James 5:1-6 Run from the love of Riches

Tonight, I have the honor of preaching at Red Oak Church in Andrews, NC Red Oak Church

The passage is James 5:1-6 in continuing Red Oak’s study through James. These notes are intended for Red Oak and anyone who listens to the recording of the sermon so that they can follow along.

Thank you guys for having me!

James 5:1-6

Run from the Love of Riches!


James has been called “the proverbs of the New Testament”.

James reminds Christians how to live.

James is a practical outworking of saving faith in Jesus.

James is full of “faith that works”.

Personally, James is refreshing because I am growing more and more weary of a subculture that accumulates more and more knowledge with very little output, and James calls that subculture to repentance through action, first, recognizing that faith/the accumulation of more spiritual food without works is dead. Second, James calls us repentance by calling on God’s people to act.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine  and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, an it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27

Many a faith has been shipwrecked not because of hearing the words of the Lord but by not doing the words of the Lord.

The answer to the question of how to grow in faith is not second, third and fourth bible studies to learn more but the practice of what we already know becoming practice thus turning theory into rock hard experiential fact as we experience the Lord being faithful just like we learned in bible study that he would be.

A tested faith is a faith more precious than gold (1 Peter 1:6-7). An untested faith that continues to pile up untested information may result in an epic crash and burn.

James forces us to act on what we have come to believe to be true. 

What truth does our passage today hold up that we must obey?

Our Passage Today: James 5:1-6

Run From the Love of Riches!

James 5:1-6 takes a “fire hammer” to the love of riches.

“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed! ’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord. ’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 23:23-32

James has just finished challenging the notion that the more affluent folks (particularly those alluded to already in 1:9-11 and 2:5-7) should presume to go and set up a business and make a profit when they don’t even know what tomorrow may bring (see 4:13-17).

Note: James is not rebuking good planning.

James is addressing some folks in the mix of the people of God who are not believers and have made riches their god and have ran over the people of God and caused those folk’s financial demise.

James’ message here “…is aimed at his wealthy, non-believing countrymen (Remember, James is a Jew and this book’s primary audience is the Christian Jewish population that is dispersed 1:1 among the nations. Much apostolic work began in synagogues and the mixing of followers of Jesus and adherents to Judaism was common until the Christians were persecuted and expelled.) who were exploiting the poor, many of whom were in the church (see 5:4, and if they were not in the church why is he addressing them in his letter to the church?). Specifically, James’ targets were wealthy farmers who owned large tracts of land and were squeezing everyone and everything for profit…James’ message is also meant to steel his people (the church) against such folly.” In other words, James wants the church to not be lured into the love of riches.

So, the message is aimed at unbelieving Jews mixed in the church who have taken advantage of believing Jews in the church.

The message must also be aimed at wealthier Christians who may make distinctions in the fellowship around poverty and riches (see 2:5-7 regarding the poor man either being made to sit at a rich man’s feet or stand while they give the rich man a seat).

The message is also aimed at Christians in general to keep them from making riches their god and thus evidencing they are truly not regenerate, alive, saved, transformed.

So, there are none who can escape the “fire hammer” of the word regarding the love of riches.

What do we see in James 5:1-6 and what does it mean?

What does James command and warn about?

1. James Commands Those Who Love Riches to Come and “Weep” and “Howl” at the Terror of Judgement Coming on Them 5:1

Verse 1 is a command.

This is a command to come and literally shriek and howl in anticipation of the misery of judgment coming for those who love riches.

“Howl” is an onomatopoeia. Saying the word “howl” the way it’s pronounced is to be like the actual sound of one “howling” in terror at the judgment coming.

Not pleasant.

James invites the guilty to come and peak into the devastation of hell for those who love riches over God and experience the awfulness of it.

We can’t see this as anything other than a warning and an opportunity to repent before they meet the King in eternity or taste his vengeance for their sin in this life.

