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Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. (James 5:2)
Items that could make one wealthy or appear wealthy in James’ day were food (Luke 12:18; Joel 2:19), expensive clothing, and precious metals (Acts 20:33). James’s point here is not that riches are perishable, which would be true had that been his point. Instead, his point is that in the end, they are worthless when set beside what God has offered his servants. Is there any amount of money that can buy perfection or eternal life? – Proverbs 11:28.
Expensive clothing was evidence of one’s riches, or like today was a means of trying to appear wealthy. In James’ day, the wealthy could have hundreds or even thousands of expensive garments, many of which had already suffered an attack by moths. Such high numbers were not for personal use alone but were for banquets. Other wealthy and influential guests would be offered these expensive garments during specific gatherings. – Matthew 22:11; see Matthew 6:19.
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Your riches have rotted. The word here rendered rotted (σήπω sēpō) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means to become damaged by decay, to the point of being unsound and useless. James refers to their accumulated and hidden or stored away treasures. The point being made is that they have accumulated far more than they can use. It has not dawned on these to share their excess with others that have less or nothing for the good of others. Nor did they consider using them in any other beneficial way instead of hoarding them. They simply, greedily, kept them until they rotted or spoiled. We must consider the time of this letter in the Middle East, where most of their treasures that any man might have in the first century were perishable items, such as grain, oil, garments, etc. The fear of famine moved many people to store away items in the hopes that some food shortage or war might hit them. (Cf. Luke 12:18-19) Clinton E. Arnold notes, “Not all forms of wealth can ‘rot,’ literally. But this verb (sēpō) is applied metaphorically to anything that is transitory. “Every work decays and ceases to exist, and the one who made it will pass away with it” (Sir. 14:19).” It is perfectly acceptable to store away emergency supplies. However, here we are talking about stockpiling significant quantities while the poor were in dire need. The security objective is to save back six months reserves in case of an economic downturn, famine, inflation, natural disaster, or any other emergency. What you do is what grocery stores do. You move items to the front that are close to expiration, and then add the newest to the rear. Then, you give away the excess close to expiration to the needy.
Your garments are moth-eaten. This is a bit of a repeat of the first. Fashion today changes faster than technological advances. This was not the case in the Middle East in the first century C.E. A garment could be worn 200 years before or later from any date, and it would not look out of place. Many garments could be laid away for future use. IVP Bible Background Commentary, “Clothing was one of the primary signs of wealth in antiquity; many peasants had only one garment.” (Keener 1993, 679-680) Some wealthy people had hundreds of garments; others had thousands stored away in their homes. Of course, such garments would be prone to become moth-eaten in times. They have amassed so much that it is useless to them, yet they held on to it until it was ruined. Instead, they could have helped the poor.
 Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Hebrews to Revelation., vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 112.
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