The Honest Addict
1A. Humans can place their hope in many things
They are mistaken, as I think, who consider that James here exhorts the rich to repentance. It seems to me to be a simple denunciation of God’s judgment, by which he meant to terrify them without giving them any hope of pardon; for all that he says tends only to despair. He, therefore, does not address them in order to invite them to repentance; but, on the contrary, he has a regard to the faithful, that they, hearing of the miserable end of the rich, might not envy their fortune, and also that knowing that God would be the avenger of the wrongs they suffered, they might with a calm and resigned mind bear them.
Those who place their hope in things other than Christ will be judged
2A. Hope not placed in Christ results in a destroyed life
not even the gold, which the rich think they can count on to save them and provide them with the security of wealth, will last to safeguard them.
3A. Hope not placed in Christ results in a destroyed eternity
Here is where it becomes essential to understand the eschatological worldview of the NT. We live in the last days and have done so since Pentecost (cf. Ac 2:17). Christ can return at any point. Where is our treasure? Are we laying it up on earth so that we might live in comfort, planning for a long life here (see cf. Lk 12:13–21), or do we focus more on amassing treasure in heaven with God, being merely grateful for the blessings he has given us here and now? The condemnation is not for owning wealth per se, but for hoarding rather than using it for kingdom purposes. As Johnson observes, “ ‘the last days’ … are not the anticipated retirement years of the rich, but the time of God’s judgment.”
In some ways these people have experienced their “heaven” on earth; they have received their reward in this life. Thus they may arrive at the judgment day content but condemned.