Today’s Reading: James 1:9-18
James starts out his letter encouraging his readers to have faith and endurance in the midst of troubles – to see difficult times as an opportunity for faith to grow and endurance to develop. He is still talking about this when he begins to talk about the rich and the poor.
Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. – James 1:9
But wait, boasting is bad, right? Is James telling us we should take pride in our humble circumstances? No, he is telling us we should be humble no matter what our circumstances. The only time to boast is when we are boasting about what God is doing in our lives. James is saying that even those in humble circumstances can boast about the wonderful things God is doing in their lives. We do not need the riches of the world, we need the blessings of our Father.
And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away with all of their achievements. – James 1:10-11
But wait, so God will destroy the rich? No. James is speaking of the ungodly rich, who place their confidence in their riches. They look to their finances to provide help when trouble comes instead of looking to all God can do to help them during difficult times. They look to the things of this world that will fade away and wither, instead of trusting in God who is eternal.
God does not promise riches to those who have faith in Him, but He has blessed many believers with great riches. Whether God chooses to give us access to many material blessings or few, He wants us to trust in Him more than anything we can place our hands on. Whatever He has blessed us with, big or little, is His to use for His purposes. He wants access to all that we have so that we can embrace Him with empty hands.
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12
I find it interesting that this verse follows the section about the rich and the poor. How often does our financial situation tempt us to place our faith in money instead of God? We are tempted with the thought that our problems will be solved if only God will give us more material blessings. So is God testing us to see how we will spend what He has given us? Is He tempting us to get caught up in worldly treasures when He blesses us with them? James settles that question clearly in the next verse.
And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. – James 1:13-15
Imagine the analogy of a fish being caught on a hook. All is good and then the fish’s attention is drawn to something that looks pleasing. That something is dangling from a hook, but the fish is not thinking about the danger of the hook but of the temporary pleasure of the worm. The fish has a choice (assuming they have the capacity to think) – to swim away from the temptation or to latch onto it. The latter results in the fish being pulled in a direction it never intended to go.
Temptation comes from our own sinful desires. When we choose to pursue what our flesh desires, we take the chance that the temptation will drag us into sinful actions. As we allow sin a place in our lives, it gives birth to death. But don’t be misled! Don’t be enticed and don’t let temptation drag you into places of sin.
So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. – James 1:16-18
Our God never changes. He is good and He is holy today, and He will be good and He will be holy tomorrow. We never have to question if He loves us. We are His prized possession and He longs for us to love Him in this same way. In good times and bad, have faith in Him. Whether we have little or much, trust in Him. Don’t let any situation or any earthly possession or any temptation draw your attention away from the One who calls you His prized possession.