(Vs. 1.) "Go to now, ye rich men." All rich men are not addressed here. Some wealthy men love Christ, love others and make good use of their riches for the glory of God, the preaching of the gospel and the relief of human suffering. The apostle writes to rich men who assemble with the church, who profess religion, but who, notwithstanding their profession, are not rich toward God, but are laying up treasures for themselves, boasting of their wealth and not making use of their substance for the glory of God and the good of others.
"Weep and lament for the miseries that shall come upon you." These are eternal miseries that await all unbelievers and hypocrites. It is not possible that a man can know and love Christ who loves material wealth, has no compassion for the needy and does not give of himself and his substance to preach the gospel around the world (1 John 3:17, 18; Luke 12:19-21).
(Vs. 2, 3.) Material riches, clothes, estates, houses and lands are all corruptible things and will one day rot and lie in ruins (1 Cor. 7:31). You have more clothes than you can wear, but instead of sharing them, you allow them to decay. Your gold and silver is rusting on the shelf and in bank vaults while people are in need of the gospel and assistance. Instead of making use of your substance in trade, in support of the poor and in the preaching of the gospel, you hoard and cherish it. The decay and rust of this wealth will come forth as a testimony against you at the judgement and it will prove to be a burning fire that will torment you in hell (Luke 16:25).
"You heap treasure together for the last days." in your selfishness and covetousness you gather together riches, valuables, gold and silver for a rich and prosperous old age. Instead of comfort, you will find that you have accumulated the wrath of God ("Matt. 6:19-21).
The Lord has made us stewards of his grace and of the gifts of his grace, whether they be spiritual or material. Let us be good stewards, putting to use for his glory and the happiness of others all that passes through our hearts or hands (Luke 6:33-38).
(Vs. 4.) Much of this rusting gold and decaying possessions was accumulated by not paying your employees and workers fair and just wages. You have prospered abundantly through their labour; by working them for a pittance and not sharing with them, you have become rich. Their cries for vengeance and justice have come to the ears of the Lord of hosts (Levs. 19:13; Jer. 22:13).
(Vs. 5, 6.) Here on earth you have enjoyed soft, luxurious living, while others have toiled and laboured for bare necessities. You have lived in self-indulgence and self-gratification while your servants lived in want. Like beasts that are fattened up by the farmer for the slaughter, like the turkey that is fed well for weeks before being cooked, you are fattening yourselves for God"s wrath. When men add to the misery and bitterness of others (when it is in their power to relieve this misery), the oppressed cannot change this injustice, but God can (Rom. 12:19; Heb. 10:30).
Perhaps we will say, "I am not rich and am not likely to be." There is still a warning for us all in regard to material possessions. We are responsible on a smaller scale for what God puts into our hands. What little or much I have belongs to my Father, and I resolve to use it for his glory and the good of others (Provs. 11:24; Matt. 6:31-34; 1 Chron. 29:12-16).