Peace to you Beloved in the name of Jesus Christ. I am so thankful to the Lord that you have been joining us for our Bible studies. It is good and pleasant when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity in the Bible, even through these virtual means. Remember if you have any questions or comments please get in touch with me via the website www.covenantpensacola.org. Please hit the subscribe button on our YouTube channel. And let your friends know about us as well. We are trying to minister Christ to as many people as we can during these unusual times.
Our study today is in James. This is our fourth study. Today we will look at James 1:9-11. To me it can sound a little strange. James will tell one class of Believer that they should boast or taken pride in something. Most often we think all boasting is bad. Usually it is. This must be a species of holy boasting. 😊Take out your Bible. Read along with me, James 1:9-11. This is the very word of God. Read.
James 1:9. 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.
As always let’s seek the help of the Holy Spirit. Remember He inspired these words. He made us alive in Christ. He worked in us saving faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit is in us as our indwelling Counselor. Let’s ask Him to teach us His word. Pray.
Let me point out a method of teaching that James employs in this letter that we see here.
He does something here that we find him doing throughout the letter. He introduces a subject, speaks to it briefly, and then later comes back to treat it more fully.
He does this with testing and trials and perseverance.
James 1:2. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
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.
The meaning of the repetition seems obvious, it is similar to when we as parents repeat ourselves to our children. The lesson is important. The lesson needs regular reinforcement in order for the lesson to be grasped. This is because we as students have internal infirmities or objections or difficulties with the particular lessons. As regards to hard lessons on hard things, our flesh is disinclined to learn so we need regular reapplication.
And we need repetition often because there are external forces that hinder our reception of the lesson. I am thinking of the devil and the devil led world.
Also, one other practical reason for the repetition of a Bible truth is that in order to truly know the Bible truth it has to be put into practice. Remember the book of James is the Law of God and not the Gospel of God. This is a book of moral exhortations to those that do believe in the true Gospel of salvation. Hence the emphasis on living out the doctrine we say we believe.
We also see another method that James employs, parallelism. Take pride in humble circumstances and be humble in high or elevated circumstances.
Later in chapter two he will use the parallelism of the rich and the poor. This is a way to teach by using contrasts. (James.2:2-6) Of course everything to us is not so black and white. There are many things that appear to us as gray, partly right partly wrong.
There are certainly sinfully proud poor people and Biblically humble rich people. God is just using these contrasts for the ease of our understanding by stating a general Biblical truth in a stark way.
Also, see that James uses an apparent conundrum or seeming contradiction to motivate us to think spiritually or biblically. God says, low people have a high position and high people have a low position. Well, God is teaching us that His ways are not our ways, they are higher than ours. (Isa.55:8-13) We want to think the thoughts of God. (I Cor.2:16, Phil.2:5-11)
The spiritual family.
We see that James opens by speaking to the poor brothers. Before we consider these people in particular, I want us to look at the entire church as it were. See how James addresses all the professing Believers as his spiritual family. The poor brothers are his brothers. The rich brothers are his brothers. Remember in V.2 he addressed everyone as “my brethren”.
When people become Christians, they are translated from one spiritual family and placed into another spiritual family, children of darkness now children of light in Christ. (Col.1:13)
John 1:10. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (Rom.8:14-16, Mt.6:9-13, I Jn.3:1-3, Eph.2:1-9)
Also, the moment we first come to believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior we are united with other true Believers in Jesus.
And one day we will all be gathered together as one flock under one Shepherd, from every tribe, tongue, and nation. (Rev.5:9, Eph.2:12-21, Gal.3:22-29, Gen.28:14, Jn.10:16, Mt.24:31)
This is a spiritual, mystical, living, and eternal union we have with other true Believers. Because we are joined the same common Head – Christ. Because of that living union we also enjoy a spiritual communion with other Believers. Those other Believers are now our spiritual family members. (I Cor.16:20, I Thess.5:27)
Though sadly I confess sometimes we do not act like family members to each other.
But let me read to you from our Secondary Standards on the communion of the saints.
WCF 26.1 All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head, by His Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with Him in His graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory:(1) and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces,(2) and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.(3)
(1) 1 John 1:3; Eph. 3:16-19; John 1:6; Eph. 2:5,6; Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:5,6; 2 Tim. 2:12
(2) Eph. 4:15,16; 1 Cor. 12:7; 1 Cor. 3:21-23; Col. 2:19 (3) 1 Thess. 5:11,14; Rom. 1:11,12,14; 1 John 3:16-18; Gal. 6:10
This is what James is appealing to. His exhortations are brother to brother. So, his address should be taken in that light, even when he says hard things in chapter four and five. God has raised up a prophet-apostle from among his brothers. (Dt.18:15-18) This allows James to have spiritual sympathy and solidarity with the family of God.
