What does James 5:5 mean?
ESV: You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
NIV: You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.
NASB: You have lived for pleasure on the earth and lived luxuriously; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
CSB: You have lived luxuriously on the earth and have indulged yourselves. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
NLT: You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter.
KJV: Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
NKJV: You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.
Verse Commentary:
James continues his condemnation of the wealthy landowners who had been oppressing the poor, including James's Christian readers. In this verse he uses sharp, cutting imagery to drive home the reality of the coming judgment. In a time of great need, these wealthy people had lived out lives of luxury and self-indulgence. They had used their wealth to provide for themselves the easiest, softest lives possible. In doing so, they had fattened themselves, or their hearts, for the day of slaughter. And they had done this while not only ignoring the plight of others (James 5:3), but while abusing them in order to become even richer (James 5:4).

Most of James's first-century readers had firsthand experience seeing an animal fattened over time, in order to be slaughtered for food or sacrifice. These wealthy unbelievers had fattened themselves with luxury, just in time to be symbolically slaughtered in judgment. Their sin seemed pleasant at the time, but it was just setting them up for a more dramatic fall later on.

This supports the idea that James is not condemning wealth or all rich people. Rather, he is criticizing the sinful temptations that come with wealth: selfishness and greed.
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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