Romans 12:19-21 “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

God can and will bring vengeance on those who have harmed his people. 

2. Do not hoard because it’s an indicator who / what you worship 5:2-3

The whole idea here is that they have take up, through sinful activity (see v. 4), more than they need and it’s rotting and wasting to their condemnation.

What is the difference between “hoarding” and “saving”?

One hoards what they treasure to an overabundance. It’s a heart issue and its an amount issue. Because it’s a heart issue it leads to an overabundance issue.

One saves what can be a useful tool for greater ends in the future and only what is needed because it’s a tool not a treasure.

A “hoarder” values what is hoarded. The “hoarded” is the end.

A “saver” values the end for which what is “saved” can achieve.

These guys have not saved. They have hoarded and done so at the expense of God’s people.

3. The Lord hears the cries of his people who have been defrauded 5:4 

The language of verse 4 reminds us of the blood of Abel crying out from the ground against Cain and the cries of the Lord’s people in Egypt being heard by the Lord in such a way that he responds to rescue his people.

The intentional withholding of what is due through deception is a grievous evil that took root in the heart of one who loved riches more than truth.

4. Beware of self-indulgence that feeds sin 5:5

The one’s who love riches have indulged at the expense of the poor.

The reference to the “day of slaughter” has connection to verse 6 in which the person’s defrauded are left without any sustainable way of caring for themselves and thus will die.

This, James calls the “day of slaughter”.

It is in this day that those who love riches have made their “bank”. They have profited at the expense of God’s people who happen to be economically impoverished.

5. Do Not “Murder” 5:6

James is referring here to “judicial murder”. This is where one takes away the means of another making a living.

“He is not speaking of literal murder, for the Greek term translated ‘condemned’ indicates that the courts are involved. Nor does he mean that the righteous were executed. He is probably thinking of lawsuits in which the rich took away the wages or land of the poor. Left without adequate resources, the poor Christians starved or, weakened by poor food, died of diseases.”

The land owning “gentry” controlled the courts, and therefore the poor man could not “resist”, as James says at the end of verse 6.

Basically, do not leave image bearing people without the dignified opportunity to work and reap from their labor for survival and thriving while you/others/institutions make bank or advance personal cause.

To force someone into a place where they can’t provide for themselves is, according to the text of Scripture, murder. 

What do we do with this? What application do we make?

1. Be resolved to love God not riches. Be resolved to save not hoard. 

We have to take a deep and honest look at our motivations and ends.


Jesus was clear on this subject.

Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops? ’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? ’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.

Luke 12:22-34

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens:they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:19-24

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Mark 4:19

“…but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”

2. Never advance ourselves, our businesses, or our ministries at the cost of people. 

3. Money is not evil and having lots of it is not sin (Abraham, Job, Josiah, Philemon, Joseph of Arimathea and Lydia), but we must resist money as our end rather than a means to God’s ends. 

This is hard. 

Mark 10:23-27 (10:17-22 sets up 10:23-27 with the rich young man who went away sad because he loved his riches more than Jesus.)

“And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

4. Beware of a desire to gain riches, even if the desire is noble on the front end.

1 Timothy 6:9-10

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

5. We must have discernment to know our times and speak prophetically to systems that advance on the poverty of image bearing men, women and children as James did.

Matthew 16:1-4

“And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. ’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening. ’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.”

6. Read: “When Helping Hurts” – Corbett and Fikkert and “The Poverty of Nations” – Grudem

Learn about sustainable, Christian endeavors to build sustainable prosperity among those who need it.

7. We have to begin to make sense out of Leviticus 19:9-10, Leviticus 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:19-22.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner:I am the Lord your God.”

“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner:I am the Lord your God.”

“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.”

8. Pray for discernment on how to personally and corporately obey the Word.

9. Trust in the Lord to be gracious and help us to repent if we need to and to be gracious to keep us from the love of riches in the first place and rest in the powerful justifying work of the cross. 

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