Also remember as we go through this passage that both poor and rich are forgiven and loved in Christ. Both poor and rich Believers are equally God’s children. He is the one that sets us into our worldly stations. Let’s not be inordinately perplexed by this.
Proverbs 22:1. A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold. 2 The rich and the poor have a common bond, The LORD is the maker of them all.
The poor brothers.
Let’s look at the poor brothers now.
This word for humble denotes material poverty, being poor. It is true that James is really wanting to motivate Believers to spiritual poverty along the lines of what Christ speaks about in the Beatitudes. Blessed are the spiritually poor, spiritually humble or meek. (Mt.5:1-12)
But in this context these poor brothers are materially poor. We can say that there are two possible reasons for their poverty.
One, they were converted out of the ranks of the poor. This is I Corinthians 1:27-31. God chose to save materially poor people and make them spiritually rich in Christ. James says this in chapter two. This is also the idea of Christ’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar. (Lk.16:19-31)
The other possible reason these Christians were materially poor is that they became poor once they came to believe in Jesus as the Christ. In other words, once they believed in Christ and gained eternal life in Christ, they lost family, friends, and goods. Material poverty may be the providential cross that our Lord wants us to carry as a part of our discipleship in Christ. (Ps.9:12-13, Prov.16:19)
This is one of the reasons Jesus tells prospective disciples that they should count the cost of becoming His follower. (Lk.14:28)
Luke 18:25. For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” 28 Peter said, “Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.” 29 And He said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” (see Heb.11:1-40)
Hebrews 10:32. But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. 35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.
Christians may be the off scouring of the earth, poor slaves as seen by eyes of flesh. (I Cor.4:13) But that is not what God calls us. He calls us son or daughter. We as Christians should think and feel and speak to poor Believers as brothers and sisters in Christ
This is part of the considering all trials to be joy. (James 1:2) And we can do so when we live by faith and not by sight. (2 Cor.5:7, Gal.2:20, Heb.11:1-6, Prov.3:5-6, Rom.10:17, 2 Cor.4:16-18, Rom.1:17, Ps.91:1-16, I Pt.2:21)
The riches of the poor Christian.
So rather than succumb to depression or anger or anxiety over his material challenges the poor Christian is instead to boast in what they do have. Though they never had riches, or they lost material wealth they gained God and in God every true blessing. (2 Cor.1:20, I Cor.3:21-23) We have Christ, the Pearl of Great Price. (Mt.13:46)
Must Boast. Elsewhere Paul uses this word to boast in this way.
But we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance. (Rom.5:3)
Peter says the same thing in I Pt.4:13-16.
I Peter 4:13. but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.
We glory in God to suffer as Christians. In fact, the Bible says, it has not only been granted to us to believe in Christ, but it also has been granted us to suffer for Christ. (Phil.1:29) The suffering testifies that we are recipients of God’s saving favor in Christ.
Likewise, James uses this boasting or pride in a good sense, and not in anyway looking down on those that are not Christians. The exhortation is for the Christian to learn and to appreciate their spiritual wealth and privileges In Christ. To boast in God, to reason spiritually or biblically. (Ps.34:2, Jer.9:23-24)
For example, the poor Christian remembers that he is of royal heritage, a royal son or daughter of God. (Jas.2:5) God says his children are My own possession. (Mal.3:17) The poor Believer is a joint heir with Christ. (Rom.8:17)
Revelation 2:8. The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: 9 ‘I know your (Smyrna) tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Listen to this summary of benefits that every Believer in Christ has, even the poorest Believer has all of these!
Blessed in this life. WSC 36 What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification? A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience,(1) joy in the Holy Ghost,(2) increase of grace,(3) and perseverance therein to the end.(4) (1) Rom. 5:1,2,5 (2) Rom. 14:17 (3) Prov. 4:18 (4) 1 John 5:13; 1 Pet. 1:5
Blessed at our death. WSC 37 What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death? A The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness,(1) and do immediately pass into glory;(2) and their bodies, being still united in Christ,(3) do rest in their graves,(4) till the resurrection.(5) (1) Heb. 12:23 (2) 2 Cor. 5:1,6,8; Phil. 1:23; Luke 23:43 (3) 1 Thess. 4:14 (4) Isa. 57:2 (5) Job. 19:26,27
Blessed at the Resurrection. WSC 38 What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection? A. At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory,(1) shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment,(2) and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God(3) to all eternity.(4) (1) 1 Cor. 15:43 (2) Matt. 25:23; Matt. 10:32 (3) 1 John 3:2; 1 Cor. 13:12 (4) 1 Thess. 4:17,18
A low estate does not take away one’s privileges in Christ.
