James 1:9-11 (KJV)
9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
Verse 9 makes sense to me, but verse 10 doesn’t upon first look. How about you? Of course I would want to be exalted if I was of low degree! But if I were rich, why in the world would I want to be made low? Does that sound like reality to you?
The thing is we are not talking about the natural life here. We are talking about our Christian walk, walking in the spirit not after the flesh. Remember that these verses follow several verses that discussing the affect of having a faith that does not waver and a faith that makes a man unstable. We are transitioning to talk about two other opposites, the rich man and the man of low degree. Interesting contrasts that offer us a look at where we should set our sights.
First, the brother of low degree. This is the humble man, one who does not exalt himself. He is quiet and unassuming. He does not seek glory or praise and keeps his words in check. He doesn’t see himself as important or special and usually puts others before himself.
More important then his outward appearance is his heart. His heart is contrite and broken before God. He is a willing servant, ready to do the masters business. There is no task too small for this man. He will do what is necessary to advance the kingdom. His only aim is to please God and he could care less if anyone notices. This is the kind of man that pleases God.
Micah 6:8 says one of the things God requires is to walk in humility with Him. Phil 2:5 says we should have the same mind set as Christ, who gave up heaven’s glory to come as child in a manger and die a gruesome death. Psalm 51 tells us the acceptable sacrifice is a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart. Jesus said blessed are the poor in spirit for their’s is the kingdom of God. Jesus also told us the first shall be last and the last shall be first (Matt 20:16) and that the humble will be exalted (Matt 23:12). All of this points to the fact that God hates pride (Prov 6:16). Yes, the lowly man is thought highly of by God. He is a man who God can mold and shape, a piece of clay ready to be molded into whatever the master has use for.
On the other hand, the rich mans best epitomized by the rich to young ruler who came to Jesus. (Matt 10:17-27). He was obedient to the law, but he could not give up his riches – he was too tied to them. He is proud of his possessions and his stature and is not ready to give them up. He wants recognition for what he has accomplished in life, thinking he has done it all on his own. Riches can deceive us!
The word tells us the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10), that we cannot serve God and wealth (Matt 6:24), that he who trusts in riches will fall (Prov 11:28) and that the rich man is wise in his own eyes (Prov 28:11). The rich become satisfied and forget the blessings of God (Deut 8:10-14, Neh 9:25-26, Hos 13:6). They are self made men who do not desire to be molded by God. They want to make it on their own. They do not see a need for God (Psalm 52:7).
This rich man is like the grass, says James. He will look beautiful for a while t eventually he will wither and fade. How often do we see those who trust in riches brought low by bad deals, falling markets, lack of integrity and run away greed? How often are they not satisfied no matter how much wealth they have? How greedy do they become towards those around them?
There is nothing wrong with wealth – it is when the wealth owns us that it is a problem When the money becomes more important to us than doing the will of God. It is when we hoard what we have instead of helping others with it. I believe God gives men wealth so they can use it to advance His kingdom, not so they can hoard it to themselves. God will one day require a man’s wealth (Luke 12:16-21).
Don’t let your life be in limbo. Take the lowly way. Be humble and ready to be used by God. Do not get entangled in this world, but be free of the fanfare and trappings this world will offer us. God has a better plan!