12/11/09 V. 13, “Come now,” or “Now listen.” “Age nun” is not intended as a friendly attention getter. Maybe equivalent to “Hold on now!” or “You listen to me!” James is upset by the rich and powerful’s neglect of God and the less fortunate. These were very wealthy, prominent people who did what they wanted when they wanted, not just small shopkeepers and businessmen. Overall they were arrogant, boastful, and unfeeling. They made their plans around one idea: building personal wealth.
The state of the church here is sobering. Early they had lost their first love. James seems to be vehemently attacking the self-love that had already become prominent. “Don’t you realize you are just a mist? Nothing of what you plan is worth anything at all. You have no thought of God in your day-to-day lives and business dealings. You know what is right, so you are sinning by omission.”
5:1, In the tradition of the OT prophets James counsels the oppressive rich to weep and howl now in preparation for what they are going to face because of their selfishness. Then in Jesus’ pictures he aligns their work with moths and rust. “Those very things that you think are valuable are not, and they will be your downfall.”
The Greek here shows that James was talking to a class of people as a class not as individuals. Belonging to such a class at all was part of the sin of arrogance. In order to repent would require removing one’s self from that class.
James is using apocalyptic language here–“woe” language. The effects of such a life are eternal and should bring terror. This message is as much a message to the poor and oppressed as the rich, if not more. It’s entirely likely the rich would not even listen. But the poor would. And the message they would hear is, “Hang on. Be faithful in the face of oppression and want. God will set things right one day.”
The imagery in this passage is brutal. The rich of this class are like cows fattening themselves on the day they are to be slaughtered–and they are completely unconcerned with their situation. This condition has not missed God’s heart and he will come to the defense of his oppressed people. They don’t even resist, because God, they know, is their avenger.