Summary: EXCERPT: It is not the dollar that gives value to the owner, but the owner who gives value to the dollar by how he uses it.
SERIES TITLE: COUNT IT ALL JOY
SERMON TITLE: YOU’RE MORE THAN YOUR BANK ACCOUNT
SERMON TEXT: James 1:9-11
Author: Louis Bartet
9But let the brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position; 10and let the rich brother glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11For the sun rises with a scorching wind, and withers the grass; and its flower falls off, and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
She was 60 and he was 70 and crotchety. As he lay dying he concluded that she had only married him for his money and he was determined she wouldn’t get it. With his final breaths he insisted she promise to bury him with his money. “You must promise me,” he gasped. Finally, when she could see no other alternative, she granted his wish.
The funeral service ended and she was the last to stand before the casket. Friends watched as she placed an envelope in her deceased husband’s hands, kissed his forehead and tearfully walked away.
Later, when they were alone, her closest friend asked, “I saw you place something in the casket. What was it?”
“Oh,” she replied, “the fulfillment of a promise. My husband made me promise to bury him with his money, so I wrote a check, tucked it in an envelope and placed it in his hands.”
I guess a check is as valuable as gold when placed in a dead man’s hands.
Please notice with me that in verse one of chapter one, James tells us that he is writing to Jewish believers that had been scattered abroad.
Historians tell us that the world into which they were scattered knew little of what we would call the “middle-class.” According to these historians, about 90% of the population of the Roman Empire lived at or below what moderns would consider the poverty level. In addition to this, there was nothing that one could define as the equivalent of the American Dream.
The force behind the scattering was persecution. We have evidence of this in Acts 8.
“Saul was one of the witnesses against Stephen, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. And devout men came and buried Stephen….But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison” (Acts 8:1-3).
In Hebrews, a letter whose intended audience was also Jewish, the writer gives a brief description of the persecution experienced by Jewish believers. He writes:
“Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown in jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever” (Hebrews 10:32-35).
When you add the affects of persecution to the economic conditions of the Roman Empire, it’s easy to see that the larger segment of James’ audience was the group he addressed first, THE POOR.
I. THE POOR - "Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation” (1:9)
The “lowly brother” describes those who are destitute of social status and political clout. It identifies those who are financially challenged.
In a world that measured success and God’s favor in terms of material wealth and social status, people of such low estate were considered to be, by the prosperous, under the judgment of God. The bulk of society looked on them as the scrapings. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians said, “…we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash…” (1Cor. 4:13).
These people had no rights, influential relationships or riches, yet they make up the bulk of Christianity—“…dear brothers and sister, please note that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy or high born when God called you” (1Cor. 1:26).
I find it interesting that James does not give them instructions on how to acquire wealth, but encourages them to rejoice in their high position.
Attempts by branches of the Western Church to justify crass materialism from scripture and pass it off as a sign of great faith and spiritual health would have been unacceptable to people like Paul and James.
Jesus would remind us, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Lu. 12:15). The NLT says, “Life is not measured by how much you own.”