James

by Douglas Estes

Day 3

Read James 1:9-11

Just as it is possible for a believer to be of two minds, so too it is possible for a believer to be of two circumstances in life: ″humble circumstances″ and ″rich″ (James 1:9-10). Here, James contrasts the rich and the poor-not just any rich and any poor, but rich believers and poor believers.

Their lack of pride in wealth frees them to exalt God without exalting themselves

First, he tells the believers in humble circumstances that they can boast because their circumstances have put them in a ″high position″ (v. 9). While this seems opposite to the way the world works, James will later make the meaning of this ″high position″ clear.

Second, he tells the believers who are rich that their boasting will be due to their ″humiliation″, which will come when they ″pass away like a wild flower″ (v. 10). In a time before bright artificial colours were invented, ancient writers like James used wildflowers to paint a vivid image of a joyful burst of colour in spring that quickly faded away with the arrival of summer (e.g., Job 14:2; Psalm 103:15; Isaiah 40:6; 1 Peter 1:24). In the original language, James is likening the rich to a ″flower of the grass″.

We don't usually think of a flower as having a low position; it may even be the high point of a walk in the garden. But an untended wildflower that springs up will only too quickly wither away. As the sun rises and time passes, its beauty will fade. The flower is brought low because while it was once beautiful-or perhaps thought itself beautiful among the grass-its beauty is not permanent.

The rich person is like that wildflower. People will notice the flower for a short time and think it beautiful, but the wildflower doesn't realise that the demise of its beauty is coming quickly. In the same way, those who boast in their riches cannot see that those riches will wither away. The rich will lose their wealth before they know it, and when the full light of day shines on them, they will be humbled and shown to be what they truly are-nothing more than a grass of the field, just like everyone else. The rich are no better than the poor.

What, then, is the ″high position″ (James 1:9) that those in humble circumstances may boast in? Their lack of pride in wealth frees them to exalt God without exalting themselves. May we put our hope in the riches of God's grace-His care, concern, and commitment-in our lives, regardless of our finances!


Think through:

Financial status often divides people. However, in what way are poor and rich believers alike? What do the rich and poor in Christ have in common?

When God blesses believers with material riches, what should they do? What should they not do?

COMMENTS

JOURNAL


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About Author

Douglas Estes (PhD, Nottingham) is Associate Professor of New Testament and Practical Theology at South University. He is the editor of Didaktikos: Journal of Theological Education, and is a regular science contributor at Christianity Today. Douglas has written or edited eight books, as well as numerous essays, articles, and reviews for both popular and scholarly publications. He also served in pastoral ministry for sixteen years.

Author of Journey Through Series:

Our Daily Bread Journey Through® Series is a publication of Our Daily Bread Ministries.

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