“Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.”
and your garments are moth-eaten
James brings up “garments” here because people of the first century viewed special clothing as inheritance heirlooms. They considered these heirlooms as part of their affluence because they associated heirlooms with wealth and influence.
Just as heirlooms can become prey to moths, so hoarding wealth can become prey to circumstances. To put a priority on the temporal over the eternal is a serious mistake. What men value in time is nothing compared to eternal intrinsic values. Hoarding riches and garments is vulnerable to devaluation. Materialism-lust will damage you like heirloom garments damaged by larvae of moths.
Mt 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
A person’s riches should not be greater than their capacity of the soul.
If our soul is not greater than our love for riches, then we have a rotten soul, a corrupt soul. Materialism-lust corrupts our soul if we allow it to operate as a greater value than eternal values. If money is more important than fellowship with God, then we have a corrupt soul and odious soul. However, a believer of great wealth whose greatest value is to glorify God has a sweet-smelling soul.
Wealth is an instrumental value, but the richness of the soul is an intrinsic value. An intrinsic value is something valued for its own sake. An instrumental value is useful only as it does something for something else. The instrumental value of money is of little worth to someone who is about to die in a few hours. An instrumental value exists for something else, not for itself. In God’s economy, we employ material wealth as an instrumental value to use for a higher eternal value. Money is not an important value for us. Justice, love, and truth are intrinsic values that never change.
Materialism-lust is susceptible to devaluation in time and complete devaluation in eternity. Believers need to take warning of the vulnerability of the self-confidence of the self-made man.
People who put their trust in wealth put their personal well being at risk. Our lives under that premise ebb and flow with our riches. Hoarding material things will bring us “from riches to rags.”
2 Co 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not lok at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
There is a corrosive effect of wealth. Temporary, instrumental values will not stand against eternal values. Placing our trust in temporal values will ultimately lead us to ruin. We assume that we are amassing material wealth, but we are amassing something that decomposes in reality.