe that to be true.  However, here he is grabbing an illustration from outside of his audience, and these are clearly unsaved people.  As a Christian, the only possible burning experience one can have is the burning up of your works:  never the burning up of your flesh.  In 1 Cor 3:10-15 describes the judgment seat for the Christian, never does it describe our flesh being consumed by fire.  What it says is that the works we do will be tried by fire to test their quality.  Those things that are gold, silver and costly tones will survive the fire; those things that are wood, hay and stubble will be dissolved in the fire, and whatever remains after the fire will be rewards that we will receive above and beyond salvation.  Gold, silver and costly stones would represent the things that we do as Christians with the right motives under God’s resources.  Wood, hay, and stubble would represent things that we do with carnal motives.  This is a severe judgment, but it never describes we as Christians are going through the fire, only our works.  Just to remind you of 1 Cor 3:10-15 says, “10According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it.  But each man must be careful how he builds on it.  11For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  12Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  15If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

So, it isn’t the Christian who is put into the fire at this judgment seat of rewards; it is our works.  Therefore, if you have bought into what I said, James is obvious using an illustration from the unsaved world because he isn’t talking about their works going through a fire; he is talking about their flesh being consumed by fire.  Not only are these rich people oppressors, which is bad enough, but they are also outside the grace of God because they have never trusted in Christ for salvation.  I think this becomes clear when it describes the consuming of their flesh by fire.

It goes on in James 5:3, “…It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!”  So, you have stored up all these things, when in fact all these things are testifying against you because you obtained them through ill-gotten gain, and you thought you were storing up treasure for yourself on the earth, but actually you were storing up wrath for yourself in the next life.  That is what James is getting at here.

He says, this is in the last days, so this refers to Judgment Day.  Your money will not help you on Judgment Day.  When your professor gave you an exam; it is Exam Day.  You can’t wiggle out of it; you can’t study for the exam then; it is too late; you are evaluated based on what you know; it is too late to change your circumstances.  That is how it will be for these rich oppressors; they will appear before God in judgment and will have no opportunity to change their circumstances because it is the ‘last days.’

Again, he says, “…It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!”  It is akin to the imagery of water building up behind a dam.  Eventually the weight of the water becomes so great that the dam breaks.  They have stored up for themselves judgment which must fall on them at some point because of all of the oppression they have committed on earth.  This reminds me of Gen 15:16 where God says, “…the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”  Judgment is coming on the Amorites but not today because their iniquity is not yet complete.  One of these days the snowball will be so big that it can’t be stopped from rolling.  One of these days the volume of water behind the dam will be so great that it will inevitably break the dam open.  That is what is being described here.

In the book of Romans 2:5, Paul uses the same type of imagery for unbelievers; he says, “…storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath…”  So, it is some pretty heavy stuff when you examine these verses as God is announcing judgment that is coming upon these rich oppressors.

When you start looking at this from God’s perspective, you will stop envying the prosperity of the wicked.  That is a very easy trap to fall into — looking at those who seem to be getting ahead by cheating.  It is easy to say, ‘Here I am playing by the rules, and I don’t get ahead.’  It is easy to become somewhat envious of the wicked…until you see the wicked from the eternal perspective, then you stop envying them, and you actually begin feeling sorry for them.  You are seeing it from the lens of what Randy Alcorn refers to as the doctrine of reversal.

Now there is a wonderful Psalm on this; in fact, my first counseling session in my first Pastorate I can ever remember, a guy came to me and said, ‘I’m so discouraged with God.’  I asked, ‘Why?’  At my job, everyone who cheats and does things wrong gets ahead and they are never reprimanded or punished.  Here I am playing by the rules, and I can’t get ahead.’  Fortunately, the Lord gave me enough insight to show him James 5:1-3 and Psalm 73, which I will read some of shortly.  I tried to use those two passages of Scripture to get him to analyze his situation from the eternal perspective.  When you look at it in light of eternity, then you will more likely feel sorry for these wealthy oppressors because the judgment coming upon them will be very certain and severe.  So, let me recommend a wonderful Psalm if you find yourself envying the prosperity of the Wicked.  Psalm 73, one of the psalms written by Asaph, and I wish we had time to read the entre psalm, but here is an excerpt, 3 “For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”  So, ‘I saw all the wicked people getting ahead and rich, and frankly I was very jealous of them.’  Then he begins to describe how at ease they are: 4 “For there are no pains in their death, And their body is fat.  5They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like mankind.  6Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them…”  they got ahead by murdering people.  7 “Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of their heart run riot. 8They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high.  9They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth.”  [I can think of a lot of people who fit that description].  10Therefore, his people return to this place, And waters of abundance are drunk by them. 11They say, “How does God know?  And is there knowledge with the Most High?”  12Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth.”

