I love to travel. The two best moments for me has always been getting to the destination, and finally coming home after the long journey. I’m always excited to get to the foreign land because I don’t know what is ahead of me. But I also look forward to coming back home because it’s my place of peace, comfort and serenity. God has really blessed me with opportunities to visit and explore other countries. There were times when I spend a month away from home. I can honestly say that I have a lot of fun but there’s always a part of me that longs to come back home. That’s why I understand why James started talking about trials in Chapter 1. When we look at whom James was addressing, we would see that he was addressing Jewish Christians scattered in different locations.
James 1:1 …To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
It was during this time that the dispersal of the early church created communities of faith within their region. James speaks with authority, just like a pastor, addressing his scattered flock who are most probably feeling the pressure from society’s influences, experiencing persecution, discrimination, loneliness and lack of resources. This is why he started talking about trials in Chapter 1 – to be joyful in trials. Because in their situation, trials were very much inevitable. But in James 1:9-12 he started addressing the rich and poor so we have to put ourselves in the right context here. Although James was still talking about trials, he was addressing the rich and poor specifically.
9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Let’s look at descriptions of the rich and poor based on the book of James alone. Notice that James has been constantly addressing the rich and the poor throughout. We’ll see that that they are being described and mentioned in James 2:1-7 and 5:1-8.
|Fine Clothes (2:2)
||Dirty Clothes (2:2)
|Good Seats in their assembly (3:3)
||Stands or Sits in the Flood in their assembly (2:3)
|Withholds the wages they can pay (5:4)
||Cheated of their pay (5:4)
|Luxurious Life (5:5)
||Condemned and Killed (5:6)
James 1:9 - But the brother of humble circumstances…
The word “Brother” addresses a believer. He is someone who is part of the family of Christ – part of the church. How did he describe his brother? A brother of humble circumstances. A term used to describe the poor or someone of low position. He wasn’t addressing the poor in general. He was addressing a poor brother. Poverty was common among those who were dispersed since they had very little resources. From the descriptions above, we would see how humbling their situation was. I believe humility starts when you acknowledge that you own nothing and are not entitled to anything. But as James continues in verse 9, he is addressing his poor brother to glory in his position
James 1:9 - But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position
He can rejoice, glory, exalt and be lifted up because his standing before God is that of exaltation – he is spiritually exalted. As he realizes that he owns nothing, he depends on the one who controls everything. Since there is nothing you can be proud about, you can glory in that position where you find contentment in God alone. You can glory in the fact that you have finally learned what is important in life. That point where you realize that God is all that you need. You can exalt in the fact that it’s not about you, when you’re not centered on your “entitlement.” Everything you need is in God alone. Find your joy in trials because of your spiritual exaltation, that God is making you mature and allowing you to have the right perspective as you strive to be more Christ-like.
James 1:10 – And the rich man is to glory in his humiliation…
In this passage, the rich man is most probably a believer as well. He is to glory in his humiliation because of trials since he realizes that riches cannot provide the solution and exemption to trials in life. That once your riches are taken away from you, it forces you to go back to the understanding that all your possession was never yours in the first place. One rich man who gloried in his humiliation was Job. Job was a man who lived a prosperous life but because of God’s plans, everything was taken away from him. His family, health, and properties were all taken away from him. But he gloried in his humiliation and was found blameless. How he responded was more than commendable:
Job 1:21 – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
To glory in humiliation is to be brought back to reality that “your” riches are merely temporary. Just as it is being compared to a flower in verse 10 and 11
James 10 -11 …because like flowering grass he will pass away For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed;
Just like a flower’s beauty is temporary. Riches can bring you pleasure for the moment, but you will never be able to bring all your riches to eternity. In a blink of an eye, everything you own can be taken from you.
From this, we learn three important lessons about trials.
(1) Trials are not dependent on status
For the rich, having lots of money won’t guarantee a solution. When you lose someone you love, even if you have all the money in the world, you won’t be able to buy his or her life back. Patience and endurance can’t be bought. Money simply cannot buy everything. For the poor, even if you don’t have enough money, that still doesn’t guarantee that you will be exempted from experiencing trials. Problems and more problems will come as we pass through this fallen world. But you can find glory in the truth that all these trials can develop something greater in you! It makes you more mature and allows you to stretch your faith as you depend on God alone.
(2) Trials allow you to see more clearly
Both rich and poor should realize that there is one truth that we can always rely on – in God alone we trust. It’s realizing that in the midst of having nothing, as long as I have God – I have everything. It’s realizing that even if I have all the wealth in the world, it is never truly mine, but God’s and I am just a steward of his blessings. Therefore, I will not put my security in my earthly possessions but in God alone.
(3) Trials brings blessings
James 1:12 – Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him
Fortunate, well-off or happy is the man who endures trials because he is rewarded. He is commended by the master. The crown of life is a reward and the reward comes with the acknowledgement from God that we have that “life.” We have endured and have been preserved because of our love for him. We are part of his church and we suffer with him because we love him. This is the mature kind of love. Love that is not based on emotions. We are being compared to the bride of Christ and this is our commitment to Him. To love and worship Him not matter what. For richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, in trials or in happiness. And when we realize this truth, it develops our maturity. Maturity shown in our patience, endurance, eternal Perspective, joy, dependence and love for the Lord. Trials strip us of our worldly dependencies and we are left to find security in God alone. Trials show us the character of our faith and perfects us to Christ’s likeness.
You may be going through a trial right now. You may be in a financial slump. You may still be looking for work for more than a year now. You may be praying for a partner in life, but still waiting for an answer. There may be tension within your family because of your faith or you may be experiencing problems in your relationship with your office mates. Or you may have lost someone you dearly love. Just remember, He is all you need folks. In moments of trials, He is always there. He is all you need. Let Him take you through. You just need to endure and persevere. Respond in faith and obedience – it is not meaningless. It is producing in you a glory that far outweighs them all. Allow it to develop maturity in you. That you may grow in your love for the Lord based on truth and not emotion. And when the day of judgement comes, may you someday hear – “Well done good and faithful servant.”
Note from the author: This is an excerpt from my James 1 Sermon in B1G South Connect entitled “For Richer and Poorer – your marraige vow with the Lord”. The B1G South ministry is the singles ministry of CCF Alabang. We have service every Saturday at 6pm at the 3rd floor of CCF Alabang. Everyone is invited! I would love to meet you if you have time to visit.