Don’t Live in Luxury

James 4:13-5:6

Jerry A Collins




v                 Does God want us to be wealthy?

v                 What should we not do with our wealth?

v                 How do we avoid luxurious living?


We are preoccupied with the idea of getting rich. And it seems that no matter how much we have it is never enough. There seems to be a direct ratio between a society’s affluence and it’s discontentment. The more people have the more discontent they are. Those who do not have are envious and those who do have are unsatisfied.  So, around and around we go, with every successive generation on this bandwagon. Is there a problem with this? Well, actually, there are all kinds of problems with this perspective of life. James addresses a number of these problems so we can determine a different focus for our lives. God does not want us to set our affections on stuff that really does not matter at all.


Right at the get-go we are confronted with contrary thinking to our conventional thinking—that is, thinking that we are used to or is of this side of the grave. God does not think this way. Come now he says:

1. Our boastful plans for wealth are frustrated by our inability to control future circumstances 13-14

You can brag about your business plans all you want vs 1. You can be full of self-confidence in your long-range planning. I am going to that city in a day or two and plan for a year or so of business acumen and expect to make a profit. That is all fine and dandy but it is also ignorant and stupid because you have no idea what will even happen tomorrow much less during the course of a whole year vs 14. (Look at the bursting internet bubble of 2000 or the credit crisis of Oct 2008 if you want an example.) These guys have plotted out a year’s program without the ability to ensure that all the future circumstances are cooperative. As a matter of fact, anything could take place tomorrow or the next day or the day after that to frustrate their business and profit-making plans. They may not even be alive tomorrow since their lives are but a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. And that is the problem. It could all end before it even has a chance to begin. So, why would you build any plans on such shaky foundations? There is a more confident way to plan and live.

2. Instead genuinely express your dependence on God as you plan 15

Humility would acknowledge God’s sovereign control over their lives—we shall live—and their activities—do this or that—as subject to the will of God. That also includes my business operations and even my lifespan. If the Lord wills is much more than just an expression but a genuine belief that my plans and life are utterly not just partially dependent upon God. My future and the circumstances that come with it are all in His hands. Can I accept that? Can I believe that God has my best interests at heart as the future becomes the present?

3. Planning without dependence on God is evil 16. In the case here, they are boasting in their arrogance or better rejoicing in their boastings. It is one thing to say ‘if the Lord wills’ we will make a profit in business—then God responds to you with His grace. It is another thing to boast about your plans to get rich. That comes from pride. If we boast that we are going to get rich based on our ability to plan and do business, then this gets God’s opposition because He is opposed to the proud. It is even possible to brag and boast about your planned endeavors to gain wealth and profit to elicit respect, admiration, and honor from others. James clearly says, all such boasting is evil and it is evil because it ignores your inability to control future events, it places value in the worthless, and it refuses to acknowledge dependence upon God for whatever outcome.

4. Knowing the right thing to do and not doing it is sin 17

It is obvious that boastful planning to get rich is evil. But, also knowing the proper way to act, speak, and plan, yet failing to do so is an additional sin. If you know that you should admit God’s sovereignty as you plan for profit or plan anything, then you should do so at once because the one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it to him it is sin. We need the Bible to define sin. We should never step outside of scripture for our definition of sin. So the point is admitting that while our lives are fragile things, like a wisp of smoke, we must acknowledge and act all along the way that God alone can enable us to do whatever we hope or plan to do. 


Now what about those who manage to attain wealth? Their plans bear fruit and they do get rich. Well, James has a word for them too. Come now he says:   1. Remind yourself of the transience of all human wealth 1-3

If you decide to go after wealth and your plans succeed—watch out—your lot will only be to weep, howl for your miseries to come. Why? Because in grasping wealth you played dirty and you will be accountable for that. Note he calls it your riches, your gold and your silver. First, this wealth is temporary in nature vs 2. It is not going to last and besides it is not something you can take into eternity with you. It will make no difference there except to make your accountable for more. You should view whatever wealth you have as not a blessing from God but as a steward who is responsible for more only to be accountable for more. Don’t try to turn your wealth into something it is not nor could ever be—something of ultimate value. James readers were afflicted with a severe case of materialism in addition to a preoccupation toward rich people 2:1-7. Second, the rich will be judged vs 3 in terms of the way they secure their wealth. Their riches are already corrupted by how they obtained it and the corrosion is eating away their flesh—that is, their very lives and/or setting them up for a harsher judgment to come before Christ. All of this trouble they are storing up for themselves is because they have ignored or forgotten the transient nature of human wealth. The accumulation of this useless wealth will stand as a witness against the rich foolish enough to heap up treasure in the last days.

2. Wealth encourages luxurious living which clouds your view of righteousness 4-6

First, if your plans for profit succeed it very well may be at the expense of others vs 4. Historically, it happens in the form of fraudulently holding back wages and these wages are personified as accusers of the rich—accusations which reach the ear of God for vengeance—probably at the judgment. Second, you used this wealth to live beyond your needs vs 5. The problem is not wealth per se, but using that wealth to live luxuriously. The problem with riches is they are like a drug keeping you from realizing how poor you are. If you have a lolt of money you can buy anything you want—live a life of wanton pleasure—and you can go thru life not ever realizing your true poor condition before God—so you have just fattened yourself for judgment in the day of slaughter. Third, the rich are not the only victims; you have condemned, murdered the just; he does not resist you vs 6. The guilt of the rich is enormous. Their hands are stained with fraud and murder. They made a profit in the city alright, but at the expense of their eternal judgment and their brute behavior of the innocent.


1. Is it a sin to earn or have a lot of money? No. Many godly people in the Bible were wealthy. If God gives you wealth that is his business. Your business is to be a steward of it—a channel not a reservoir.

2. It is a sin to live beyond my needs?

Yes. Luxurious living is living beyond my needs. The problem is everyone’s needs are different. You decide. You are the one who will stand before God to give account for how you did that.