A Worthy Boast!3
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:9-1
“If you’re a multimillionaire, you’re going to get through the coronavirus pandemic”, said a US senator during a recent Democratic presidential debate. Humanly speaking, he’s probably right. The rich are able to arrange hassle-free private testing at their private residences and can afford the best possible private healthcare. Some are fleeing in their private jets to self-isolate in private bunkers in countries that have had no cases of the Coronavirus. Furthermore, the rich don’t have to worry about loss of income during a pandemic; in fact, the contrary is happening. A number of the “already rich” will become richer by the end of the pandemic because of the cheap buying opportunities of good companies that are on the verge of liquidation. Because of this, the rich are filled with a sense of immortality. On the other end of the spectrum, if you fall within the low-income category, you might be wondering how you will survive the coming months. Your employer might have promised you a salary for the first month, but should the lock down continue, you won’t have a pay cheque in the coming months. You might be tempted to be anxious about the future and fall into despair.
James, however, would not have the prevailing worldly view of material wealth permeate the church. He wants to teach us something about riches and poverty in God’s economy. Starting with the poor Christian who is tempted to pity his condition and fall into despair, he calls him to “boast in his exaltation”. If you find yourself in this group of people, James calls you to boast (not a prideful boast but rather in exaltation to God) in your rich estate in Christ. Boast in the fact that he died for you (Rom 5:8), and that your sins have been pardoned by Him who calls you his brother or sister. Also take comfort in His promise to “provide for all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ” (Phil 4:19), and that “the redeemed of the Lord (including you) shall enter Zion with singing and rejoicing, and that sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Is.35:10). What sweet words, what comforting words to the startled soul. Dear Christian friend, do you see the love of God in these promises? Do you believe these truths?
James would also have the rich Christian who is tempted to trust in his wealth, to “boast in his humiliation”. Dear Christian friend, if the Lord has blessed you materially, I encourage you to look beyond these transitory blessings which are fickle, to the eternal blessings in Christ. Instead of relying on your financial security, ponder on your spiritual bankruptcy, on how much you need a savior, and his promise to make you spiritually rich according to his promise that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Matt 5:3). One of the most picturesque times in Johannesburg, is during spring when the Jacaranda trees show off their splendor. Their purple flowers make young men and women want to marry in spring. However, in just a few months, from the scorching heat of the sun, all those flowers fall off and wither. Such is the case of wealth, as soon as it increases, it quickly vanquishes. I recently learnt of a flower in North America called the Coneflower. This is a beautiful, tough flower, that attracts butterflies and delightful birds. Most importantly, unlike the flowers on the Jacaranda trees, this flower can survive the harshest of weather, from scorching sun to treacherous frost. Like this flower, the safety and assurance we have in Christ is not fickle, it never disappoints, it endures to the end. Dear Christian friend, what do you trust for security? Will your wealth save you from your condemning sins? It will desert you when it matters most, rather, cling to the security that is in Christ.
James has more to say in addition to riches and poverty. He is interested in our steadfastness amidst trial. What more reason do we have to remain steadfast under trial, if it’s not the promise that if we stand the test (through the help of Him who works in us (Phil 2:12-13)), we will receive the crown of life, that is, eternal life? Sweet, eternal life, with no tears or sorrow or sighing, in everlasting joy with our Savior. Note who this promise is made to. It’s to those who love him, and so I ask, “Do you love him?” Pray to God, “Lord, make me love you as I should”, and He who hears the prayers of his children will help you.
So be encouraged. Come poverty or riches, may we look to him who is our security and riches, as we seek to persevere under trial.