Day 11

Warnings to the Rich

from the James reading plan

James 5:1-6, Matthew 5:38-42, Hebrews 10:35-39, Revelation 20:11-15

BY She Reads Truth

Scripture Reading: James 5:1-6, Matthew 5:38-42, Hebrews 10:35-39, Revelation 20:11-15

My husband and I were on our way to a dinner party, when we cut through a neighborhood on the nice side of town. As we drove the luxurious streets, we stared out our windows at the soaring homes with custom architecture and perfectly manicured lawns. Each house looked like the perfect place to live, its own little heaven on earth. We drove in silence, until my husband turned to me and laughingly apologized, “I’m sorry I’m a pastor.”

This is a running joke between us, though I can’t help but detect a hint of truth in his voice. We have every single thing we need, and more, but that doesn’t stop comparison from knocking on our door. On more days than I care to admit, I peek over the fence into my neighbor’s greener pasture, and I yearn for it.

Deep down, my husband and I both know that “more” will never scratch the itch of envy. More money, more house, more things will not relieve the pain—and the lie—of comparison. It’s a bottomless pit of need, with endless demands which are never satisfied. We know this, but we also need reminding.

This is the gift of James 5, which reminds us what is true about all our pretty possessions. Preached with the same fire-bellied conviction as the Old Testament prophets, James has harsh words for wealthy people who misuse their riches. According to New Testament scholar Douglas Moo, James is not targeting all wealthy people, but those who put their wealth to unrighteous ends. Or, those who are simply stingy with it. For those believers, James reserves his harshest judgments.

However, James has a more universal message too. Whether we have wealth or we don’t, whether we misuse our money or we don’t, our possessions amount to very little. Drawing on earlier biblical imagery of moth and rust (Matthew 6:19), James reminds us that even our finest earthly possessions will one day be gone. Their Kingdom weight is slight. Their investment yields even less. Money and possessions cannot, and will not, give us what we want.

So, how do we escape the wretched emptiness this passage describes?

First, feed on God, not things. Our pursuit of possessions is a lot like trying to satisfy deep hunger by eating a single lettuce leaf. It will not fill us. Our appetites can only be satisfied by the “bread of life,” Jesus Christ, who promises, “No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again” (John 6:35).

Second, be generous. Too often, we resolve not to love our possessions too much, a mindset that is well-intentioned but without accountability or discernibility. The world will only know we hold our possessions loosely if we actually hold them loosely. This is why Jesus exhorts us to radical acts of generosity (Matthew 5:40-42). Jesus commands this, not simply because it’s a “nice thing to do,” but because it sets our hearts—and, therefore, our feet—on a different path, away from the destruction James describes.

These are truths we must speak over ourselves again and again. The sparkle and shine of worldly goods are a powerful illusion, but the more we return to these biblical truths, the more they will start to sink in.

Now, whenever my husband apologizes for what we cannot afford, I turn to him and smile to say, “You know what, they don’t have anything we don’t already have in Christ.”


Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, mom, and she holds a PhD on women and calling. She is a regular contributor to Propel, blogs at, and her first book releases in October 2017.

Post Comments (73)

73 thoughts on "Warnings to the Rich"

  1. Layne S. says:

    This spoke straight to my heart. Too often I value things (whether it’s what I have or what I want). “Even the finest possessions will one day be gone”. Why am I spending energy and thought on things that will one day be gone? Instead, I need to get that satisfaction from the only One who will truly fulfill my desires, Jesus. All this said, it’s so hard to remember this on a daily basis when the world is offering those “shiny things”.

  2. Steph C says:

    “You have lived luxuriously on the land and have indulged yourselves” (5:5). What a condemnation. If I truly believed that everything I have is from God, I will not squander my money on little luxuries or “treat yo self” moments. I will give to those who are in need. I will look after and help those who have less. When I travel to developing nations I meet women who walk 4hrs a day to get a bucket of water for their family. It’s polluted, parasite laden water. But it’s all they have. And then I spend money buying one more T-shirt or another cup of Starbucks coffee. It’s disgusting, honestly! God didn’t give me resources for me to invest in pleasing myself! He will hold me accountable for all the worthless things I did with the gifts He gave me

