“Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.”
James continues to argue against the believer who does not use his assets for God’s glory but for himself. This argument began in 4:13.
James discusses the second and third categories of wealth in this verse (garments, gold and silver).
Your gold and silver are corroded,
Neither gold nor silver can rust but they can corrode. Rust is the result of slow oxidation of metals. Oxidation of pure gold in our day does not corrode that gold significantly but the gold of the first century for the most part was not pure. Metaphorically, the idea is that gold and silver will end in ruin.
The process is the same for greed as it is for metals. As corrosion destroys the value of metal, so hoarding tarnishes God’s purpose for wealth. Both gold and silver can corrode in God’s economy.
and their corrosion will be a witness against you
The temporal, instrumental value of wealth will witness against people who place their terminal values into hoarding money. The soul that operates on temporal values is a soul in the state of corrosion. God will use this corroded state of the soul as evidence against the believer who uses wealth as a terminal value for life at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
This evidence of blunting of the soul puts the believer under divine discipline. God will use this evidence to convict our souls for being out of fellowship with God. God will discipline us with the very thing that corroded our soul. “The mills of God’s justice may grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.”
Hoarding transitory things is foolish because they are indeed transitory.
The failure of wealth to satisfy us in time and in eternity is a witness against the attitude that if we gain great possessions, we will be happy. This witnesses to the fact that our wealth will perish as an intrinsic value. What is in a man’s soul makes him rich, not what he has in the bank. He is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has.
Spiritual Christians cannot walk at once in a transitory value system and an eternal value system. If we have all the beautiful gold and silver objects that we can imagine but we have not grown in the Lord, then we do not have the capacity to put these things in perspective. It is not what you have that counts in God’s eyes but what is in your soul. Material things are temporary; spiritual things are eternal.
Pr. 23:4-5 “Do not overwork to be rich;
Because of your own understanding, cease!
5 Will you set your eyes on that which is not?
For riches certainly make themselves wings;
They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.”
We cannot solve our problems with material objects such as silver or gold or the stock market. Acquiring women, success, drugs or wealth cannot expand our soul. Development of the soul must operate as a transcending value over any earthly object. We never meet our ultimate needs with sex, money or power. The acquisition of things will not help us at the Judgment Seat of Christ.