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A. (:1) Summary: It’s Payback Time for the Filthy Rich!

“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.”

Speaking against those who had gained wealth in unethical ways and then had used that wealth in selfish ways; stresses the certainty of the judgment

Vaughan: “anguish for impending judgment”

Tasker: “Assuming their unrepentance he announces, in the spirit of the Old Testament prophets, the inevitable doom that confronts them. And the inference he would wish his Christian readers to draw from this denunciation is the folly of setting a high value upon wealth, or of envying those who possess it, or of striving feverishly to obtain it. For the truth is that all who are rich without having ‘poverty of spirit’ are faced, whether they are aware of it or not, with swift and sure retribution at the hands of God. Because the rich are nearly always self-deceived, by thinking that their present prosperity will be permanent, James warns them that miseries are coming upon them. And because they imagine that by means of their wealth they can mitigate, if not render themselves immune from the sorrows and hardships that are the lot of others, James bids them weep and howl at the severity of the divine retribution which will fall upon them. This judgment has not already arrived; but it is so certain and so predetermined that James, in true prophetic manner, speaks of it almost as if it were a present reality, for the literal meaning of the original is that these miseries are now in the process of coming upon them.”

B. (:2-3a) You Can’t Take it With You / Even Riches Don’t Last Forever

1. “Your riches have rotted”

cf. storehouses of corn and grain going bad

2. “and your garments have become moth-eaten”

3. “Your gold and your silver have rusted”

C. (:3b) Your Hoarding of Wealth Will Come Back to Haunt You

1. Evidence that Demands a Verdict

“their rust will be a witness against you”

2. Conspicuous Consumption

“and will consume your flesh like fire”

3. Bad Timing

“It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!”

D. (:4) Your Exploitation Has Not Gone Unnoticed

“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.”

Barclay: “The selfish rich have gained their wealth by injustice. The Bible is always sure that the laborer is worthy of his hire (Luke 10:7 1 Timothy 5:18). The day laborer in Palestine always lived on the very verge of starvation. His wage was small; it was impossible for him to save anything; and if the wage was withheld from him, even for a day, then literally he and his family would not eat.”

Vaughan: “In Psalm 46:7, 11 the title is used in a context declaring God to be the Saviour and Protector of His people. Its use in James points up that none other than the omnipotent God to whom all the hosts of the universe are subject is the Avenger and Protector of the poor.”

E. (:5) Your Hedonism Has Set You Up for Stricter Judgment

1. You Have Lived High Off the Hog

a. “You have lived luxuriously on the earth”

b. “and led a life of wanton pleasure”

Barclay: “The selfish rich have used their wealth selfishly. They have lived in soft luxury, and have played the wanton. The word translated to live in soft luxury is truphein. Truphein comes from a root which means to break down; and it describes the soft living which in the end saps and destroys a man’s moral fibre; it describes that enervating luxury which ends by destroying strength of body and strength of soul alike. The word translated to play the wanton is spatalan; it is a much worse word; it means to live in lewdness and lasciviousness and wanton riotousness. It is the condemnation of the selfish rich that they have used their possessions to gratify their own love of comfort, and to satisfy their own lusts, and they have forgotten all duty to their fellow-men.”

2. You Have Fattened Yourself for the Day of Slaughter

“you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter”

F. (:6) Your Bully Tactics Will Now Be Avenged

“You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.”

Ryrie: “This probably refers to the practice of the rich taking the poor (“the righteous”) to court to take away what little they might have, thus “murdering” them.”

The rich did not fear God and did not think they would be held accountable for their behavior. They placed all of their security in their wealth.


A. (:7a) Summary: Be Patient (as you anticipate the soon return of the Lord)

“Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.”

B. (:7b) Example of the Patience of the Hard Working Farmer (looking forward to the harvest; trusting in divine providence)

“Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.”

Barclay: “The early Church lived in the expectation of the immediate Second Coming of Jesus Christ; and James exhorts his people to wait with patience for the few years which remain… the early rain was the rain in late October and early November; without it the seed which had been sown would not germinate at all. The late rain was the rain of April and May, without which the grain would not mature. The farmer needs patience to wait until nature does her work; and the Christian needs patience to wait until Christ comes.”

C. (:8) Summary Repeated: Be Patient (as you anticipate the soon return of the Lord)

“You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

D. (:9) Warning Against Complaining (in light of the soon return of the Lord)

“Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.”

E. (:10-11) Remember the OT Examples of Endurance

1. Example of the Godly Prophets

“As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we count those blessed who endured.”

2. Example of Job

“You have heard of the endurance of Job”

3. Examples of the Compassion and Mercy of God

“and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”

The imminent return of the Lord as the Judge should give us all a proper fear of the Lord and the necessary patience to endure suffering rather than to complain against perceived mistreatment by our brothers.


A. Summary: No Need to Swear an Oath

“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath”

cf. “Cross my heart and hope to die” mentality of children swearing that something is true

B. Stick to Your Simple Word

“but let your yes be yes, and your no, no; so that you may not fall under judgment”