"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
The venerable pastor, teacher, writer and seminary president, Charles Swindoll, identifies four types of rich and poor people.
First, there are those who are poor WITHOUT and poor WITHIN.
This could be the largest group of people in the world. I have looked into their hopeless eyes in remote villages in Africa. Children, young people, and adults so shackled by poverty they dare not dream or allow themselves the luxury of expectations. Life is so difficult for them that every day is a struggle as they wonder if it might be their last. The desperation they face as they fight to survive until the next uncertain day is surpassed only by the emptiness within. Far too many of these precious people live in futility and die in fear.
Second, there are those are rich WITHOUT and rich WITHIN.
Perhaps this is the smallest group of people in the world. These folks have attained a high level of financial and material success and the wealth that comes with it. All of their needs are met, their bills are paid and their future is assured. Their greatest challenge is protecting and growing their wealth. Because of their success and security they are able to lend assistance to others in need. Their motivations to help others comes from the spiritual joy they have found through their faith in Jesus Christ. Money is important to them but not paramount. Their wealth doesn't dictate or define their lives because they live by the truth of God's Word. It would please God if all of His children could live like this!
Third, there are those who are poor WITHOUT and rich WITHIN.
Another large group of people are those who have discovered the incomparable riches of God's grace in Christ Jesus. They are heirs of faith and joint-heirs with Jesus of all that belongs to the Father. But the resources they have on earth are very meager in comparison to the riches laid up in Heaven. Due to lack of opportunity or extenuating circumstances beyond their control, they struggle to make ends meet and every day is difficult. But, their worldly difficulties are made bearable by the personal presence of Jesus Who gives them peace and Who promises to "supply all their needs according to His riches in glory".
The final group is those who are rich Without but poor WITHIN.
This is the particular category of people James is addressing in this portion of Scripture. He deals harshly with them because of the trouble inflicted on others because of their greed. They used their material wealth to oppress others and to increase their personal power and control. Here is a short list of the indictments against people who fit in this category:
- They hoarded their riches while others around them were hurting
- They refused to help others despite their ability to do so. What they couldn't get by honest means they acquired dishonestly.
- They padded their bank accounts by withholding wages due their workers. Those who were toiling to gain their wealth were not being given their just wages.
- They focused all their time, talents and energy to gain and grow their wealth and no regard for their eternal spiritual condition.
Because of their miserable spiritual state they are never able to enjoy the material advantages they enjoy.
As usual, Swindoll sums up the central truths of this passage. Everyone who lives and breathes fits in one of these four categories.
Which one fits you?
Is this where you need to be?
Is this where God wants you?
What must you do?