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Written by Jim Jordal   
Monday, 06 February 2012

THE APOSTLE JAMES CONDEMNS ARROGANT WEALTH

By Jim Jordal

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.

James 5:1-6, NKJV

Let me make it clear: There is nothing inherently wrong with being wealthy. Nor is it sinful to possess riches. Again and again Scripture makes it clear that wealth properly earned and invested in ways beneficial to society is a blessing from God. People aren’t condemned just because they are rich, but because they often value their money ahead of God and use it contrary to his commands.

It is sinful to gain wealth through oppressing workers or cheating consumers, or taking unfair advantage of innocent people lacking power or knowledge to resist (like the sub-prime, crooked mortgages that took advantage of ignorant purchasers). That’s real sin, folks! And it is also egregious sin to use this wealth to subvert institutions of government, control elections, send jobs offshore, and bribe and pervert public servants in the just performance of their duties.

James points out that future miseries are coming upon those who are both wealthy and arrogant in the ways they violate God’s law with impunity. These promised miseries will evidently take the form of massive declines in the value of their holdings, especially gold and silver, those "treasures" that for centuries have been sought-after hedges against inflation and other forms of financial insecurity.

James also mentions that these losses will eat the flesh of their owners like fire and will be the main witness against them. I think he meant that their peace of mind would be burned away by their losses and their idolatrous attachment to them. They will view it as if their very lives have been lost, which in a way will be true because they have built their lives and meaning around wealth and the baubles and hautiness it makes possible.

James also accuses them of heaping together this treasure in the last days. Isn’t it significant that possibly the greatest accumulation of wealth in history is occurring right now as financiers and corporate titans squirrel away wealth in exotic speculations, mega-mansions, securities, and real estate? From what are they attempting to escape?

And the sources of this wealth? As James says, far too much of it comes from the common practice of hoarding profits made by denying workers and consumers their fair share of the economic pie.

This struggle is reported daily in grim detail by the media. You know of the vast shortages of living-wage jobs, or jobs of any sort for that matter. What you don’t often hear is that at this moment large banks are sitting on about $1.5 trillion in reserves, much of which came from government bail-out packages and other benefits aimed at enabling these banks to make more economy-stimulating loans. But they don’t make the loans because they place profits and security ahead of job creation. Or that corporations have had several good years and now sit on some $80 billion in profits that ought to produce millions of jobs, but do not.

The final charge against the arrogant wealthy is that they have literally murdered the just, who do not even protest. I’m reminded of the passage in Isaiah where the oppressors brag because they have stolen the treasures of the people much as a thief robs a nest of eggs, and that no one even moved a wing or peeped. That’s a commentary on how thoroughly the victims have been propagandized to support the very politicians and parties intent on robbing them.

But the cries of those workers, homeowners, retirees, poor families and children they have cheated have finally reached the heavenly throne. God also promises that nothing hidden will not be made known as his day approaches. We’re beginning to see these effects now.

Scripture taken from The New King James Version. Copywrite 1978, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.