“Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.”
James, in this verse and next, delineates three systems of wealth that show how hoarding for self will undermine the soul:
Hoarding of rotting stuff.
Hoarding of heirlooms.
Hoarding of precious metals.
Your riches are corrupted,
James clarifies that he is denouncing a special group of wealthy people and not all rich people. “Your riches” as over against other peoples’ riches is the idea. Some wealthy people do not allow wealth to corrupt them.
The very sphere of self-confidence of the wealthy places them in a vulnerable position. Riches as an ultimate value corrode because they do not have lasting intrinsic value. The word “corrupted” means destroyed. Wealth tends to corrode one’s life by rotting of values. The Greek tense indicates that this believer with distorted values entered into a state of corruption and destruction.
If a believer adopts the political and economic belief systems of this world, his soul will rot.
The Christian must stand independent from all political and economic world-views. His belief system must transcend these human worldviews. The free enterprise system is the goose that lays the golden egg for material benefits for those who live under it. Big government produces parasites that destroy their personal dignity by dependence on government (except for those who cannot help themselves). Liberals gerrymander for the power of big government because it puts people under the dependence of government leaders. They gerrymander against the free enterprise system as if it were evil in itself. This is not a biblical viewpoint.
Although the Bible does not assail the free enterprise system, it does warn of a materialistic attitude toward riches. Free enterprise is not God’s ultimate view for values in society but a God-centered hope. There is a great danger among evangelicals to put all their eggs in the basket of free enterprise, “If the United States or Canada would just reduce the size of government or adopt free enterprise principles, then everything will be fine.” No, the Christian’s ultimate value does not rest in any human economic system but God Himself.
Both of these economic views result in soul-rot if the believer does not operate on God’s transcendent values. Those who make big intrusive government as a panacea make its citizens parasites of society, a belief system that puts its trust in big government. That is just as bad as the free enterpriser who puts his trust in material wealth. Both systems are wrong as ultimate answers for man from God’s standpoint. The Bible does not present a political world-view for man primarily but a theocentric worldview.