Main point summary
Those who are exploiting others and living for extravagant self-indulgence, cry aloud because misery is coming upon you.
Come now, x you rich,
You rich people, I urge you, listen!
Come now, you rich!
weep and howl
and mourn and cry out!
Weep and cry aloud 1
for the y miseries that are coming upon you.
because of the misery that is coming your way
over the miseries that are coming on you.
z Your riches have rotted
Why are these miseries coming on you? Because your wealth has rotted
Your riches have rotted
and z your garments are moth-eaten.
that is, your precious clothes are rags
and your clothing has become moth-eaten.
Your gold and silver have corroded,
and your precious metals are rusted
Your gold and silver have rusted
and their corrosion will be evidence against you
and furthermore , that rust will stand as evidence against you (that you've horded wealth)
and their rust will be a witness against you.
and will eat your flesh like fire.
and as a result that evidence will, as it were, eat away at them in the flames of hell.
It will consume your flesh like fire.
a You have laid up treasure b in the last days.
In summary, you have stored up treasure in these last days!
It is in the last days that you have hoarded treasure! 2
Behold, c the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you,
Furthermore , look! The cash in your account, which belongs to your workmen, cries out against you
Look, the pay you have held back from the workers who mowed your fields cries out against you,
and d the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of e the Lord of hosts.
and the cries of the workmen has been heard by the Lord Almighty (Deut 24:15)
and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
f You have lived on the earth in luxury and g in self-indulgence.
And (with this wealth) you have pampered yourself
You have lived on earth in extravagance and self-indulgence.
You have fattened your hearts in h a day of slaughter.
You have made yourselves like fattened cows for slaughter.
You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 3
You have condemned and i murdered j the righteous person.
and you have oppressed the innocent one (the Christian who lives humbly before you),
You have condemned and murdered the righteous person,
He does not resist you.
He does not seek to oppose you.
although he does not resist you. 4
Not exactly sure what this means, except that the evidence points to a fearful retribution.
Gold and silver corrode? As a result of sitting unused.
Evidence against you, that God will consider in judgement.
In view of the exhortation in the verses that follow, I think it makes sense that this is referring to the poor humble Christian who is being persecuted by the rich
In this passage, James addresses the exploitative and greedy rich in society. Unlike elsewhere, he does not refer to these people as brothers. These people: gain wealth through exploitation of others; use this for wealth for self-indulgent comforts, while storing up the rest, and so become like cows fattened for slaughter; and seek to destroy those who they (wrongly) think would oppose them. And they do this, James says, 'in the last days'! He implies that they should know better; they should know judgement is coming. James exhorts them (if they would care to listen) to weep and howl and perhaps wake themselves up to the miseries (the eternal judgment of God) coming upon them. While James is addressing the rich, the passage also serves indirectly as a sober warning for the brothers and sisters in the church lest some should pick up, or be tempted to pick up, any of the habits spoken of. The passage is also a comfort and instruction to those who suffer as a result of exploitative behaviour. God knows their suffering (see 4b); the passage that follows provides instructions to keep their own hearts in preparation for the Lord's coming. He is at the door. Question: who is James referring to by the righteous person, and what does James mean by 'he does not resist you.' I'm not sure but I am inclined towards Gill's understanding: " this is to be understood of the poor saints, who were just, through the imputation of Christ's righteousness to them, and lived soberly, righteously, and godly, and were harmless and inoffensive in their conversation: who were evil spoken of, censured, and judged, and condemned in a rash and uncharitable manner by their brethren; or were drawn to the judgment seats by the rich, who obtained a judicial process against them, and procured a sentence of condemnation to pass upon them unrighteously; and who killed them, by taking away their good names from them, and by withholding from them their supplies of life, the fruit of their own labour, whereby their lives were embittered and made miserable: and he doth not resist you; it being neither in his power, nor in his inclination; but takes it patiently, quietly submits, and makes no opposition: or God does not resist you, as yet; he will do it shortly." (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/james/5-6.htm)