What does James 5:2 mean?
ESV: Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.
NIV: Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.
NASB: Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten.
CSB: Your wealth has rotted and your clothes are moth-eaten.
NLT: Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags.
KJV: Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
NKJV: Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.
Verse Commentary:
James continues his condemnation of the group of rich people who had been oppressing James's Christian readers. This is done in a style similar to that of Old Testament prophets. In the previous verse, James told these selfish people to begin wailing in anticipation of the misery coming their way. Here, he says their wealth is as good as rotted away and their expensive garments are as good as moth-eaten rags.

James's point in this section is not to condemn all wealthy people, or all wealth. Rather, James is targeting a particular group of people. These are those rich people who have allowed their wealth to control them and warp their minds. The most tempting failure for those with wealth is to trust their material riches, rather than God (Matthew 19:23–24). When their wealth is gone, what will they have left? Given the brevity and unpredictable nature of life (James 4:13–14), their wealth and the things they purchased with it are already as good as gone.

This is especially true of those who use their riches only for selfish purpose, or who abuse others with what they have.
Verse Context:
James 5:1–6 has a tone similar to that of an Old Testament prophet pronouncing the coming judgment on a group of people. This includes describing the ruin of these people as if it has already occurred. James lays out the charges against the rich landowners who were oppressing the poor. These crimes include selfishness, abuse of their workers, and indifference. Those rich sinners should start weeping and wailing now; their judgment was coming on the day of the Lord.
Chapter Summary:
What was causing fights and quarrels among the Christians to whom James was writing? They were living by the world's wisdom. This false perspective says human beings should do whatever it takes to get what they want in this life, even if it hurts other people. James says that to live that way is adultery, but God gives grace. Christians should repent and move close to God again. We should trust Him to provide, to be the Judge, and to lift us up in His time. In humility, we must acknowledge that all of our plans are dependent on Him, and He can change them at any moment.
Chapter Context:
Prior chapters in this letter focused on the relationship between beliefs and actions, and how to practically apply the concepts of Christianity. In chapter 4, James called his Christian readers to repent of their worldliness and turn back to closeness with God. Now in the last chapter of his letter, James addresses three things: He pronounces to the rich oppressors of the Christians that their judgment is coming on the day of the Lord. He urges those suffering under that oppression to remain patient, strong in their faith, as they wait for the day of the Lord. And he encourages all Christians to show their faith in God by praying in response to every circumstance.
Book Summary:
The book of James is about specifically understanding what saving faith looks like. How does faith in Christ reveal itself in a believer's life? What choices does real trust in God lead us to make? Those are the questions James answers. Most scholars believe the writer was Jesus' half-brother, a son born to Joseph and Mary after Jesus' birth. James may not have come to believe Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection. Eventually, though, he became one of the leaders of the Christian church in Jerusalem. This is possibly the earliest-written of all the New Testament books, around AD 40–50. James addresses his letter to Jewish Christians scattered around the known world.
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