You have stored up treasure. . . . You have lived . . . in luxury. 

A stored-up treasure and a life of luxury? Surely James meant this passage for someone else—someone with a bigger bank account than mine!

But there’s a lesson for all of us in today’s first reading. It doesn’t matter if we’re a billionaire or a minimum-wage worker—when we die, nothing comes with us. Our belongings, no matter how many or few we have, will face the same fate: they will be divided among heirs, sold, given away, or thrown out. After several generations, few if any of our possessions will still be around.

James is not saying that we can’t be wealthy. There is nothing inherently sinful about money and possessions. Sin stems from how we approach those things. The real question is whether we are being generous and just with the blessings God has given us.

Look at the landowners whom James calls out. He’s not condemning them for their wealth; he’s condemning them for not paying their workers a fair wage (James 5:4). He’s condemning them for making their money off the backs of the poor—and for keeping them trapped in poverty.

Through James, God is warning us not to get so attached to our possessions that we fall into sin. He understands that we need to provide for ourselves and our families. He wants us to enjoy the good things life has to offer, but he doesn’t want us to stoop to dishonesty or injustice to get them! He’s telling us that when we treasure possessions too dearly, we become self-centered and build walls around us. We cut ourselves off from him, the only One who can satisfy the deepest longings of our heart, and from the ones the Lord has called us to love.

God wants to free us from the materialism that leads to selfishness and sin. He wants to give us a spirit of justice and generosity so that we love others, especially the poor, the way he loves us. So let’s remember how fleeting wealth is. Let’s share our blessings. And let’s do what we can to make sure that the people around us are loved and cared for.

“Father, help me to find my true treasure in knowing and serving you.”

James 5:1-6
Psalm 49:14-20
Mark 9:41-50


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