Asaph is watching these wealthy oppressors getting ahead, and he is saying, ‘Lord, I am bummed out about this.  I am jealous of these people; envious.’  Then you get to Psalm 73:16 and the entire Psalm changes.  In verses 3-12, is the temporal perspective; in verses 16-20 is the eternal perspective:  16 “When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight.”  In other words, I was troubled by the prosperity of the wicked.  17 Until [now we are getting to a turning point] I came into the sanctuary of God [in other words, until I began to see them from God’s vantage point]; Then I perceived their end.  18 Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction.  19 How they are destroyed in a moment!  They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!  20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form.” His whole attitude changed when he saw what would happen to these wealthy oppressors in the next life, and I believe that Asaph stopped being envious of them, but he actually began to feel sorry for them.  When you read things like this, then rather than being envious of the prosperity of the wicked, you intercede for them, because they are moving off into a judgment in the doctrine of reversal where their circumstances and fortunes will change ‘in an instant; a nanosecond’ in the next life.  Notice that Asaph did not have this perspective at all until he went into the sanctuary of God, which by the way, is what you are doing here tonight.  You could be watching tv or doing other things, but you are here getting the eternal perspective.  Only when you go into the sanctuary of God, an area where His Word is taught, or when you read the Word on your own do you start to get to know the mind of God on subjects like this, and you actually start to pity these wealthy oppressors.

There is no doubt in my mind that in James 5, James is probably thinking about these kind of Scriptures as he writes his word to us here.  James 5:1-3 predicted judgment coming on the rich oppressors.   In 5:4-6 are the reasons for the coming judgment.  Here we have three reasons for the Coming Judgment:

  1. Reason 1 = unpaid wages James 5:4
  2. Reason 2 = wanton luxury James 5:5
  3. Reason 3 = condemnation of the innocent James 5:6

Why is God upset with these wealthy oppressors?  First, He is upset with them because of unpaid wages 5:4: “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”

One of the things to discover about God, particularly when reading the Law of Moses, is that God is quite blue collar.  God is looks out for the lower middle class wage earner.  After all, Jesus was a carpenter; He was essentially blue collar; and He knew what it was like to do manual labor.  In the Law of Moses, it is evident that God doesn’t like it when workers don’t get paid their rightful wages, or an excuse is made as to why they shouldn’t be paid, and the means to pay them are there, and they have rendered service and should be paid immediately.

Regarding the Mosaic Law per Leviticus 19:13, “You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him.  The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning.”  So, if someone does work for you, you do not withhold their wages all night; you pay them immediately; that was part of the Law of Moses.

In Deut. 24:14, it says the same thing:  “You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets,  for he is poor and sets his heart on it [his wages]; so that he will not cry against you to the Lord and it becomes sin in you.”  Be careful what you are doing with these people who work for you and who you don’t pay; they could actually cry out to the Lord on their own behalf, and God says that He will step in and deal with the situation.  This is what James is saying in James 5:4, “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”

This reminds me of when Cain slew Able, ‘Hey, where is your brother?’ Cain responded, ‘Hey am I my brother’s keeper?’  Remember what God said there?  “…The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to Me from the ground.”  An injustice happens, and we think that God doesn’t see it; the wealthy oppressors are banking on God not seeing it.  The people who receive labor from the laborers and refuse to pay them their wages are banking on God not seeing them.  But the Bible is saying that God indeed does see it; He sees it all, and there will eventually be a payday.  Maybe not today, tomorrow or in the next five minutes, but certainly there will be in eternity where the doctrine of reversal will kick in.

It is interesting that here they refer to the Lord as ‘the Lord of Sabaoth,’ and as we have gone through this book of James, I have belabored the point that not only is the audience a believing audience, but it is a Jewish audience because it is written to the twelve tribes.  Of course, a Jew would understand very well the Lord of the Sabaoth because the Jew has their Sabbth on the last day of the week, Saturday.  Why did God work for six days and rest on the seventh?  Ex 20:8-11; Ex 31:15-17 has a pattern for the Israeli work week when He says that ‘in creation I worked for six days and ceased from labor on the Sabbath; that is what the Hebrew work week was supposed to represent.

It is different for us now in the church age because Jesus rose on the first day of the week, so we congregate on Sunday per Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2, “On the first day of every week…” but as we have argued, James was written very early; it is the first of the New Testament books; to a Hebrew believing audience; this is why James uses all of this Jewish terminology that they’d understand as it refers to the Lord as the Lord of the Sabaoth.

So, God is saying, ‘I am ticked off at these wealthy oppressors.’  Why?

  1. Unpaid wages
  2. Wanton luxury

Look at James 5:5, “You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure… [akin to the rich man relative to Lazarus in Luke 16]; …  “you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.”  Fattened is a very strong irony because as they have lived this life of wanton pleasure, they have become fat and it is like fattening the animal to be slaughtered.  You fattened yourself only to realize that the fattening is for your own slaughter, just like a sacrificial animal.

