Final thoughts on James 1:9-11
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 heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits. NKJV
This passage is about our eternal perspective! What we tend to pursue, in our desires in life, is meaningless against the backdrop of seeking faith and the call that Christ gives us. How do we keep on His track? Perspective! Perspective is the mental view or outlook of what we see in our world, our circumstances, our situation, and our Lord. The reality and outcome of our viewpoints influences our beliefs that in turn influence our attitude which affects our actions. This is also called “worldview.” It is a position which will dramatically and dogmatically affects our outcome in trials and in life. How do you look at the world? Is it for what you can get out of it and what is in it for me, or is it for what you can learn and grow? The answer will determine your character, maturity, spiritual growth, how you deal with problems, and how you can make your situation positive and meaningful! Without proper perspective, we will be torn apart by our desires and the world’s influence, while our faith and God’s precepts are being ignored.
Perspective is also the hope we are to have because of the reality of Christ’s redemption. Our hope is anchored because He paid our debt. Because of this, we will realize that He is more than able to carry us through whatever happens to us. We will be able to see beyond the appearance of our circumstances and into the depths of our significance in Christ. Material possessions are of no eternal use unless they are tools for God’s glory. Our material possessions will burn and be of no value some day; only what we have used for the furtherance of God’s kingdom by ministering to others will lasting spiritual and eternal value.
The “lowly” in verse 9 refers to the poor and oppressed. Such people were common in James” day and had little opportunity to get out of their situation, as they were oppressed by wealthy landowners and a culture that said, “You deserve it.” We can apply this situation to any of the trials that we may go through today and we can go through trials whether we are rich or poor.
As Christians, we ought never to glory in ourselves, but in what God has done for us. God, in His grace, has chosen the foolish, the weak, and those of lowly birth for His kingdom (I Cor. 1:26-28). All that we are in Christ and all the blessing we have in life are solely by the grace (undeserved favor) of God (Eph. 2:8-9, Rom. 3:24, Tit. 3:5, II Tim. 1:9, Rom. 12:3). None of us will be able to stand before the throne of God and take one iota’s credit for our salvation or our station in life (I Cor. 1:29). All we will be able to do is lift up our voices in gratitude and thank God for His grace toward us (I Cor. 1:31).
The word “exaltation” in verse 9 speaks of our position in Christ. As Christians, we may be poor and lowly in the eyes of this world, but we are rich in Christ. We are the children heirs of God Himself and heirs together with Jesus (Rom. 8:16-17) and God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3).
In verses 10-11, James is referring to where our trust and hope is place. Is our security in wealth or in Christ? Those who are wealthy should be humbled by the temporal nature of the their material possessions for three reasons. First, all of our material possessions belong to the Lord (Psa. 24:1). They are only temporarily on loan to us as His stewards (Mat. 25:14) and are to be used for His glory and the furtherance of His kingdom (Luke 16:11, I Pet. 4:10). Second, no matter how prosperous we are, we are only here in this life for a brief period of time (Psa. 90:10, 144:4; Jas. 4:14). Third, when we die, we cannot take our material possessions with us (Prov. 23:5, Luke 12:20). As Jesus warns us in 16:26, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul.” This is why He exhorts us to “lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matt. 6:20)
Understanding that all our material possessions belong to the Lord, that our days on earth are numbered, and that we cannot take any of our material possessions with us when we die, what should our perspective on life be? Solomon asked the very same question in the book of Ecclesiastes and what was the answer? “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” (Eccl. 12:13) Or as Jesus said in Matt. 6:23, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
When we realize who we are in Christ, all of our problems and opportunities come into perspective (1 Pet. 1:6-7). . . . Put yourself in Jesus’ hands, and then your heart will be on Him and not on what you desire. You will then be the person of faith and integrity who is surrendered and poured out to Christ and will be used, powerfully, in the lives of others. Richard J. Krejcir