Thursday, March 31, 2016

James Chapter One, Part 2

1:9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, (10) but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away.

Verse nine deals with the "lowly" or poor brother in Christ who can glory in his exaltation. Just earlier in this chapter James instructs us to "count it all joy when you fall into various trials" because "the testing of our faith produces patience," James 1:2-3. The wealthy can glory in humiliation, or practicing humility, realizing that God has exalted them with material gain for only a brief time; for their spiritual gain as they serve others and glorify God. We all have a fleeting life, and we shall be called upon to give an account of what we did with our "talents" (resources or borrowed money, so to speak) when we come before Christ's judgment seat, Matthew 25:14-30; Romans 14:10-12. What we have is a gift from God, therefore it is foolishness to boast as though we acquired it some other way. Also, our pursuits, like our lives, will perish, and so a believer blessed with wealth ought to conduct themselves (and their fortune) in the light of eternity and their entrance into glory. The trial of the rich is often to understand that it is given to them to in turn give to others. "Freely you have received, freely give," Matthew 10:8.

1:11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.

Here we learn the perils of wealth. True, there are also perils to poverty. There is the temptation to turn to crime rather than the Lord to supply your needs, and when the need is great the temptation comes. But James gravitates toward focusing on the wealthy man and the dangers inherent in being rich. This is a topic he will address in more length later in his epistle, but for now he gives a terse warning: the wealthy man, whose focus is his money, will perish in his pursuits. Solomon warns: "The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own esteem," Proverbs 18:11. Solomon, himself a very wealthy man, was not writing in any flattering way concerning the rich. The verse prior he wrote: "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe," Proverbs 18:10. So the saint sees God as his defense, whereas the wealthy (even a wealthy saint) can improperly view his riches as his salvation from present troubles. Plenty comes with a snare. It was what caused all of Israel to sin, as God warned. They would enter the land of plenty and forget their God, that it was He that provided for them. And so it came to be. Individually Christians are in peril of being blinded by wealth because it makes them forget spiritual needs, since material needs are presently provided for. Like the proverbial flower before the burning sun, so will a rich man suddenly vanish amidst he ambitions. "For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up, says the Lord of Hosts," Malachi 4:1-2.

1:12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Following James' line of thought, we come from finding spiritual maturity through trials, to cleansing our hearts from being double-minded and not possessing a mentality that straddles the fence between obedience and rebellion or faith and perpetual doubt. We find the poor brother exalting in said trials, while the rich are chastised for courting the dangers of appropriating a mind that trusts on something other than God and His word. Finally James encourages rich and poor alike by telling us that both are blessed by enduring temptation. The Greek word of temptation is "peirasmos" and can mean "trials sent or permitted with a beneficial purpose or effect." So we find this entire portion of the epistle focusing still on the topic of trials and their function. The ultimate end of a trial in which a saint triumphs is the blessedness of receiving a crown. Crowns are mentioned numerous times in Scripture, and are associated with the idea of rewards above and beyond the salvation freely offered us in the person of Jesus Christ. When such a person is approved or "passed the test" (NASB footnote) a crown awaits. It is something likely given at the judgment seat as a reward for faithful endurance, demonstrating to men, angels and demons that God's claim at sufficiency for the soul is not mere bluster: He proves it in every man and woman brave enough to in faith place their life's safety in His hand. Mind you, this is not a requisite for one's salvation; that implies one must work simply to be saved, which Scripture clearly demonstrates is not the case, Ephesians 2:8-9, etc. Works do not save, contrary to how some twist the Scripture in James to state otherwise. God willing, we shall approach this portion of his writing soon enough.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Ian. Even many Christians have fallen for the idea that Material wealth is a major sign of God's blessing.


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