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Summary: We’re going to consider what a humble spirit looks like in the midst of trials and when things seem to be going well.

How To Have A Humble Spirit

James 1:9-11

Preached by Pastor Tony Miano

Pico Canyon Community Church

November 26, 2000

Introduction: This morning we’re going to continue in our study of the Book of James. We’re going to look at James 1:9-11 and consider how we can have a humble spirit. We’re going to consider what a humble spirit looks like in the midst of trials and when things seem to be going well.

Over the last few weeks, we have looked at how to develop a Christ-like attitude as we forge through the day-to-day trials of life. In James 1:2-4, we talked about the need for a genuine, enduring faith in order to experience pure joy in the midst of trials. Last week, as we studied verses 5-8, we looked at how we can recognize our need for wisdom, request the wisdom we need, and receive the gift of wisdom that will help us navigate through the trials of life.

If we take only a cursory look at verses 9-11 in chapter one, it would appear that James has ended his discussion about getting through trials and is beginning something new. But he’s not.

James continues his thought, which began in verse two. The only real change in the passage we’re going to look at this morning, when compared to what we’ve studied so far, is the literary style. James writes this passage in such a way that it closely resembles a parable. Something that makes James’ writing so practical is his use of illustrations to emphasize the points he is trying to make.

James chose two topics, topics important to his original audience and no less important to us in today’s church, to make this portion of his letter practical to whoever would read it. The two issues he addresses here, and two issues that affect our level of humility, are poverty and wealth.

James takes the encouragement and instruction of verses 2-4 and applies it to a real life issue facing his readers. One of the trials facing James’ Jewish Christian readers was poverty. After warning his brothers and sisters in verses 5-8 about the real potential for having a mind divided between God and the world, James will drive his point home in our passage for today by dealing with the one thing that can quickly and very subtly divide our minds, divide our souls—wealth.

Like James, we’re going to tackle these issues head on this morning. We’re also going to take some brief looks along the way at how portions of the Christian community are distorting the purpose for wealth and want in our lives. But before we begin, let’s pray.

Interpretive Issue: Let’s read verse 9-11. Before we consider the points James is making in this passage, there is an important decision we need to make about the text. Who is James talking about when he mentions “the brother of humble circumstances” and “the rich man”? Most scholars agree, and it seems obvious to me, that when James’ refers to the “brother of humble circumstances” he is referring to Christians.

James uses the word “brother,” again, to describe whom he is writing to. Since we can establish a connection between today’s passage and verses 2-4, we can say with confidence that some of the people he refers to as fellow Christians in verse two are the same individuals he is talking about in verse nine.

The greater challenge lies in determining what group “the rich man” mentioned in verses ten and eleven belongs to. Is he a fellow believer who has been blessed with monetary wealth, or is he simply a rich non-Christian? In my own study of this passage I’ve found that theologians are split 50/50 on this issue. Both sides make compelling and legitimate arguments for their particular point of view.

I’ve said this before and you will hear me say it again from time to time. God has given us His Word. He is not a God of confusion. His Word has but one meaning. It was not given to us so that we can interpret it in such a way that we could make it conveniently fit our own preferences and prejudices. The challenge for me, and for any serious student of God’s Word, is to discover that one meaning God has attached to a given verse or passage.

Now, the basis for the central truths of the Christian faith does not rise and fall upon the interpretation of who “the rich man” is in our passage for this morning. Our decision here will not affect our salvation. Nor will we lead someone astray if we encourage them to stand on either side of the fence, on this issue.

However, unless we are willing to approach the seemingly smaller issues contained in Scripture with integrity and a determination to know the truth, when it comes time to make a decision about other essential issues, the understanding of which could determine whether or not a person really has an authentic relationship with Christ, we will probably lack the determination to wrestle with the text to find its true meaning. We also run the risk leading others astray. We run the risk of coming down on the wrong side of the fence or convincing ourselves that the issue isn’t that important.

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