Believers can testify to rich and poor alike that Christ alone is worth living for, worth being happy for. In a way perhaps that richer Believers are unable to. Moses left the riches of Egypt with an eye on eternal riches. (Heb.11:26)
Believers in more humble circumstances are kept safe (er) by the snares, temptations, and responsibilities often associated with having an abundance of wealth. Whereas the wealth that God gives us in Christ – He never adds any sorrow to it. (Prov.10:22)
I want you to think of this so as to persuade us that earthly riches and physical health are not to be our idols. How many Christian ministers that fell into gross sin did so because they became very popular and very wealthy? Their wealth was harmful to their spirituality. They would have been holier in Christ if they remained poorer.
And we ought to think that if God sends us humbling circumstances that He will send us blessings with it as well. Again, to reason by faith and not by sight.
1 Timothy 6:5. and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
The rich brothers.
Now we will look at Believers that are materially wealthy.
James 1:10. and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away.
Some maintain that the rich man of James 1:10 is an unbeliever. I do not think so for this reason. The rich man in view here is given an admonition just like the poor brother. It does not make sense to me that James tells a rich unbeliever to glory in the low position of having material abundance. In other words, only a Believer can reason spiritually and compare earthly riches in light of heavenly riches.
So, I believe that here James is speaking about wealthy Christians. But later in chapter two and five it appears there that the rich in that context are actually hurting the poor Christians, so in those chapters it looks like the rich in those instances would be rich unbelievers. But I cannot be dogmatic. (Jas.2:6-9, 5:1-6)
Remember this, riches in themselves are not sinful. And some of the greatest Believers in the Bible were materially prosperous. I am thinking of Job, Abraham, and David. (Jas.1:17)
Also, almost every modern American Believer is “the rich”. Think of the material things we enjoy Beloved that the better part of the world does not. Perhaps it would be helpful to consider the amount and degree of material wealth the Lord has given us (to use for His glory).
Now this man is told to boast or to take pride in his ‘low’ position. The notion is, God wants us to devalue material things and value spiritual things. In other words, to value what God values and to devalue what God devalues. Holiness in Christ is forever. Money will be consumed.
Listen to these Bible passages.
Luke 16:20. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.
Mark 8:36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?
As compared with the poor, not many worldly rich come to embrace Christ as their only hope in life or death. (I Cor.1:26-31, James 2:5) Let me ask you Beloved, why is this so?
For many wealthy people, their wealth has deceived them. (Mt.13:22) It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle because the riches can feed our idolatry and prevent us from seeing our neediness before God and prevent us from seeing our need of Christ. (Mt.19:24)
Think of how the rich young ruler walked away from Christ sad because he loved his riches more than Jesus. (Lk.18:23)
Jesus says this to all, but especially to those with an abundance of the world’s goods…
Matthew 6:19. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What James does next is give an illustration from nature to prove what he has just said, or to reinforce what he has just said, riches are fleeting and eternity is eternal.
James 1:11. 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.
James uses Scriptural figures that would have been familiar to his audience, particularly those Believers in Christ that were Jews.
Listen to what God says to His people through the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah 40:6. A voice says, “Call out.” Then he answered, “What shall I call out?” All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever. (Job 14:2, Ps.103)
Men are like grass. Worldly riches are like flowers. They are beautiful and enjoyable. But they are fleeting at best. Material wealth is very tenuous and life is brief and death is certain.
God teaches us that our outward estates may look safe and secure in the morning, but by the afternoon, in God’s providence, He could bring some scorching heart or some blasting wind.
Beloved, think of the plant that God caused to grow over Jonah and shield him from the heat of the sun. Then God exerted His power to blast the plant in a night. Happy one day. Sad the next. If we base our heart-contentment on external things we will be sorely disappointed. (Jonah 4:1-10)
Think of this. Sodom and Gomorrah were at one time beautiful cities, with lush crops, and luxurious living. (Ezek.16:49) In a moment they were ashes.
Beloved, those that labor all day long to gain the world’s things can never hope to really prosper without God. We were created by God to be happy in God. Only God can satisfy creatures made in His likeness and having eternal souls. The creature never can truly satisfy us.
This is the folly of seeking material wealth and security apart from God. (Ps.127:2, Hag.1:6, Lk.5:5) Our (true) life does not consist in an abundance of wealth. (Lk.12:15) Beware Beloved, we cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve God and wealth. We will love the One and hate the other. Chose this day to serve the Lord with your wealth. Wealth is a horrible god; it cannot save us. (Mt.6:24-34)
Remember, our wealth will fly away, and even our own bodies are like grass, quick to wither. (I Pt.1:24, Prov.23:5)
Notice that James uses death, the reality of death, and the uncertainly as to the time of death to motivate Biblical thinking and living. How different than the method the modern preacher is urged to use – promise riches, promise health, never speak of difficult days, and never speak of death, the end of our earthly days.
