"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. 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!" (James 5:1-3)
You have heard the saying that "money talks". The question is...What is it saying? Most of us can relate to the comedian who said, "Yes... my money talks, but all it ever says to me is 'goodbye'!" Our money may not talk to us, but it does speak to God and others about our stewardship, character, wisdom, honesty and diligence. More specifically, how we obtain wealth and what we do with it, says a lot about what and who we love.
The Bible never teaches that money, riches or wealth are evil. Money and other material possessions are neither intrinsically good or bad. It is the love of money that the Bible warns about; "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." (1 Timothy 6:10). It is our attitude towards our money that often revels our heart, our priorities and our true love.
The rich people that James was confronting were probably Christians who were in love with money. James warns them and us that the love of money is sin which always results in negative consequences in this life and loss of rewards in the judgement to come. First, he reminds us that riches have no lasting value; "For we brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either." (1 Timothy 6:7). Once when a very rich man died, someone asked his banker, "How much did he leave? The banker's response was..."He left it all." The book of Proverbs puts it this way; "Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens." (Proverbs 23:4-5).
Secondly, the love of money "will consume your flesh". The love if money erodes character and causes great damage to one's Christian testimony. Many Christians, or at least those who claim to be Christians, have ruined their testimonies and reputations by cheating others in business and committing all kinds of sins trying to accumulate and hold on to riches. How sad, especially since money and wealth, even when obtained .honestly, has no lasting value; "Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
Wealth that is wrongly obtained and then sinfully hoarded won't last and can do irreparable damage to a good reputation. The Bible reminds us that everything, including our money and other material possessions , all belong to God. We are only stewards of all that He created and owns; "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?" (Luke 16:10-11).
Finally, the rich need to remember that we will each stand before Jesus Christ someday and give an account of what we have done in this life, both the good and the bad. Our faithfulness and the stewardship of all that God entrusted to us will be judged. At that coming judgment, our money, how we obtained it and how we used it, will be a witness either for or against our faithfulness. When your money talks, what will it say about your stewardship and your love for the Lord and others? Maranatha!