These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
God wants you to think deeper than you normally do. God uses all kinds of techniques to get us to pause and to pull back the layers of the obvious for us to experience greater depths of His truths. One of those techniques is called a paradox. A paradox is “a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is true.” For example…
- Paul said, “When I am weak, than I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10, NLT). That’s a paradox.
- Jesus said, “Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it” (Matt. 10:39, ESV).
- Paul said, “We own nothing, and yet we have everything” (2 Cor. 6:10, NLT).
- Jesus said, “The last will be first, and the first last” (Matt. 20:16, NLT).
In this series we are looking at two paradoxes. One dealing with the poor being rich and the other with the rich being poor. They are both meant to be encouraging and comforting. We see these Biblical paradoxes in James 1:9-11, “Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. 10 And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. 11 The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements” (NLT). Today we are going to focus our attention on verses 10-11 and deal with the paradox of the rich being poor, those who are usually honored by the world need to remember their poverty before God – without Christ they have nothing.
Before we go any further with this I need to make a disclaimer. I’m not trying to offend anyone today, but I feel like I might. We are going to take a look at some sensitive issues for some people. I want you to know up front that my intent is to address what God’s Word says and to help us have a Biblical perspective on the issue. I want us to think deeper into this paradox about the rich being poor.
James says to the financially comfortable believers who are facing trials and temptations the following in verse 10, “And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. 11 The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements” (NLT). What James is doing here is encouraging humility in the wealthy believer. Let’s say you are wealthy and you have more money and more things than most people around you and when someone says something about your big and nice house, your car, your travels, your boat and all the things money can buy as a rich believer you would think or say, “God has blessed me with material things, but I actually don’t rejoice in that. I actually rejoice in the fact that I have a home in heaven. Someday I will die and fade away like a flower in the field. All the beauty you see in my property is just temporary. I might die tomorrow in the middle of going about my business, but I’m ready for that day because of Jesus Christ. I have learned to boast in that.”
So, let’s break verses 10 & 11 into bite size pieces.
Wealthy believers are everywhere.
Number one, wealthy believers are everywhere. James begins verse 10 by saying, “And those who are rich….” Being wealthy is not a sin. Being rich is not immoral. Having the biggest and nicest house in town does not mean the wealthy person is stingy, greedy, or selfish. Having nice things is no indication of where someone is spiritually.
- Deuteronomy 8:18, “But remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth” (CSB). I know you worked and work hard for what you have, but you must remember it was God who gave you the ability, the brains, the connections, the energy, and the desire to do what you do. He also gave you the health that you needed to do what you do. You may have the Midas touch when it comes to making money, but it was God who gave you that ability. It was “the Lord your God” who gave “you the power to gain wealth.”
For whatever reason, God gives some people the ability to gain wealth. The wealthy are everywhere.
Wealthy believers should boast about their position in Christ.
Number two, wealthy believers should boast about their position in Christ. James 1:10 says, “And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them” (NLT). The position of the wealthy are usually exalted by the world. The world often sees the wealthy as wise and successful because they have money. God’s Word is reminding the wealthy by saying, “You may have everything the world offers materially, but spiritually you have nothing without Christ.” The rich should rejoice in the fact that they, like the poor, belong to Christ and depend on him alone. Listen carefully to Jeremiah 9:23, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches.24 But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!’” (vs. 23-24, NLT). Your boasting should be that you know God, that you realized that you were a sinner, that you couldn’t save yourself, and you ask God to forgive you and He gave you eternal life. That’s a point of humility and a point of joy at the same time.
Wealthy believers should see their earthly riches as temporary
Number three, wealthy believers should see their earthly riches as temporary. James 1:10 says, “They will fade away like a little flower in the field. 11 The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements” (NLT). Flowers are meant to be beautiful. They are pleasant to look at. Especially a field of them or a flower bed that is well kept. But after awhile the flower begins to fade.
I want you to notice a few things here.
