“Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning wind than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.” James 1:9-11
In this physical world both poverty and wealth can cause us to lose sight of God in our day-to-day lives. Both poverty and wealth can cause us to focus more on this dark world which is passing away than on Jesus. This in turn can cause us to ignore or disregard the promptings and guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we become too consumed with money. James understands that money or the lack thereof can be one of the most chronic sources of major trials in the lives of Christians. Moreover, we know that God is not a respecter of person, but instead looks at the hearts of all people. What matters to God is not if we are rich or poor, but what our relationship is with Him through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Here James is contrasting both the poor believer and the rich believer and how money can cause trials in our lives. James uses the Greek word “adelphos” which means brother or more specifically in our case, brother in Christ or fellow Christian. James purposely uses this word as a qualifier before introducing the poor and rich person to let us know that he is speaking about fellow believers. In addition, these verses are purposely placed in the middle of the section on facing trials in our walk with God. This further helps us to understand James is speaking to Christians about money and how it can bring trials that will disrupt our faith and hinder our walk with God.
What James is stressing for us is not to let our financial circumstances overshadow our faith in Jesus. Regardless of poverty or wealth we are looking to Christ and the riches we have in Him alone. Moreover, James understands this is difficult for us living in a fallen world. Therefore, we rely not on our own ability to do so, but on the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells us. The brother who is poor can feel exalted knowing the position we have in God’s kingdom because of Jesus. In addition, we all can rejoice in the possession of our salvation given to us by Christ. We know the inheritance we have in God’s kingdom. It is an inheritance granted to us because of what Jesus did for us. In addition the rich should rejoice in their humility, not their wealth. They should do so knowing this dark world which provided their wealth (by God’s grace and mercy) is quickly passing away and in the eyes of God they are no different from the poor. We are one body, all equal before God.
Lastly, James uses an example from nature. He is using the example of the seasonal grasses and flowers. These grow and bloom in February, but are dried up and withered away by the time May arrives. The Greek word used here is “kauson” and it means a scorching wind. This was in reference to the hot, scorching desert wind called the “sirocco wind.” This wind blew in from the desert and quickly dried up and destroyed any flowers or plants in its path. James uses this imagery to remind us how quickly the things of this world are passing away. The only lasting riches which we have are those found in Jesus and come to us from God as a result of our faith in Christ. The only thing we have that will last for all eternity is our inheritance in God’s kingdom. An inheritance given not because of what we have achieved in this world, but an inheritance given to us because of God’s grace and our faith in Christ.