James 5:3

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. James 5:3

James continues with the thought from the previous verse, starting with, “Your gold and silver are corroded.” The word translated as “corroded” is found only here in the Bible. It comes from a root, ios, meaning either rust or poison. That word, ios, is used in the next clause and is translated as “corrosion.” That, in turn, comes from a word which signifies “to send.”

A viper will send forth poison (as is the idea in both Romans 3:13 and James 3:8 where the same word is used as in this verse). The gold and silver will wear, sending away their mass. This is important to understand because gold neither rusts nor tarnishes. Therefore, saying “worn away,” or “corroded,” rather than “rust” is appropriate.

The idea is that gold and silver may have value, but to trust in them is a fool’s choice. They will wear away, they can be stolen, they can be lost, etc. In the end, they cannot save a person from his final day of reckoning. Instead, James says that “their corrosion will be a witness against you.”

The intent of these words is that whatever is left of the gold and silver, if anything, will be insufficient to save the soul of the man. Their properties, which are wearing away, means that they are earthly – even if precious by earthly standards. The fool will hope in that which is created; the wise will hope in the Creator.

Throughout Scripture this is seen. When the people rebelled against the Lord and made a golden calf, Moses says, “Then I took your sin, the calf which you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it and ground it very small, until it was as fine as dust; and I threw its dust into the brook that descended from the mountain” (Deuteronomy 9:21). In Exodus, it then says that he then made the people drink of the water.

In Joshua, Achan, sinned against the Lord by taking gold and silver during the battle of Jericho. It stood as a witness against him, and it cost him his life. He, his family, and all of his possessions – along with the gold and silver – were stoned and then burned. Following the progression of these and other such incidents in Scripture shows that placing one’s trust in silver or gold is unwise. Such treasure “will eat your flesh like fire.”

This is exactly what happened to Achan, and it is a type and picture of what will happen to all who so trust in earthly riches. In the final judgment, the gold and silver they thought could save will be shown to be a false hope. For them, it will be an eternal swim in the Lake of Fire. For those who are saved and still cling to such things, their judgment at the Bema Seat of Christ will be one of loss and not reward.

James finishes with, “You have heaped up treasure in the last days.” The age of grace has come, and that grace is found in Jesus Christ. He is the only true source of hope, and yet people in these last days (meaning since His resurrection) continue going about pursuing worldly wealth to the exclusion of a relationship with God through Him. This is a false hope indeed.

There is nothing wrong with earning wealth, and the proverbs instruct the wise to save for their children’s children. But this is for use in this temporary world, not for salvation in the next. There is an eternal difference between the two.

Life application: Imagine the final moments of the victims of the volcano at Pompeii. The volcano exploded and the fire and ash came at the people like a freight train. The wealthy along with the poor were snuffed out within a few seconds. That moment in time is recorded for the ages – people grasping their children; people dying in their rooms; people holding onto… their gold.

The last moments of many people’s lives are spent grasping for something they simply cannot take with them. It is certainly the case that if some had not tried to hold on to their money they may have escaped with their lives. But, as Forrest Gump correctly put it, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

People trust in wealth, they boast about wealth, and they die because of their wealth. In the end, it did them no good at all – a few moments of history spent in leisure ended in futility. Solomon speaks about the life of the laborer and the life of the rich. Really, who has it better? The man who sleeps well, even if a little hungry, or the man who can’t sleep though he is filled with cake and ice cream?

“The sleep of a laboring man is sweet,
Whether he eats little or much;
But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.
13 There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun:
Riches kept for their owner to his hurt.” Ecclesiastes 5:12, 13

Wealth, fancy living, gold, silver, flashy cars, and a life of leisure will testify against us when it is our hope. There is nothing wrong with wealth and abundance as long as it is kept in proper perspective. But when it consumes our lives it becomes sin to us. Let us be careful where we put our hopes, and about what we are reaching for as we head into eternity. Where is your anchor at on the day of your death? Let it be in Christ Jesus alone.

Lord, we thank You for the wonderful abundance You have given us in this life. We are grateful for the things You have blessed us with. But Lord, may these things never take our hearts and eyes away from You. Help us to keep our priorities straight. When we reach out for the last time, may our hands reach out for You. Amen.

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