In his commentary on James, Douglas J. Moo explained that today’s verses condemn a sinful use of wealth. “We cannot avoid the serious reminder about money and possessions that we confront in this text. One of the sins for which God condemns these people is their selfish accumulation of money and things (vv. 2–3). In the Western world, where amassing material wealth is not only condoned but admired, we Christians need to come to grips with this point in James and ask ourselves seriously: When do we have too much?”
Mature faith understands God’s justice. The rich oppressors in today’s passage were likely unbelievers, condemned because many believing readers were victims of their exploitation. “They won’t get away with it,” James reassures the church in a prophet’s tone.
The fact is that for rich, prideful oppressors, misery is coming (vv. 1–3). Temporal things will pass away. Their ill-gotten wealth will rot. Their gold and silver will corrode. All the things in which they placed their trust will let them down and will even “testify” that they made the wrong choice (see Matt. 6:19–21).
Where did they go wrong (vv. 3b–6)? They greedily hoarded their money. They cheated their workers out of their wages. While they exploited their workers’ labor, they themselves lived in “luxury and self-indulgence.” They “condemned and murdered the innocent one”—probably a way of saying that they manipulated the court system. They fattened themselves while starving others. But in God’s divine irony, they are fattening themselves for the “day of slaughter.”
The cries of the poor have reached the ears of God. The perfect Judge will see to it that justice is done!
Make time to review your budget to see whether it reflects godly priorities. How much spending reveals a desire for luxury or convenience? How much is spent on maintaining appearances or social status? How much is dedicated to God’s ministries and helping the needy? Ask God to help you to realign your budget if needed.