Short Term Pain, Long Term Gain-James 1_9-12
Short Term Pain, Long Term Gain
I have a friend whose daughter is into the whole ecological scene. Thankfully, she married a man of like passion, so it’s a good match.
Not long ago the two of them, along with their preschool son were driving, up the East Coast, not far from the Atlantic. They came upon a sign that intrigued them: “Naturist Camp: 3 Miles,” with an arrow pointing toward the ocean. Thinking they might meet up with some new friends who love the natural world, they turned. A couple of miles along the two-lane road, they looked into the distance and were shocked to see three people on bicycles, riding toward them…totally nude.
Realizing their mistake, they were suddenly embarrassed that their son would see the oncoming bikers before they could get turned around. The dad slammed on the brakes, tried his best to do a quick U-turn as he and his wife worked hard to divert their son’s attention. Neither worked. The boy was staring intently while his dad was steering intensely.
Both parents were amazed when they heard their boy burst forth, “Look, Mom and Dad—none of them are wearing safety helmets!”
Now, that’s what I call staying focused.
· Many parts of life and how we handle them is a matter of perspective.
· Just like the old saying you can look at the glass as half empty or half full.
· Some aspects of our spiritual lives are no different.
· If we choose to place our spiritual lives in the perspective of the values of this world we will add trouble to our faith.
· But if we have a proper understanding of God’s values it makes our lives simpler and filled with more joy.
· James describes just such a situation of perspective.
· He shows his readers that the lowly or humbled may face trouble but how should they view that trouble?
· He shows his readers the rich and challenges their view of the prosperous.
· What James has to teach us is that at the end of the game when all is said in done who are the real winners and who are the real losers.
· In this passage he answers a very important question: Why should I avoid keeping up with the world?
Position of the Lowly (1:9)
1:9 Now the believer of humble means should take pride in his high position.
· In this passage James begins his first discussion of the rich and poor
· This passage is a specific test of verse 2-8.
· Verse 9 describes briefly that the person who is a believer should boast in his high position.
· He describes the person as one of ‘humble means’
v Literally: lowly, low social status, unable to cope, humiliated.
v Low economic status as well.
v The description of poor is in the context of what the world expects should be important
· James is trying to emphasize that his humble, lowly or poor position causes the believer to turn to God.
· Normally pride is thought of negatively.
· Later in James 4:16 he says that boasting is wrong.
· But Paul in 1 Cor. 1:31 says that if we are too boast in should be in the Lord
· The word used for boasting or being proud is the same regardless of whether it is legitimate or not.
· So it is the context that tells us whether the boasting is good or bad.
· In this case James is commending his audience of lowly Christians to take pride in their close relationship with God due to the endurance of their faith and the consequential spiritual maturity.
· They may have been humiliated in this life but there will come a time when they will be given a glorious inheritance.
· So they may have suffered but they are in a good relationship with God.
According to a story in the Grand Rapids Press, the owner of a small foreign car had begun to irritate his friends by bragging incessantly about his gas mileage. So they decided on a way to get some humor out of his tireless boasting, as well as bring it to an end. Every day one of them would sneak into the parking lot where the man kept his car and pour a few gallons of gas into the tank. Soon the braggart was recording absolutely phenomenal mileage. He was boasting of getting as much as 90 miles per gallon, and the pranksters took secret delight in his exasperation as he tried to convince people of the truthfulness of his claims. It was even more fun to watch his reaction when they stopped refilling the tank. The poor fellow couldn’t figure out what had happened to his car.
· Boasting is often misplaced because we believe that we have something to be proud about in our own strength.
· Taking pride or boasting for the lowly or the poor is not done because they have been given anything by this world
· The boasting of the Christian is to come because of the relationship provided by God for their enduring faith.
· As believers living in this world we have it pretty good and there is plenty to boast about but we are to focus on bragging, being proud and boasting to others about our relationship with Christ.
