In a Nutshell
James is not asking the wealthy to examine themselves to ascertain whether they are liable to God's judgment. He tells them that those who identify themselves by their wealth are already on the wrong path.
* * * * *
How does 5:1-6 relate to 4:13-17?
Listen up you rich folk, weep and lament profoundly, over the sufferings about to overwhelm you. Your wealth is corrupted, your wardrobe is moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have been de-valued, losing all their shine, while their poison will be evidence against you, feeding like fire, off your flesh, the fibres of your life. You collected together all this for the last days. Take careful note! The wages of the labourers who have mown your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have come to the notice of the mighty Lord of hosts. You have continuously treated yourself and indulged many pleasures; you have taken nourishment for your hearts on a day of horrendous slaughter. You have used the law to condemn and have murdered the righteous person; he does not stand up to you.
We have considered the Letter as a New Testament book of proverbs. Parts of this letter are composed as short poems, psalms to be sung alongside the Old Testament book of worship. We have also noted how, in various parts, the letter echoes the teaching recorded from the ministry of Jesus, the well-known "sermon on the mount" (Matthew 5-7; Luke 6:17-49) in particular. The letter also breathes the announcements of the Old Testament prophets. James jolts those tempted by the lure of mammon (see Matthew 6:24), and in no uncertain terms asks them, "What side are you on?" This is an apocalyptic diagnostic, encouraging followers of the Lord to re-consider how they identify themselves when they "draw nigh to God" (4:8). Do they stand with the Righteous One? To see themselves as wealthy folk is to make a big mistake with significant consequences. Who can ever say they have lived up to the responsibilities that are affixed to the Lord's abundant bequests?
What is James trying to suggest here? Is it that wealth is sin? No. This prophetic denunciation is of the way people in their hearts define themselves, as rich and wealthy people, before the Righteous One who bestows every good and perfect gift, as if they can stand before Him with something that they can give to Him…. it is to that mind that James directs his diagnostic. To define oneself by what one has accumulated is to forsake the cause of the righteous one from the heart (5:6).
"Listen up!" James is not having a poke at those who have inherited money, power or status. Read Chapter 4:1-12 again to keep the thematic unity of the letter in view. This is about standing before God. This is about the meaning of life. This is about submitting to His will, to resisting the devil. To draw near to God means reckoning with ourselves completely and thoroughly as stewards of His gifts. James goes on to discuss this, but here the prophetic exposé points out the destination of the wealth of those who define themselves as the rich and famous, those who harbour some belief in their hearts that somehow the meaning of their life is secured by their wealth. It isn't. Our life is a gift of His grace (4:6).