- The “flower” represents the wealthy believer. Just like a flower, their house is beautiful, their yard is beautiful, they drive new cars, fish out of new boats, travel to exciting places, where nice clothes, and eat at nice restraunts. For some their wealth is joined with health, good looking family, and influence in the community. Like a “flower” their life can look so beautiful. This is why people like watching shows about the rich and famous.
- But just like “flowers” they don’t last forever. We are told that four things will happen to the “flower” and the wealthy. They will “wither” … they will “droop” … they will “fall” … and they will “fade away.” That is a sobering illustration of what happens to the wealthy. The point God’s Word is making is to remind the wealthy believer that his possessions, his health, his family, his influence, his life, and all other forms of wealth are temporary. Every flower eventually fades away.
It’s a sobering thought, but a needed thought. Earthly riches are temporary.
Wealthy believers face the temptation of pride
Number four, wealthy believers face the temptation of pride. Remember James is addressing the issues of trials and temptation that believers will face. Those trials and temptations will appear different to different individuals. The poor have their own unique temptations and trials (which we looked at last week), while the rich have their unique temptations and trials. He is reminding the wealthy believers about the mindset they need to have about themselves and their possessions when facing these trials and temptations in life.
Listen to this wise prayer in Proverbs 30:8-9, “Give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” And if I am too poor I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name” (NLT). Last week we looked at this more closely regarding the poor. Today, let’s examine this in regards to the rich. This is saying that the temptation or test for the rich is to rely on their money to meet their needs and fix their problems and eventually drift away from God to where they forget Him and ask, “Who is the Lord?” which is another way to say, “God, who needs Him?”
The wealthy believer may not say the following out loud but subconsciously make thoughts like…
- Don’t need to pray about the car breaking down because I have money to fix it.
- Don’t need God to help me pay my utility bill because I have money to pay for it.
- Don’t need to worry about the medical bill, because I can afford great insurance.
- Don’t need to be concerned about my kids college, because I’ve been able to set aside plenty of money to pay for college.
- Don’t need to worry about retirement because I been able to put away a lot money toward it.
- An emergency comes up, that’s okay, we’ve got the money to pay for it.
When you have money, who needs God? Where is God? When the flower of life is blooming, you can deceive yourself into the thinking you are self-sufficient within your own resources. God’s Word, here in James, is trying to get the wealthy believer to not forget God in the midst of their wealth. To remember where their wealth came from.
Wealthy believers are to be cautious within their wealth
Number five, wealthy believers are to be cautious within their wealth. Before we close this down I want to highlight a couple of statements from God’s Word when it comes to wealth.
- 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (NLT). Just because you have wealth, does not mean you crave it. But for those who are wealthy or poor we need to be cautious that we are not a “lover of money” because it can lead to “all kinds of evil” (stealing, lying, deception, etc.). And if we crave money enough we may wander away from trusting God in our life and cause a lot of heartache to ourselves and to others.
- 1 Timothy 6:17-18, “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others” (NLT). A couple of thoughts from this.
- Enjoy what God has blessed you with. If God has blessed you with wealth, don’t feel guilty that you have it and others don’t. Enjoy it.
- One way to enjoy it is to use your “money for doing good.” That widow who doesn’t have much and is on a low fixed income… pay to have someone to mow her yard. That single mom who was abandoned bless her this summer and pay for a few months electric bill. That missionary who needs funds to help, support them, and give to them generously.
The perspective of the wealth can be expressed like this, “Lord, you have blessed me with the ability to earn money and to gain wealth. I have more than most. I don’t worry about paying my bills, I have money to give away, and to bless others with. But without you, I have nothing. Without you I’m lost. Without you where would I be. Help me to boast about knowing I was a sinner, I rebelled against you… but you saved me. My intelligence, my hard work, nor my money saved me… only You. The world may see me as successful, but you saw me as a sinner needing to be saved. Thank you for loving me and rescuing me. Help me to be bless others, to be generous with the wealth that you have entrusted me with.”