Summary: Tests are common to life. Having discussed the testings of faith & the resources needed to meet them, he now introduces two of the most common examples of testing: the test of poverty & the test of prosperity.
THE TESTS OF POVERTY AND PROSPERITY
[Luke 16: 20-31]
Tests are common to life. James having discussed the testings of faith (2-4) and the resources needed to meet them (5-8) now introduces two of the most common examples of testing: the test of poverty (1:9) and the test of prosperity (1:10-11). So He moves from the general discussion of trials (1:2-8) to specific tests that require the use of divine resources to properly understand, evaluate & overcome.
These specific examples point out the truth that trials of faith are of two general types: the painful and the pleasant. The passage teaches that both rich and poor Christians face trials. The poor man is not to be depressed by his poverty but see it as an opportunity to prove God’s faithfulness. The rich man is not to delight in his worldly possessions but to rejoice in the opportunity to prove their inferiority to true riches. But whatever earthy circumstances in which we live, it is temporary. As Christian we need to live for what is eternal (CIM).
I. THE TEST OF POVERTY, 1:9.
II. THE TEST OF PROSPERITY, 1:10-11.
First, James addresses the Christian brother in difficult economic situations in verse 9. But the brother, the poor one, must glory in his high position.
Some Christian brethren find themselves in lowly circumstances. The word lowly ( ) suggest one who is poor, oppressed, humbled and seemingly of unimportant earthly status. Early church records show many of its members were from the lowest economic levels of society. The burial inscriptions in the catacombs at Rome reveal a huge number of slaves who embraced Christianity. Christ became their hope in their dismal situation. The Bible exhorts such persons to glory, to rise above their outward poverty and the depression so often associated with it by rejoicing at God’s spiritual bounty in their lives and in their eternal riches.
When one becomes a Christian they become a heir of God and a joint heir with Christ (Eph. 2:19). They receive not only eternal life but have open for them the way of grace that gives peace, joy, hope, faith, love, contentment, etc.. They must overcome the temptation to resentment, envy, and depression. Since their happiness can come out of their economic situation, they must leave the brooding of their financial oppression and glory in their true riches. They are new creatures in Jesus Christ, bearers of the divine image, partakers of the divine nature with the inexhaustible treasures of God at their call. These provisions are adequate for every possible want and contingency. And though they may possess little or nothing of earth’s honor or treasures, they have a high position and riches that all of earth’s treasures can not compare with in eternity. Well may the poor man rejoice and find glory to rise above what earth’s privations tell him he is worth.
II. THE TEST OF PROSPERITY (10-11).
James now turns his attention to the rich man who faces the temptation of trusting in wealth. "And the rich man in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away."
James presents us with the case of a Christian who possesses earthly wealth. The rich man needs to realize that his condition is one of humiliation ( ) or dishonor instead of exaltation. This is just opposite to what the world thinks. Christianity gives life and life’s attainments an overwhelming alteration in our world view or view of life.
Money and social status can create real problems in attaining true spiritual riches. The rich man has to busy himself with maintaining and looking after the life that his wealth and station require of him. Temporal wealth demands his attention instead of the real eternal riches. This world’s glory is perishable but the rich man must dedicate more of his time to looking after these earthy interests instead of nurturing the spiritual riches which are eternal.
The rich man also does not need to depend upon God for the daily necessities of life. He is not pressed to seek his daily bread from God and constantly reminded to thank Him for it. Physical life can be pleasant and enjoyment can be found in the worldly things his wealth provides instead of in the joy of the Lord. He is tempted to trust in his wealth, instead of learning to trust God day by day in his circumstances. So the test of prosperity is that riches make a person significant and accepted in the world’s eyes. The wealthy person is tempted to be satisfied with this acceptance and not be moved to find acceptance and significance through his relationship with Christ.
The reason given for the wealthy man’s humiliation is because he will pass away like flowering grass. Social prominence passes away and wealth withers away like a wild flower in the sun. As soon as it has displayed its beauty or glory it is gone. Earthy exaltation will fade. James reminds the rich person that life is brief and uncertain and encourages him or her to maintain a humble attitude in spite of plenty.