So far through the first chapter of James, through verses 1-8, we have looked at finding Joy in trials and seeking God for wisdom to navigate those trials with a perspective that glorifies Him and grows us.
Today we look at verses 9-18, James talks about the realities of our situation in this world, the perspective we should have despite them and temptations that are a part of our journey here.
James 1:9-12 “Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wildflower. 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 will fade away even while they go about their business. Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
From trials and wisdom to poverty and wealthy, what is James trying to say here? Trials do not evade the one or the other. Each one of us who is a Christ follower has their faith tested, because God intends for us to grow in spirit. But the reality is that our situation in this world can impact how we perceive our trials.
Pride in our position in Christ
Whichever end of the spectrum on the economic scale you fall, James teaches the perspective we are all to have, to take pride in our position in Christ. For those in humble circumstances, the world may view you as less than or as outliers, but God does not. If your faith is in Christ, your hope is steadfast, and your eternal destination is sure. Do not let any other worldly narrative rob you of the truth of the spiritual riches you have in Christ. Take pride in your ‘exaltation’ in Christ and in what God has done for you.
And for those who find themselves among the rich, let not the fallacy of temporary security allow you to shift your dependency on the transient riches of this world. Let these riches not draw you away from humility, ignorance to those in need and let not the comforts you experience in the now lead you to spiritual complacency. As James words warn us all, we are not to take pride in our possessions, because they are fleeting. James says, the rich man will fade away as he goes about his business – the surety and confidence of tomorrow that riches can make one feel, James cautionary words remind us of what we read in Psalm 144:4, that we are but a breath, and our days are like a fleeting shadow. Place your confidence in your identification with Christ.
1 Timothy 6:17 “Command those who are rich in this world, not to be arrogant or put their hope in their wealth, which is so uncertain. But to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
A person in humble circumstances or of wealth, by faith the two are equal in Christ (Hiebert citing Lenski).
The question we then ask ourselves depending on where we are at:
- If our circumstances cause us to base our confidence in anything other than God, however subtle it might be? or
- If we allow our circumstances to dictate how loved by God we feel and the confidence with which we approach Him?
In verse 12, we read the promise we receive with persevering through our trials, through the testing of our faith – the crown of life. As we allow our perspective of journeying through our trials to be shaped by what God is doing within us, we strive forward with the hope and certainty of the time when trials, sorrow and pain will be no more, may this spur our walk with Christ through challenging times.
James 1:13-18 “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.”
Trials test us, and often, in those moments when we already feel beaten down by our challenges, temptation can draw, with the lure of momentary satisfaction, leading us to walk out of step with the Lord. We can place blame for our slip ups on anything but us, we can question God and sometimes in our angst blame God. James clarifies that God does not tempt.
If God does not tempt, where does temptation come from?
The desires tugging away in us that tempt us to move away from God are our own. And if we allow those desires to take root, sin is birthed. James words here caution of the growth of sin in strength over time. We might give into our desires and foolishly think we are in control of how much of it we allow in our lives. But when our desires are not aligned with God and we give into temptation, it births sin. And sin does not stay dormant, it grows stronger the more it is exercised and continues to lead us down a treacherous path of deeper sin. And where does it all lead, to spiritual death.
James cautions us to not be self-deceived in contemplating how much of a role our own desires, free will and self-control play when tempted. If all it (temptation) leads us to is sin, it reveals what lies within our hearts.
Galatians 5:16 “Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
But James also reminds us of the Sovereignty and steadfastness of God. Every good gift comes from our Heavenly Father, the greatest of which is His son. This gift that comes from God, causes us to be a new creation in Christ, to be overcomers through Him so that we are free from the bondage of sin.
1 John 5:5 “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
God is powerfully, dependably, and graciously good. May this truth define how we face our good and our challenging times.