  3. Rebekah Jarboe says:

    I struggle with putting what i envy before God in almost every facet of my life right now. Things that aren’t inherently bad I have warped into tools I use to pull myself deeper into my desires that are not for the Lord and not for the bettering of my relationship with God or with God’s people. I want so badly to be loved by humans and am incredibly insecure about whether or not they love me that I stay awake at night thinking about and nit picking all of my interactions not just throughout my day, but from years and years ago. Sometimes with people I don’t even talk to any more, or have not seen in years. Even if we didn’t part ways on bad terms. If there is anyone else who feels this way please let me know because I want to change the way I look at the world radically and I don’t think I can do it alone.

  4. Maiya H says:

    It is sad that we find ourselves often in comparison, but yes, truth is we are who God created us to be. Each of us are different, and it is our differences that makes up the body of Christ. It’s not in what we have that makes us great either, although we tend to run to the material things. I am thankful that God has truly been speaking to me about this lately, as I have recently become a missionary. I have honestly spent more time giving than I have getting for myself. And I love it!

  5. Jennifer says:

    I don’t want anything to stand in my way with serving and loving Jesus. I’m already rich because I have eternal life with Him. God owns a thousand cattle on the hill. I’m already rich.

  6. Trudi says:

    We just moved from Africa to live in France and my longing is not so much for things and money, as it’s overwhelming what people possess here. But it’s the longing for friendship. Deep down I wonder who’s my friend, how many friends I have, how loved (= to me how successful) I am…
    But friends cannot fill me up or give me value. It’s Jesus, always Jesus. The ultimate Friend, the source of life, my hope for today. I have been shaking in the whole transition of moving continents. I struggled with fear and anxiety, I didn’t understand myself anymore. And when I turned to God for my daily readings, I so often read spot on bible verses. I have been so touched by His care although the anxiety didn’t go away immediately. I am starting to calm down, but it’s been a time in which He only really knew. I couldn’t talk too much to my husband as he was also very busy and stressed. We simply tried to support each other and not burden one another. My African friends couldn’t relate to what I was going through. Few missionary friends around. Jesus is truly my best Friend. And He knows my need for friendships here on earth. But it doesn’t make me more or less successful in life.

    1. Jacqueline Mace says:

      So true! God created us to desire connection with Him and others. I am praying that you find an understanding friend and that no matter what God comforts you with the knowledge that you are precious no matter what you have or don’t have in this life.

    2. Jessica says:

      Thank you for sharing! We just moved to a new town, and I have experienced some of the same emotions you described. I also left a job and became a stay at home mom. I long for new friendships in this town and I’m hungry to make new connections, but it’s very slow. I’m learning to lean in to talk to the Father when I feel lonely

      1. Kerri says:

        Trudi, could I connect you with a friend who (she and her family) moved to Paris less than a year ago? Loneliness and new places are hard.

  7. Amy says:

    I know myself well. If the Lord blessed me with a lot of money and a lot of things, I think I would become snotty and not as gracious and kind. Thank You, God, for knowing my heart and for giving me exactly what I need. Please continue to work on me so that I may live a humble and pleasing life.

  8. Lex says:

    This idea of comparison spoke to me in a different way. I do struggle with the comparison and desire for tangible things,but for me this leads to something depper. I compare my life and Christian walk with other “godly” women I see on the internet. I question , “why is this not happening to me?”, “Should I break up with my boyfriends because they did too?” I am so intrigued, yet jealous of these “godly” women I see on platforms of social media. It’s led me to a place of self-condemnation, guilt, pain, and fear. I don’t know if there are any other women who have felt this way before,but I would love some feedback. I thank you for this study. I’m so thankful for the way you have helped my to transform my life and hear God’s voice over my own doubts and insecurities.

    1. Lenna ArandaSanchez says:

      Hi Lex! I can relate to you in this area. One thing that I had to do to prevent myself from sinning was to first cut off the part that was making me sin, which although the women in my life that I followed had a great message it still was causing me to be envious, jealous, and ultimately caused me to compare myself to them. So I unfollowed a lot of women, it wasn’t anything personal against them I just needed to guard my heart. Doing this helped me tremendously and once my herr was in a place ready to receive the message these ladies brought I re followed them.

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