Summary: In James 1:9-12, James helps us understand that in order for us to persevere in our trials with joy, we must adopt God’s eternal perspective on poverty and wealth.
Allow me to start with two stories to get us thinking about perspectives on having too much or too little money.
1. I read about an exclusive school in Hollywood that was attended by children of movie stars, producers, and directors.
a. One day, the children were asked to write a composition on the subject of poverty.
b. One girl started her literary piece with these words: “Once there was a poor little girl. Her father was poor, her mother was poor, her governess was poor, her chauffeur was poor, her butler was poor. In fact, everybody in the house was very, very poor.”
c. Do you think her perspective on poverty and wealth were a little off?
2. The second story is about a young man who went to a fortune teller to learn about his future.
a. The fortune-teller studied the hand of a young man and told him, “You will be poor and very unhappy until you are 37-years old…”
b. The young man asked, “Well after I’m 37, what will happen? Will I be rich and happy?”
c. “No,” said the fortune-teller, “You’ll still be poor, but you’ll be used to it by then.”
B. As we have been discovering in our study of the book of James, the first topic of the first chapter is about facing our trials.
1. So far we have learned that we should welcome our trials with joy because we know that they produce endurance, and endurance produces maturity and completeness.
2. But for any of that to be realized, James suggests that trials require wisdom, wisdom requires prayer, and prayer requires faith.
3. As we come to the verses we want to examine today – James 1:9-12 – we notice that James is still talking about our trials and how to benefit from them.
4. Specifically, James now addresses the trials that come from having too little money or too much money.
5. When you hear me say that, you might be thinking: “I can understand the trial of having too little money (been there, done that), but I can’t imagine how having too much money would be a trial (just give me the chance to go through that trial!).
a. In the musical, “Fiddler on the Roof”. Tevye said, “If riches are a test or trial, smite me with it, Lord!”
6. In our verses for today, James is going to help us understand that in order for us to persevere in our trials with joy, we must adopt God’s eternal perspective on poverty and wealth.
C. I think one of the hardest things that American Christians face is the challenge of adopting God’s eternal perspective on poverty and riches.
1. First of all, let me ask you this question: Which category do you think you are in? Are you rich or are you poor?
a. On the surface it seems like an easy and straight forward question, but it actually isn’t.
b. What does it mean to be rich or poor? In comparison to what or to whom?
2. And let me ask you another question: How materialistic are you?
a. How focused are you on money and things?
b. Again, the answers to those questions aren’t so easy.
c. It’s easy to say, “I don’t care a bit about money or things!”
d. But then often in our hearts or in our thoughts, we find ourselves reacting emotionally and judgmentally about money and things – especially when others have what we don’t.
3. Now, we all need money in order to stay alive.
a. We have food to buy, a mortgage or rent to pay, we need clothes, things for our kids, gas for the car, and a boatload full of other financial obligations.
4. So there never seems to be money enough, and for that reason we are inclined to think of ourselves as poor, but are we really poor?
5. I Googled: “How rich are Americans compared to the rest of the world?” and it is pretty shocking when you compare how much money Americans have to live on compared to the rest of the world, and even the poorest of Americans are wealthy compared to the rest of the world.
a. To many Americans, $10,000 a year isn’t much money to live on, but 84% of the world population makes less than that each year.
b. A Gallup survey of world income reports that 22% of the world lives on $1.25 per day. And 34% of the world lives on $2 per day.
c. I know that $2.00 a day goes further in other places of the world than it does here, but that is still not much to live on anywhere.
6. So, if we really think about it with a global perspective, I’m rich and so are you.