The Bible is not agains money. It does take a stance, however, against the corrupt accumulation or use of wealth. James himself is not agains those who are blessed by material gain; in fact, he goes out of his way to clarify the kind of rich he is talking about. He is calling those who are:
- Dying spiritually because they worship money, not God
- Greedy rather than generous
- Completely self-centered and indulgent
- Exploitive and hurtful others
There is an attitude and mindset that is right and Godly: If you have money and are generous, other-centered, self-sacrificial, caring of others, and focused on Christ, James is not talking to you. Relax.
But if this is you, it’s a problem.
One of my concerns is that we hear this and think, “Well, I’m not rich. But I really hope the rich are listening.” If we read this honestly, there have been points in our lives where we are guilty of some things on this list too. You don’t have to be rich to struggle with these things. You can be on government assistance, making minimum wage, or living paycheck to paycheck and have James’ list apply:
- Dying spiritually because of idolatry. $100 can be worshipped as easily as $100,000. Saving money for a rowboat can be as idolatrous as saving money for a speedboat.
- Greedy rather than generous. We get a refund after we file taxes – what are we inclined to do with that? The poorest of us can be greedy. You don’t need a lot of money to do that.
- Completely self-centered and indulgent What can I do with MY money? I have $10. Do I take a lonely friend out for lunch, or buy songs 10 songs on Itunes? I’m not saying don't steward your money wisely, but where’s your first love?
- Exploit and hurt others. Anybody can pay somebody else less than what they deserve for their work. Anybody can sue someone else because that’s an easy way to make money. Anybody can not correct incorrect change, or sneak into a movie, or steal music and software online. You don’t have to be rich to do that. But every one of those situations hurts or exploits someone else.
James is holding up a mirror and asking everyone, “Do you see yourself clearly here? Will you walk away unchanged or will you more fully enter into life with Christ?”