|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:1-6 Public troubles are most grievous to those who live in pleasure, and are secure and sensual, though all ranks suffer deeply at such times. All idolized treasures will soon perish, except as they will rise up in judgment against their possessors. Take heed of defrauding and oppressing; and avoid the very appearance of it. God does not forbid us to use lawful pleasures; but to live in pleasure, especially sinful pleasure, is a provoking sin. Is it no harm for people to unfit themselves for minding the concerns of their souls, by indulging bodily appetites? The just may be condemned and killed; but when such suffer by oppressors, this is marked by God. Above all their other crimes, the Jews had condemned and crucified that Just One who had come among them, even Jesus Christ the righteous.
Verse 3. - With this and the preceding verse contrast our Lord's words of treasure laid up in heaven, "where moth and rust do not corrupt" (Matthew 6:19). Cankered (κατίωται); better, rusted. Only here in the New Testament; never in the LXX. except Ecclus. 12:11. The rust of them. Ἰός: used here for "rust" as in the LXX. in Ezekiel's parable of the boiling pot (Ezekiel 24:6, etc.) - a passage which (according to one interpretation) may have suggested the following clause, "and shall eat your flesh," etc. (see vers. 9-12). Shall he a witness against you (εἰς μαρτύριον ὑμῖν). The rendering of the A.V. is quite defensible (see Winer, p. 265), but it is equally possible to take the words as the R.V. margin," for a testimony unto you." "The rust of them," says Alford, "is a token of what shall happen to yourselves; in the consuming of your wealth you see depicted your own." Two interpretations of the latter part of the verse are possible, depending on the punctuation adopted.
(1) As the A.V. and R.V., putting the stop after πῦρ: "Their rust... shall eat your flesh as fire. Ye have laid up your treasure in the last days." The "fire," if this rendering be adopted, may be explained from Ezekiel 24:9, etc.
(2) Putting the stop after ὑμῶν and before ὡς πῦρ: "Their rust... shall eat your flesh. Ye have heaped up as it were fire in the last days." This has the support of the Syriac ("Ye have gathered fire for you for the last days"), and is adopted by Drs. Westcott and Herr. The "fire" will, of course, be the fire of judgment; and the expression, ὡς πῦρ ἐθησαυρίσατε, may easily have been suggested by Proverbs 16:27, Ἀνὴρ ἄφρων ὀρύσσει ἑαυτῷ κακά ἐπὶ δὲ τῶν ἑαυτοῦ χειλέων θησαυρίζει πῦρ. The whole form of expression also reminds us of St. Paul's "treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath" (Romans 2:5), to which it is exactly parallel, the "wrath in the day of wrath" there answering to the "fire in the last days" here. (The rendering of the Vulgate is evidently influenced by this parallel, as it has thesaurizastis tram.) For the last days; rather, in the last days (ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις); cf. 2 Timothy 3:1. If the words are connected with πῦρ as suggested above, there is no difficulty in them. If the punctuation of the A.V. be retained, we must suppose that the writer is speaking from the point of view of the last day of all. "When the end came it found them heaping up treasures which they could never use" (Dean Scott). But the other view, though not so generally adopted, seems fat' preferable.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Your gold and silver is cankered,.... Or grown rusty like iron, by lying long without use; this is not easily and quickly done, but in length of time gold and silver will change, and contract a rustiness; and so this conveys the same idea of hoarding up riches and laying up money, without making use of it in trade, for the support of the poor, and without distributing it to their necessities:
and the rust of them shall be a witness against you: at the day of judgment; which will be a proof that they have not been employed to such services, and for such usefulness, for which they were designed and given.
And shall eat your flesh as it were fire; that is, a remembrance of this, a sense of it impressed upon them, shall be like fire in their bones; shall distress their minds, gnaw their consciences, and be in them the worm that never dies, and the fire that shall never be quenched:
ye have heaped treasure together for the last days; either for many years, as the fool in the Gospel, for the times of old age, the last days of men, for fear they should then want; or for the last days of the world, or of time, as if they thought they should live for ever: the Vulgate Latin version reads, "ye have treasured up wrath for yourselves in the last days"; instead of riches, as they imagined; and that by their covetousness and wickedness, by a wicked disuse of their riches, and an unrighteous detention of them; but this supplement seems to be taken from Romans 2:5 though the sense is confirmed by some copies which connect the phrase, "as it were fire", in the preceding clause, with this, "ye have treasured up as it were fire"; and the Syriac version renders it, "ye have treasured up fire"; the fire of divine wrath; this is the fruit of treasuring up riches in an ill way, and without making a proper use of them.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. is cankered—"rusted through" [Alford].
rust … witness against you—in the day of judgment; namely, that your riches were of no profit to any, lying unemployed and so contracting rust.
shall eat your flesh—The rust which once ate your riches, shall then gnaw your conscience, accompanied with punishment which shall prey upon your bodies for ever.
as … fire—not with the slow process of rusting, but with the swiftness of consuming fire.
for the last days—Ye have heaped together, not treasures as ye suppose (compare Lu 12:19), but wrath against the last days, namely, the coming judgment of the Lord. Alford translates more literally, "In these last days (before the coming judgment) ye laid up (worldly) treasure" to no profit, instead of repenting and seeking salvation (see on Jas 5:5).
James 5:3 Parallel Commentaries
James 5:3 NIV
James 5:3 NLT
James 5:3 ESV
James 5:3 NASB
James 5:3 KJV
Bible Hub: Online Parallel Bible