The Book of James

Lesson 11 - "How To Manage Your Money Wisely"

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

James 5:1-6, “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.”


Now James turns his attention to money and wealth. Many people think the Bible teaches only selfish, greedy people are wealthy. But that's not true because many of the greatest saints in the Bible were extremely wealthy. Abraham was a millionaire by today's standards. Job was the wealthiest person in the world and was the "Bill Gates" of his day. David and Solomon were both the wealthiest men of their day. Many people think the Bible says, "Money is the root of all evil." However, I Timothy 6:1 says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”


God is not opposed to wealth or our having a lot of money, but He wants us to use our wealth wisely no matter how little or how much we have. Compared to people in the rest of the world, every American is wealthy. Several years ago I preached in La Paz, Bolivia, in a church with over 500 in attendance. If you own a camera, an automobile, or make more than $400 a month, you are wealthy compared to most of the rest of the world. To handle our money with biblical wisdom, there are four things we must do.


#1) Don’t be selfish.

James 5:1-3, “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.”


James writes to those who have gained riches in an ungodly manner. This is not an indiscriminate condemnation of wealth. James is condemning wealthy people who have gotten rich by exploiting others. These rich people are not presently in miseries because they are living in luxury. However, eternal misery is coming, just as it did to the rich man in Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus.


James warns here and says, Your riches are corrupted.” This probably refers to grain that wealthy landowners had allowed to rot in storage while people near them were starving. The phrase your garments are moth-eaten in verse two probably refers to hoarding even their clothing, and letting it be moth-eaten rather than giving their excess to the poor.

We too hoard unused stuff until it ruins. In fact, even when we don't need the money, we sometimes sell excess stuff rather than giving it to a charitable organization.


James continues his warning in verse three, Your gold and silver is cankered.” Gold and silver cankering (corroding) suggests vast amounts of money going untouched for long periods of time because it is not needed by the owner. Even though it is unneeded wealth, it is not used to help the needy. James writes: and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. The word heaped means to stockpile money out of pure selfishness in the face of need. James doesn't mean we should not save or invest. The Bible teaches we should look at the ant and consider her ways, and be wise in Proverbs chapter six. Proverbs 6:8 says that the ant, “Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”


We should save and invest for the future but not hoard all our money in the face of need. In our culture there is not so much a problem with hoarding as with the consumer-oriented quest for instant gratification through personal debt. As a result, even most Christians are deeply in debt and unable to help others. The number one contributing factor to divorce in the United States is personal debt. Going into debt for depreciating items we really don't need is just another way we reveal our selfishness and greed. The average American has less than $1,000 in savings, the least of any people in the industrialized world. To make matters worse, the average household in America owes more than $8,000 on credit cards alone. And, the sad thing is, Christians are no different than non-Christians when it comes to savings and debt.


Only a fool would spend all that he makes and if we do that, we will surely go into debt. Why do we save so little and spend more than we make? Because we live for today and don't follow biblical principles in our money management.


Referring to our possessions and wealth, James says: the rust of them shall be a witness against you in verse three. This means God's judgment will be based on our checkbooks and credit card bills. Our checkbooks and purchasing habits reveal our real priorities. Jesus warned us about storing up earthly treasures and possessions by spending all we make on ourselves (and today even more than we make by going into debt). Instead, Jesus tell us in Matthew 6:20 to, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”


The Bible teaches we can't take our treasures with us when we die, but we can send them ahead by using our resources as the Bible teaches. The first step in not hoarding our money or spending it all on ourselves is to obey the Bible by giving ten percent (the tithe) back to God through our local church. This is the best possible good we can do because our money can be used to help bring people to Christ and help believers to grow.

We said that to manage our money wisely, first of all don’t be selfish,

#2) Don’t be dishonest.

James 5:4, “Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.”


There are many ways to be dishonest. In New Testament times people worked for the rich during the day and were paid at the end of each day. The poor often lived on the verge of starvation, so if they did not receive each day's wages, the whole family would go hungry. There were no contracts, minimum wage, or labor laws to protect the poor workers. This is what James is referring to when he writes: Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth. The Bible teaches we are to pay fair wages. Deuteronomy 24:14 says, “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates.”


The Bible teaches we must pay on time a fair day's wage for a day's work, whether it is a fellow Christian or a stranger living in our country. I remember when thousands of Vietnamese came to this country after the Vietnam War and how many of them were exploited for cheap labor. This is also happening today with immigrants from other countries.


James writes: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. The money made by exploiting human beings cries out to the Lord like the blood of Abel did in genesis chapter four. The only option of the poor was to cry out to Lord of Sabaoth, which means the Lord Almighty. This name emphasizes God's power and majesty as the Supreme Ruler who will intercede for the poor.


This is a somber warning to any person or business that treats people unfairly or exploits others. Every Christian business person has an obligation before God to see that everyone under their supervision and authority is treated fairly and paid equitably.


We said that to manage your money wisely, don't be selfish, don’t be dishonest and,

#3) Don’t be self-indulgent.

James 5:5, “Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.”

One of the greatest temptations of living in America—where in relationship to most of the rest of the world the average American enjoys enormous wealth—is to spend all we make on ourselves. In America, the problem isn't hoarding our money; it is "blowing" it all on ourselves, or as James puts it living in pleasure on the earth and being wanton. This was originally written to rich land owners who were exploiting the poor, but it certainly applies to us today.


God wants us to buy things we enjoy. James is talking about living in pleasure with money gained by dishonest or unchristian means. Wanton suggests being self-indulgent and wasteful—not being good stewards of what God has given us.


To those who get rich by exploiting others, James writes: ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. This is a sarcastic illustration comparing selfish, dishonest, and self-indulgent people to animals nourished for slaughter. Like animals being fattened for slaughter, people who are dishonest, hoarding, and self-indulgent are only concerned with the present. Jesus said in Mark 8:36, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”


We said that to manage your money wisely don't be selfish, don't be dishonest, don't be self-indulgent, and...

#4) Don’t be manipulative.

James 5:6, “Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.”

We shouldn't use our money to gain influence or position at the expense of others. James puts it like this: Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. In their selfishness and greed, the wealthy used their money to influence the courts to punish just people who did not have the money or power to defend themselves.


We can fall into similar practices today when we tolerate unfair business dealings that take advantage of people who may have no means of recourse. Examples are firing people who are close to retirement, paying women less than men for doing the same job, or promoting men over women and over other men who are more qualified. Psalms 82:3 says, “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.”


Still today the poor, the elderly, and uneducated are taken advantage of in our money-mad world. One of the saddest things I see that exploits people is the rapid growth of gambling. Gambling exploits human weakness. As someone has said about a state-run lottery: "It is the government taking advantage of people who are not good at math." As Christians, we must not exploit the less fortunate, and we must also do all we can to prevent others from doing it.


Let’s pray!



Lesson 12  —>