“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.”
Go now is equivalent to an English idiom, which is “Come on now!” You rich refers to those with material wealth. There is nothing wrong with being rich, and there is nothing wrong with being poor, but people always associate money with happiness. What they have forgotten is what really brings believers happiness is not what they possess, but what they have in their souls. You can be wealthy and be miserable because you have no capacity, but you can also be wealthy and be happy.
When believers try to find happiness apart from Bible doctrine they always end up “weeping and howling.” In this verse we have a rich man in reversionism who is weeping and howling. His wealth is neutralized by his lack of capacity. Spiritual maturity brings the capacity to enjoy what God provides. This is the only way any believer is going to really enjoy anything in life. This is why spiritual maturity should be the goal for every believer in Jesus Christ. If you attempt to get happiness by getting certain things in life like material wealth, social status, power or popularity, what you wind up getting is frustration and misery. Why is this? It’s because of self-induced misery and divine discipline. If God blesses you with material wealth, it is very important to remember the source of those blessings. As easily as you received these material blessings, they can just as easily be taken away.
“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!”
The problem here is not wealth; the problem is the spiritual status of reversionism by a wealthy believer. The problem is not having money; the problem lies in not having capacity to enjoy it and use it to glorifiy God. In this passage it is not the wealth that is being criticized, it is the reversionist with wealth. Remember that the reversionist has no capacity. He made a decision along the way to neglect Bible doctrine and turned his interest toward the idea of accumulating wealth. If a person gets a million dollars in reversionism, his wealth has no spiritual benefit because of his lack of spiritual capacity. When a person enters into reversionism his soul is not only in emotional revolt, but his soul is corrupted and everything he possesses is “rotten.” There is no excuse for the believer to have a corrupted soul. When money, things, people or power is preferred over Bible doctrine they end up making you miserable when you are in a state of reversionism.
If you possess silver and gold with a corrupted soul, there will be no blessing for you, which is analogous to rusty metal. This is tantamount to negative volition toward doctrine. Therefore any doctrine in the soul tarnishes, rots, corrodes, and corrupts because of no capacity in the soul. However, the possession of wealth is not the issue; it is the capacity in the soul to possess wealth and continue to advance to spiritual maturity. It is not what you have that counts; it is what your soul contains by way of Bible doctrine that counts. Gold and silver may mean wealth but Bible doctrine in the soul means capacity for wealth. Wealth alone does not bring happiness. The true issue in this verse is Bible doctrine in the soul.
A corrupted soul is evidence of negative volition, which leads to divine discipline. How do you get this corruption in your soul? First of all you become negative toward and neglectful of Bible doctrine. You have become a hearer of the Word and not a doer of the Word. Capacity comes from doctrine, and if you are negative toward doctrine whatever objects you acquire produce a reaction in the soul which has no doctrinal basis for appreciation. Instead of capacity you have rot, you have tarnish, you have moth-eaten, and all of these things are a fire in the soul that burns you up. You self-destruct while still alive. The fire refers to temporal death of the spiritual life and might ultimately lead to the sin unto death. The reversionist uses money, success, etc. in an attempt to solve his problems, but the only solution to a believer’s problems is Bible doctrine in the soul.
In verses 4-6 we have three areas of monetary reversionism. The first is in business life, the second is in social life, and the third is in the function of the Laws of Divine Establishment.
“Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”
First we have reversionism in business life. Here is a reversionistic rich man whose wealth is measured in terms of a large accumulation of money. He has no Bible doctrine, although a believer, but he does have a great deal of money. The believer in this passage is rich, reversionistic, and practices reversionism in his business life.
This man cheated people out of their wages while making a great deal of money. When God provides money for a believer there is to be no cheating involved. This man has cheated and made money by depriving those who worked for it their legitimate wages. He hired these people for a harvest and then refused to pay them and therefore made more money from their labor. He said he would pay them at the end of the harvest, but he lied. Perhaps they assumed that because he was a believer he would keep his word. They may have had some experience with an honorable man in the past, but this was a dishonorable believer in a state of reversionism and making money by using Christianity as a front.
He habitually defrauded people of their wages. He deprived them of their living so that he could accumulate more and more wealth. It is not the money that is crying; it is the one who has been cheated. It is the victims who are screaming because their living is gone. The principle is that people have a right to wages, and under the principle of divine establishment, the more money a man makes in business under free enterprise and under the grace of God, the greater becomes his responsibility to the system under which he becomes wealthy.
Why do they keep screaming? Because they have been deprived of a living, when in reality they should be sharing in the prosperity. The man who made all of this money has responsibility to his workers, for their prosperity, to allow the prosperity to overflow to others. In this way he is blessed and others are blessed. This is the way the laws of divine establishment work. From his business and from his profits he is to provide for them. It is the business of believers who succeed under free enterprise to help their workers who have been faithful in helping him build his business so that the profit is shared.
These workers did their job and they were not paid for the legitimate work which they did. The rich man broke his contract. God doesn’t have human ears, but the screams of people suffering, starving, of being deprived of their homes or their families because their wages were not given, is known to the Lord. “So, the screams have entered into the ears of the Lord of the armies” implies that believers will suffer divine discipline when they cheat others in business.
“You have lived luxuriously on the earth and lead a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.”
Second we have reversionism in social life. This could be the same man or some other man, the principle remains the same. Luxuriously means to live a life of self-indulgence. It doesn’t mean to have luxury; it means to have luxury to the point of self-indulgence. It also means to carouse, to revel. This was a case of self-indulgence as a substitute for capacity for life. A spiritually mature wealthy person would have capacity for life but a wealthy person in reversionism revels in his self-indulgence. This man is totally self-indulgent therefore he has no capacity for appreciating the luxury. There is nothing wrong with luxury and pleasure unless you happen to be in reversionism, and then there is everything wrong with it (motivation, priorities, self-induced misery, etc.)
The Greek word for fatten is “trepo,” which means to feed, but it also means to fatten an animal for the slaughter house. They have fattened their soul with the pleasures of Satan’s world system instead of filling their soul with Bible doctrine. The day of slaughter could be any event which ends in the destruction of this reversionistic believer, including national disasters. If the slaughter is not national disaster, it could simply be the destruction this believer brings on his spiritual life.
“You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.”
Third we have reversionism in the function of Laws of Divine Establishment. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man means that the reversionistic believer used his wealth, his influence and his power to ruin an innocent person. The very one that the law should protect is the innocent. This innocent person doesn’t oppose (resist) you, is not against you and your money, but you have used your money against him, you have taken something provided him by the grace of God. You oppose yourself in self-induced misery is the implication. The entire point of the book of James is “are you a doer of the Word and not a hearer only?” Are you on the road to spiritual maturity or the road to reversionism? You never stand still in the Christian life. The road to reversionism is the road where you try to make you happy. The road to spiritual maturity is where God makes you happy.