“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 wild flower. 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.” (James 1:9-12)
As we read today’s passage, there is some confusion about how it fits within the context of the chapter. Some believe there is no logical progression, and this is now a new process of thought. Others contend that there is a connection to the theme of trials by pointing out that one of the greatest trials of the original readers would have been poverty. A final group would suggest a continuation of the “double-minded” warning, referring to the ongoing struggle of a believer’s allegiance between God and money.
Since there is nothing explicit from the author, who may or may not have been influenced by any or all of these issues, it is best that we are not presumptuous and tie this section too closely to those around it.
It seems confusing, right? Let me shed a little light. As you know, the early Christians suffered much opposition, persecution, and trials. They were considered second-class citizens and struggled financially in most situations. Therefore, James admonishes them to look past their current situation and focus on who God has declared them to be and what God has promised them for all eternity. They were challenged to realize that their existing condition was not their final one.
Likewise, the believer who has means, status, and a position in society must see beyond their current situation. They cannot rely on what they have or who they are on this earth. James reminds them that all they possess on earth will wither away and be destroyed just like a plant in the scorching heat. For the wealthy believer, the basis for their faith and confidence should be the same as the believer with little – Jesus Christ.
The poor believer is to focus not on his lowly position, rather on his relationship with the Savior of the world. The rich believer is to remember that his lasting security is not his wealth or position, but his relationship with Jesus Christ alone.
The final encouragement for living with this heavenly perspective is found in the facts of verse 12; those who persevere in trials and withstand the test will receive the crown of life and eternity in heaven with their Lord and Savior.
Regardless of where you fit on the scale between poor and rich, what is your perspective and focus? Let me challenge you today to focus on the eternal future and live with anticipation, confidence, and joy, knowing that God is faithful to fulfill His promises. All we must do is live with that heavenly perspective.