RUSTY GOLD AND SILVER
James 5:3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
As a child, I lived near a train yard. I would often go to an area nearby the yard and watch the firemen stoke the steam engines, and the engineers switch railroad cars to get them in the proper order for the trip to their various destinations. The train yard also served as a supply depot for repairs to both the engines as well as the railroad tracks. I remember the large stack of cross ties they kept on site. I also remember seeing a supply of rails used to replace those found to be damaged. What seemed remarkable to me at that time was that the rails were so rusty. I knew that the railroad tracks already in place had shiny tops where the wheels of the train rolled on them. As I noticed some of the side rails that were rarely used I realized that it was the wheels of the train that made the rails shiny. The more they were used, the shinier they seemed to be.
The lesson I learned from what I saw in the train yard, is the same lesson we get from this verse. Gold and silver become shiny, the more they are used. When stored away in an unused treasury, they become rusty, corroded, or cankered, as is noted in this verse. I also know that by rubbing two coins together, both will become shiny. The use of coins - its exchange in buying and selling, will prevent these bits of money from rusting.
How, then, can rust become a witness against you, as in a trial? Obviously, the lesson here does not involve an earthly court and judge. Rather it is referring to the final Day of Judgment, with God, through Christ Jesus as the Supreme Judge. When we appear before Christ on this day, our gold and silver will be called in to give their testimony. Gold and silver, in the lesson text, represent, not only the monetary wealth that we have accumulated during our lifetime, but all of our worldly assets. These will be called to testify as our witnesses. As Christ Jesus, our Supreme Judge looks at our worldly goods, He is specifically looking at their appearance - are they shiny or are they rusty? If shiny, Jesus will know that they have had much use. If rusty, He will conclude that we have hoarded them and given them little, if any, use. To conclude the example used in our lesson text, the shine of our gold and silver, our earthly wealth, indicates that we have used them extensively to serve others. However, rust that has accumulated on our gold, silver, and other earthly blessings, will testify against us, indicating that we have hoarded them, kept them for our own use, and failed to share them with others in need. Before our Righteous Judge, the testimony pf our witnesses, either sheen or rust on our earthly blessings, will be truthful, and cannot be denied.
The first two verses of this chapter describe the person against whom rust will testify. Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. At this point, we should say, that not all rich men are to be condemned. There are too many cases in the bible where rich men were honest, just, and charitable with their earthly wealth. Being rich is not a sin. The sin of riches is the result of how wealth has been acquired as well as it is used.
The sin for not using worldly goods, as they should be used, is inferred in verse two. Unused riches that are stored away become corrupted - they corrode - they rust. Unused garments that are stored away, those that we do not wear or do not need, become moth-eaten. Both unused money and unused clothing are spiritually worthless - they have no value on earth or in heaven. Those that are rich and have both money and clothing stored away, and unused, are the ones referred to in verse two. Realizing that Christ Jesus, their righteous Judge, will allow their unused wealth to testify against them, these rich men will weep and howl knowing the condemnation that will result from their witness.
Many men and women accumulate more earthly wealth than is needed for their own use - they store it away - they, even, hoard it. It spoils, it corrodes, and it becomes worthless. How can we avoid having rusty "gold and silver" testify against us on the Day of Judgment? It can only be avoided by using our excess wealth by unselfishly contributing it to the cause of Christ, and by sharing it with others that are in need. Do not hoard your earthly goods - use them - share them with others - keep them shiny. Shiny "gold and silver" will testify for us. Shiny "gold and silver" can be stored, but not on earth. Shiny "gold and silver" become our treasures in heaven.