After James’ opening verses, his following words may seem quite confusing:
The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.
What the? The opening verses of trials and prayer are now turned into a practical example of how one should understand their position. The person of humble circumstances, to put it bluntly, is one who lacks material necessity and possession, the poor. Is James trying be funny? What high position? No. Quite the opposite, James is talking about the riches of one’s faith to see themselves from the perspective of God rather than the perspective of man.
It makes me think, how often do we look at people through our own eyes rather than look at them through the eyes of God? Do we look down on those who have little and pass judgment? Be honest with yourself. I, certainly, have made judgments about people based on their material standing. Just wait, James has a couple of words for those who are rich.
To those who are of humble circumstances, let these words be encouraging. God has blessed you with faith, hope and love which all come in abundance and without condition. To each person through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God seeks to renew them to a new position in life unlike anything they could ever imagine. A position in life that cannot be taken away or altered by any circumstance in this earthly world. A position is based on the eternal things of God rather than the temporary.
In a world that is constantly changing, who knows what tomorrow holds? However, regardless of who we are and where we stand, God is unchanging and his perspective is eternal. Likewise, James calls us to be those with an eternal perspective, setting aside our material position to focus on that which is eternal. We could go on, hour after hour, about what the eternal perspective looks like but in short let me say that each of us needs to get an eternal perspective on our purpose in life. In our study, in our work, in our interaction with people – our perspective needs to be eternal. Personally, I believe our eternal perspective is tied up with the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God.
As promised, the words to the rich:
The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he 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 man will fade away even while he goes about his business.
It always strikes me when the Bible talks about the rich or anything involved with money, there’s always so much to say. Anyway, now James has turned the table. The rich should take pride in their low position. It really sounds like James is confused. Yet, this time, unlike with the poor, James explains what he means. The rich will pass away like a wild flower; that is, death. So, the poor will die as well, what’s the big deal? The point James is trying to make is, again, about perspective. The rich should realise their low position that their wealth is, but, temporary.
James doesn’t use any soft illustrations to make his point, he uses life illustrations to drive his point about the temporary nature of life and how our perspectives should be set correctly. When we gain an eternal perspective on life, everything changes. When we recognise that all that we have is temporary and instead focus on the things of eternity, our lives should change likewise. Whether we are poor, rich or somewhere in-between, there is more to life than simply what we see.