Which verses would James be referencing here?  There is little doubt in my mind that he is referring to the book of Amos 4:1 because the book of Amos is filled with this type of language.  Amos 4:1, [How politically correct is this?  He is speaking to wealthy women.  Don’t get mad at me, I didn’t say that, I am just reading it]: “Hear this word [speaking to these wealthy women], you cows of Bashan who are on the mountain of Samaria…[these women are like cows, and why is Amos upset?],… “Who oppress the poor [the same reason that God, through James, is upset] … “who crush the needy [it is like this giant animal who rolls over and crushes everything in her path is the imagery that is used to describe oppression.  As they are crushing the needy, they are saying to their husbands…], … “Who say to your husbands, “Bring now, that we may drink!”   So, these cows of Bashan have no heart for all the people who they are crushing as they become wealthy in the process.  All they can think about as they say to their husbands, ‘Go to the bar and get me another marguerita; or pina colada.  Book the cruise for next month.’  In other words, all they can think about is their own pleasure and wonderful life, but they can care less about all the people they’re crushing akin to a giant animal rolling over people in the process.  This is what James, I think, is referencing here when he deals with the subject in 5:5.

You may recall in the beginning of this book that the book of James is the Amos of the New Testament because Amos is all about social justice—social justice in the sense of people taking advantage of others, violating God’s provision for the lower classes in His law.  This is what Amos is upset about and James is apparently dialing back to Amos in that sense.

In the book of Amos, there are statements such as, ‘But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.’  Who said that in American history?  Dr. Martin Luther King did in his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech.  He made this statement, ‘Let justice roll down’  speaking against the mistreatment of people of racial minority status in the US.  He says, “Let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”  You can look it up in Martin Luther King, Jr’s, ‘I have a dream’ speech and it comes right out of the book of Amos 5:24.  So Amos and James are both upset; God is upset through both of them, not only because of unpaid wages, but because they have crushed people to become wealthy, and all they care about is their own pleasure and prosperity.  They have no concern whatsoever, no conscience, for who they have crushed to get into the position that they are in.

The last thing that God is upset about with regard to these wealthy oppressors is that they’ve condemned innocent people in James 5:6, “You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.”  God is upset here with these wealthy oppressors because they have actually condemned to death innocent people who weren’t even opposing them to begin with.

That entire scenario reminds me of David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and a child was conceived because of that unholy union.   David essentially tried to cover his sin by covering his tracks.  He wanted to get rid of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, in 2 Sam 11:15, “He had written in the letter [to his General] saying, “Place Uriah in the front line of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him so that he may be struck down and die.”  David actually committed murder against Uriah the Hittite because he was trying to cover his own sin with Bathsheba.  And David was confronted by Nathan the prophet who told him a story in 2 Sam 12:1-7, Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. [That is what prophets do; they call wayward kings back to God’s standard]… “And he came to him and said [through telling him a story but David didn’t know that he was the subject of the story], … “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had a great many flocks and herds.  3 But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb Which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children.  It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, and was like a daughter to him.  4 Now a traveler came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” [So, the rich man rather than take something from a flock to help a sojourner, he doesn’t take it from his own flock although he is rich and can afford whatever he wants.  He picks on the one guy who has the one little lamb—-‘I am not going to take my own lamb, I am going to take his single lamb which is like a daughter to him.  And that is all he has].  5 Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die.”

6 He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold because he did this thing and had no compassion.  [

This is very important to understand that people who are under conviction get angry.  Sharing your faith with someone, they will blow their top and you take that as a sign of discouragement when, they are being convicted.  When he hears this story, David blows his top because he is under conviction for his sin].  7 Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! [‘So, the story that I told David is really about you] … “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul.”  In other words, God says to David that it is I who gave you everything.  I’m the one who made you the second king of the United Kingdom following Saul, and what do you do?  You take the wife of one guy who has almost nothing.’  What David did was to put to death someone who wasn’t even opposing him.  And this is what Nathan is confronting David about and what James is confronting these wealthy oppressors about as well.  God does not like when violence is shed against someone who isn’t doing anything wrong.

Proverbs 6:16-19, “There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:  Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.”  It mentions the sins that God hates, and there in the midst of this passage is “And hands that shed innocent blood.”  That is what these wealthy oppressors are doing; murdering, condemning to death righteous people who weren’t even opposing them.

Again, see from this passage the issue isn’t money; the issue is ill-gotten gain.

James 5:1-3 predicts judgment coming upon these wealthy oppressors and 5:4-6 gives the reasons for the coming judgment:

  1. Unpaid wages;
  2. Living in wanton luxury and then
  3. Condemning the innocent.

I can think of a lot of people in that situation; I certainly don’t want to live my life in that circumstance, so this becomes a major point that James makes concerning the unjust use of wealth.

So, what should our attitude towards money be as Christians?   Plan, but not as though God can’t interrupt your plans — the end of James 4.  Never ever put yourself in the position where you are gaining as someone else is losing or being oppressed.

The next time we meet we will continue this and will discuss waiting for the Lord’s return in James 5:7-12.