Summary: Poor Christians are special people to God. He saves each of us on the basis of the work of Christ on the cross & not because of anything that we are or have. But the poor are more receptive to the gospel message therefore they seem favored by God.
GOD’S CALL TO THE POOR
Preferential treatment of the rich is wrong. James makes his case that biased judgment is wrong through four rhetorical questions he will ask, expecting an affirmative answer. Those who have entered into a faith relationship with Jesus Christ must not let social distinctions and differences continue to find a place in their lives. He that loves Christ must love all His relatives.
Poor Christians are special people to God. Discrimination against them is therefore an affront to God. It defies His will. Masters and slaves (Eph. 6:9), rich and poor are alike before Him. He saves each of us on the basis of the work of Christ on the cross and not because of anything that we are or have. But the poor are more receptive to the gospel message therefore they seem favored by God.
I. RICH IN FAITH, 5.
II. WHO OPPRESSES, 6-7.
Verse 5 shows how God views the poor. Listen my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
This does not mean that God’s choice has been limited to the poor nor does it mean that all poor have been chosen. But as a matter of fact the poor have been more receptive and more responsive to the Gospel. James seems to teach that this was not just chance but the result of the way fallen creation works (1 Cor. 1:27). Jesus even asserted that to fulfill His messianic mission He "preached the Gospel to the poor" (Lk. 4:18, 7:22).
Verse 5 outlines three blessings which God bestows upon persevering poor believers. 1st, they are called out by God, 2nd, they are rich in faith and 3rd they are heirs of the kingdom. God’s call to repentance is a call to recognize one’s spiritual poverty. It is God’s will that all people come to repentance and be saved (1 Tim. 2:4) but only those who recognize their need become part of His chosen. God has determined to call out through the Gospel to the poor of the world.
In His sermon on the plain Jesus declared, "Blessed are you poor for yours is the kingdom of God" (Lk. 6:20). The first sermon Jesus’ preached [in His hometown synagogue] concerned His mission and began with the testimony, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor" (Lk. 4:18). Jesus identified the Spirit’s anointing in His ministry with God’s concern for the poor. When John the Baptist tested the authenticity of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus sent him this evidence, "the poor have good news preached to them" (Lk. 7:22). When the Apostles confirmed Paul’s ministry they asked that he "should continue to remember the poor" (Gal. 2:10).
From the first, Jesus had a small number of affluent adherents. Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Joanna, and others ministered to the Lord from their substance (Luke 8:2). However, the central appeal of the gospel was to the poor people of the land. Without question the early church consisted largely of poor people. The Palestinian poor people were experiencing particularly dark days. Crises ravaged the peasants and depressed wages crushed the laborers. Palestine and possibly other parts of the world experienced famine (AD 46-48). Their circumstances made the poor more responsive to the message of salvation.
The second blessing to the poor who heed the Gospel is the opportunity to be rich in faith. They are rich because of the eternal treasures that salvation by faith bestows on them and rich in exercised faith for daily living. They have great opportunity to grow in faith due to their poverty because they must depend upon God not monetary possessions for their daily needs. Then when crises do come there is no one or any where else to turn but God and as God answers they grow in faith concerning God’s faithfulness. This faith in God is what makes one truly rich. It is the uplifted open hand of the soul which receives all the bountiful supplies of God. Worldly wealth is subject to fading, defiling and perishing influences, but the eternal riches gained by faith are stored up in the imperishable vaults of heaven, the kingdom God.
The third blessing that the poor (and the wealthy) have to look forward to is their inheritance as sons of the King. The Kingdom of God signifies God’s reign which Jesus inaugurated in His first coming. To be an heir of the kingdom is to possess it and have it possess you. All heirs of this kingdom share in both the earthly and eternal blessings, privileges, and responsibilities of its Risen King. This kingdom of Christ is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. (1 Peter 1:4).