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Rich Men Warned

James 5:1-6


The warning James here gives to rich men is a warning that needs to be and must be sounded repeatedly by every faithful gospel preacher. I would not be true to your soul if I did not give the warning and give it often.


Poor Rich Men

The rich men James speaks of are rich men, all of whom are lost, cursed of God, damned, and rushing to hell. But they were rich men in the church, scattered among the Jews, who professed to be followers of Christ. Without question, the words of warning given in these six verses of Inspiration may be applied to material wealth and read as a warning against the love of this world (1 John 2:15-17). But the language James was inspired to use in denouncing these specific rich men convinces me that he is not here condemning materially rich men. Some of God’s saints in this world are very wealthy and use their wealth for the glory of God. That has been true throughout the ages. Abraham, David, Solomon, and Joseph of Arimathea were all very wealthy men who used their wealth for the glory of God. They were both rich in grace and rich in material things, but poor in spirit.


Rich Poor Men

In this passage of Scripture James denounces and condemns self-righteousness. He denounces and, by inspiration of God the Holy Ghost, condemns every sinner who thinks he is righteous. James is talking about religious Pharisees, those who “trust in themselves that they are righteous and despise others” (Luke 18:9). The fact is, those who “trust in themselves that they are righteous” always “despise others.” They vainly imagine that they are rich in righteousness and goodness and have need of nothing, not knowing that they are poor, blind, naked, and damned (Revelation 3:17).

      James here says to all who think they are righteous, “Your riches are corrupt,” putrefied! “Your garments are motheaten,” filthy rags! He says, “Your gold and silver is cankered,” rusted and corroded. Clearly this does not refer to material gold and silver. Those metals do not rust and corrode. James is talking about a self-righteous persons imaginary wealth of goodness, and declares that it will “eat your flesh as it were fire,” the unquenchable fire of hell, forever!


Weep and Howl

Well might the self-righteous man and self-righteous woman “weep and howl!” What shall their damnation be? They defraud the souls of all who are influenced by them. What multitudes there are in hell because they have been taught by their moms and dads and preachers and Sunday School teachers that salvation is something to be earned!

Self-righteous religionists, Pharisees, are always self-serving, oppressive, persecuting people, people who use religion to advantage themselves (Matthew 23:13-36), to the everlasting destruction of all whom they influence with their doctrine.

      I would rather stand before God guilty of any crime than stand before him in the Day of Judgment guilty of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is man’s foolish, ignorant attempt to make himself righteous. It is the hypocritical claim of men and women that they are good, righteous, and holy. It is that great noise of religion and piety, by which people try to silence the inward torments of a guilty conscience. Self-righteousness is the religion of fools (Luke 7:41-50).


Hope for the Self-righteous

There is nothing in all the world so contemptible, so obnoxious, so hateful to our God as self-righteousness (Isaiah 65:2-5). Yet, there is nothing more natural to us! But I have said all that to say this: — There is hope, even for the proud, self-righteous fool. God knows how to make rich men poor, mighty men weak, and proud men humble. Stop trusting in yourself. Take your place in the dust with the publican before the Throne of Grace, and cry out to God for grace. — “God be merciful to me a sinner!” Cast away all your imaginary righteousness for the dung it is, and look away from yourself to Christ alone for righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.







Don Fortner








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