But the Bible says, God set eternity in the hearts of men. (Ecc.3:11, Heb.9:27, Acts 17:31)
This then allows all Christians, poor and rich Christians alike to use the world and the world’s goods the way that God requires to bring Him glory and knowing that we will let go of all earthly things One Day. (I Cor.7:26-31)
Beloved, look at your entire life spiritually. Think about everything in relationship to your relationship with Jesus Christ. Think about everything through the lenses of Scripture and in light of eternity. In Christ our blessings are infinite and unchangeable!
- What are some reasons for and benefits of James teaching by repeating himself? Why do we repeat our instructions to our children? (James 1:1-4, James 1:12)
- Before we were converted to Christ to what spiritual family did we belong? Why? What are some truths we learn by this? (Rom.3:9-18, Eph.5:5-14, I Thess.5:5-11, Eph.2:1-3, Jn.8:3-11, Jn.8:34-36, Col.1:13, Jn.8:44-45, Rev.12:9-12, I Jn.5:19)
- Into what spiritual family do we enter when we believe in Jesus Christ? Who is our new Father? Our holy Brother? What is our new relationship we enjoy to God as converted to Christ? What are some truths we learn by this? (Jn.1:10-13, Rom.8:14-16, Mt.6:9-13, I Jn.3:1-3, Eph.2:1-9)
- As Believers in Christ what is our relationship with other Believers? Do we enjoy this relationship with all Believers regardless of our other earthly distinctives (social, political, economic, class, etc.) including denominational distinctives? What lessons do we learn by this? (Gal.3:22-29 Rev.5:9, Gen.22:18, Mt.12:48-50, Rom.12:5, I Jn.4:20, I Tim.5:1-2, Jn.13:34-35, I Jn.4:7, I Pt.2:17, Ps.133:1, Phil.4:1, WCF 26.1-2, I Cor.12:4-27, WCF 25.2)
- James speaks about poor brothers in humble or low circumstances in James 1:9. What low or humbling things are associated with material poverty? Why are some Christians materially poor? Does material poverty mean that God is displeased with a Believer? Is material or physical prosperity always mean God is pleased with us? What was Christ’s outward economic or material estate while on earth? What lessons do we learn by this? (I Cor.1:26-31, James 2:1-8, Heb.11:24-40, I Cor.7:21-22, Ps.73:1-18, 2 Cor.8:9, Lk.9:58-62, Col.3:1-3, I Tim.6:8, Prov.31:8-9, Dt.15:10-11, Isa.10:1-3, I Jn.3:17, Lk.14:14, Ps.12:5, Lk.6:20-21, Lk.16:20-25)
- What are some blessings or spiritual riches that even the poorest Believer in Christ has for which they can exalt in God? What benefits do believers have in this life? What benefits do believers have at their death? What benefits do Believers have at the Resurrection? What is the nature of all these blessings? Eternal, temporal, etc.? From whom do Believers have these blessings, and why? What lessons are we taught by these things? (Rom.5:1-10, Rom.14:17, Prov.4:18, 1 John 5:13, 1 Pet.1:5, Heb.12:23, 2 Cor. 5:1-8, Phil.1:23, Lk.23:43, 1 Thess.4:14 Isa.57:2, Job 19:26-27, 1 Cor.15:43, Mt.25:23, Mt.10:32, 1 John 3:2, 1 Cor.13:12, 1 Thess.4:17-18)
- Is material wealth in itself sinful? Why, why not? List some wealthy Believers in the Bible? Why does James consider the materially wealthy man in a low or humble position? What is the wealthy Believer to remember about their wealth to keep them humble? Why can material wealth or health be a hindrance to our spiritual health in Christ? In general, do the majority of materially wealthy people believe the gospel of Christ? Why, why not? What good can be done by wealthy Believers with their wealth? (Dt.8:18, I Sam.2:7, Ps.112:3, Prov.30:8, Jas.1:10, Jas.1:17, Lk.16:20-23, Mk.8:36, I Cot.1:26-31, Mt.13:22, Mt.19:24, Lk.18:23, Mt.6:19-21, I Tim.6:5-11, Prov.23:5, Ps.49:7-8, Mt.16:26)
- What is James speaking about in James 1:11? What is taught by his use of natural figures? What lessons does he want Believers, especially wealthy Believers to learn here? (Ps.103:15-17, Job 14:2, Isa.40:6-8, Isa.51:12, Job 14:2, Ps.103:15-16, Ezek.16:49, Ps.127:2, Hag.1:6, Lk.5:5, I Pt.1:24, Ecc.3:11, Heb.9:27, Acts 17:31, I Cor.7:26-31, I Tim.6:17, Prov.11:28, Prov.23:4-5, Lk.12:15-21)