English Standard Version (ESV)
James has harsh words for those who have placed their trust alone in the gospel of wealth. Wealth can be very affirming in this life -- it provides security and access, and gives the allusion of control. James warns those who are rich not to place their ultimate trust, for if anyone pursues wealth and ignores the needs of humanity around them, then they've focused on the wrong goal. James calls out those who have grown wealthy by illegally profiting off their workers, as the Lord always hears the cry of the oppressed.
It's easy to read this and point fingers, especially where we see outsized corporate profits and underpaid employees. And we do need to hold entities responsible for taking care of their employees. What's also easy to do is to miss the chance to examine ourselves.
Wealth is a strange thing. No matter how much money you have, there's almost always someone who has more than you. I can say this safely because I'm fairly certain Jeff Bezos isn't a regular reader. If he is, Hi Jeff! So you can always use these verses to think about how those wealthier than you should do their part and spread their wealth around.
But what's the key for us, no matter how much or little money we have, is to read this and ask ourselves how much we trust in wealth. You don't have to be rich to make wealth an idol. Every single person on earth is in danger of placing their trust in wealth, aiming for it with all their hearts, and missing the Gospel message. Someone wise once said that money simply reveals who we are -- it's a loudspeaker, in a way, announcing what's in our hearts. If our hearts are focused on serving others and proclaiming mercy, more money is likely to enable us to do the same thing on a broader scale. If our hearts are conflicted and seek money as a security blanket, more money is likely to be a stumbling block to true generosity and trusting in Christ alone.
So may God reveal to us how our hearts truly view money, and may we have the wisdom to see it as a tool, nothing more, through which to proclaim the Kingdom of God.