Summary: A "God’s eye view" of wealth and possessions

Flipped Right Side Up James 1:9-11 March 10, 2002

James Boice once heard a statement given by an actress named Sophie Tucker.

She was being asked by reporters about her early struggles before she became a success, and whether or not she had been happy in her years of poverty. She answered, "Listen, I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor. And believe me, rich is better." #2477


Well, there’s a couple cheery little lines, eh? If you’re really honest, don’t you wonder about this guy James?

In the first couple of verses of his letter, he tells us, “Consider it pure joy when you encounter all kinds of trials!” Rejoicing and trials don’t go together well in my book. I rejoice over good things, I moan and complain about trials and problems.

NOW he’s telling us that poor people should be happy and rich people should be unhappy. What IS IT with this guy? Why does he want us to be miserable when things are good, and happy when things are bad? Is James a spoil sport? Or more importantly, is James teaching us that God is a spoil sport? A stingy and stern God who doesn’t want us to enjoy the good things of life?

Children lined up in the cafeteria of a religious school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The teacher made a note: "Take only one, God is watching." At the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. A boy wrote a note: "Take all you want, God is watching the apples."

Is THAT the kind of God we have? Or is there something else to learn here?

Things are not always what they seem.

Well, let’s think for a minute about what he’s saying.

First, he says, “The poor person should rejoice in his exalted position”

The sentence can be translated even more generally: It literally says, “the humble or lowly person” should rejoice in his exalted (position)

I think it refers not just to income level, but to social status.

A plumber may make more money than a college professor, but he won’t be invited to the same parties

Why would someone rejoice in a low economic or social standing?

In his commentary, William Barclay says Christianity gives the poor or “lowly” person a new sense of his or her VALUE

The world may tell us our worth is based on our income or social standing, but God doesn’t.

“Lowly” people can rejoice because they have VALUE in the church

No one is more or less important in a church

I mean that! It includes the PASTOR!!

If we believe we are the body of Christ, then each one of us has a vital role to perform.

It may be an “upfront” role; it may be a “behind the scenes” role

But every Christian has been gifted by God to build up the Body of Christ

(Don’t ever say, “I don’t have any spiritual gifts” – unless you’re trying to say you’re not a Christian! If you are a Christian, you are gifted and God wants to use your gifts!)

You may not know what they are, but you have them!

Because you are uniquely created by God, you have been uniquely gifted by him

You are here to fulfill His purpose for you

Lowly people also see their value to God when they receive Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

What more powerful way is there to communicate that you MATTER to God than that Jesus was willing to die to restore your relationship to God?

Muretus: “Call no man worthless for whom Christ died”

The poor and “lowly” can rejoice because they’re NOT poor and lowly in God’s sight.

They have as much value to God as anyone else

They also rejoice, as James said in the first few verses, because their trials (and poverty is a trial) are working in them to make them more like Christ.

You may be thinking, “Well all those things are true… but they’re just as true of rich people! Rich Christians have spiritual gifts, they matter to God and to the church, too!!

And of course that’s true.

But a teaching that runs through the Scriptures is that riches and comfort often have a deadening affect on our souls

Think of the story of the rich young ruler. He said he came to Jesus to know how to receive eternal life. He said he’d obeyed ALL the commandments since his youth. Jesus said, “Fine then. All you have to do is sell all you have and give it to the poor.”

You know how the story ends: The rich young ruler walked away sadly. He kept his riches and left Jesus behind.

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