Contemporary English Version (CEV)
But James is trying to get a message across, and sharp language is the best way to break through someone's defenses. If you have put all of your hope in money, believing that wealth can insulate you from whatever might threaten you, you will be in for a rude awakening. Wealth and power cannot keep death distant, and it will not buy us eternity. We can only receive eternal life as a gift, and to those accustomed to using wealth as an influence to get what they want, this is a hard transition of the heart.
It takes courage to be humble, to accept the fact that we owe a debt that we cannot pay, that Jesus Christ has paid for us, and to receive the gift of salvation that he has procured for us. To believe that money will earn a way into God's good graces is to foolishly believe the ways of the world, and James wants to stir the rich into this realization before it is too late.
So harsh words are reserved for desperate times. May we have the prudence to see the foolishness of whatever idols we cling to and pass them by on the path of humility and selflessness that leads to the foot of the cross, where the gift of eternal life was secured.