Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
As we come to v.9, James once again makes statements that challenge conventional thinking and are countercultural as they relate to the standing of the rich and poor before God. Both states and all gradations in between, are areas that all too easily cause us to take our eyes off Christ and to focus on the world and its standards and allure.
Which of us, if we are honest, would love to win a lottery jackpot; hanker after a bigger house and at times find ourselves discontented with our lot? If we are ‘rich’ it is because we have a tendency to want more. Surely that is why the Tenth Commandment, ‘You shall not covet’ brings the decalogue to a close. While if we are ‘poor’ we hanker after the same things to lift us out of the grind of living with little or nothing left at the end of each week and certainly unable to have the ‘luxuries’ which we see others enjoying.
Now I appreciate that the above paragraph polarizes the situation and the majority are somewhere on a continuum rather than at the extremes, but whichever, James turns things on their heads!
The poor are to boast of (or glory in) their high status in Christ, while the rich are to boast (or glory in) their humiliation.
For the rich this means firstly, the realisation that their riches are only temporary and bring no advantage before God and secondly the challenge of identifying with the poor in their affliction.
Paul writes these words to Timothy:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
and we live in an age when money and greed seem to be the driving force in so many areas of society, so James’ words may well seem subversive to many. But as believers we are called to ‘go against the flow’.
I guess we all find what James says uncomfortable but we need to reflect on them.
I close today with this well known quote from C T Studd
“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
and challenge myself and those who read this to consider how we use the riches we have at our disposal.
Let us do that asking God for heavenly wisdom as we do.