Position of the Rich (1:10a)
1:10 But the rich person’s pride should be in his humiliation,
· Depending upon which commentary you read there is debate over whether the rich person described is a believer or not.
· Just like the poor the wealth a of the rich is in more than one way: socially, financially and without troubles.
· If you look at the reference James makes in 2:7 and that the rich seem to ‘blaspheme’ God it would seem that James is referring to an unbeliever.
· What James is really doing is making an ironic or sarcastic statement.
· Jer. 9:23 states in a different way what James is saying:
9:23 The Lord says, “Wise people should not boast that they are wise. Powerful people should not boast that they are powerful. Rich people should not boast that they are rich.
· One day the all that a person tries to accumulate will be gone.
· We can spend our entire lives trying to accumulate wealth, finding security in finances, building portfolio’s and investing for our retirement.
· James says in the end that which may be boasted about in a worldly sense is really our humiliation.
· While the rich person is consumed with building their life here they have forgotten about God.
· They may be rich and proud of it but when Christ calls them to account for their lives the wealth will not have helped
· So the rich person that truly understands their situation would have to find his pride not in his good standing but in his greater wealth.
· His greater wealth is his lack of relationship with God.
· His humiliation is that on the day of judgment he will find himself in the same position that the poor person finds himself now on earth.
Phillip Brooks made an apt comment when he said, “The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is.”
Fate of the Rich (1:10b-11)
because he will pass away like a wildflower in the meadow. 1:11 For the sun rises with its heat and dries up the meadow; the petal of the flower falls off and its beauty is lost forever. So also the rich person in the midst of his pursuits will wither away.
· James has provided us an analogy already of the sea and the waves.
· Now he describes the rich person in terms of the flowers in the meadows.
· The rich person should not be proud of his life because one day it will all be gone.
· In v. 11 he describes what will happen and the emphasis that he is making is on its sudden and permanent destruction.
· It is not something that he can prevent, plan for or recover from.
· Hosea 13:15 describes this same thing:
13:15 Even though he flourishes like a reed plant, a scorching east wind will come, a wind from the Lord rising up from the desert. As a result, his spring will dry up; his well will become dry. That wind will spoil all his delightful foods in the containers in his storehouse.
· Isaiah 40:6-8 describes it this way:
40:6 A voice says, “Cry out!” Another asks, “What should I cry out?” The first voice responds: “All people are like grass, and all their promises are like the flowers in the field. 40:7 The grass dries up, the flowers wither, when the wind sent by the Lord blows on them. Surely humanity is like grass. 40:8 The grass dries up, the flowers wither, but the decree of our God is forever reliable.”
· While my version only mentions the heat of the Sun a better way of translating the verse mentions that the scorching heat of the sun brings a damaging wind.
· E. Bishop says this about a wind called the sirocco of which James is refering:
… no one who has lived in Palestine ever forgets as it [i.e., the sirocco] blows continuously night and day once it has started. The temperature hardly seems to vary. Flowers and herbage wilt and fade, lasting as long as “morning glory.” Anemones and cyclamen, carpeting the hillsides of Galilee in spring, have a loveliness that belongs only to the past when the hot wind comes. Drooping flowers make fuel. The field of lupins are here today and gone tomorrow.
· The rich person can spend an entire life pursuing what this world has to offer but in the end it cannot last.
· Knowing this truth the rich person (i.e. monetarily, status or lack of troubles) who has not had cause to rely on God and grown through adversity and does not believe in Christ is really the destitute.
· They are the ones who are truly lowly in the grand scheme of the universe.
The story is told of Rose Greenhow, a Confederate spy during the Civil War, who tried to evade capture and the loss of her fortune by sewing the gold she had gained into the seams of her dress. But the ship she boarded sank, and the weight of the gold made it impossible for the life preserver to support her. She sank to the bottom with all her wealth. Dr. Pierce Harris, who told the story, pointed out that death did to her what it does to all of us, because we “cannot take it with us” when we die. But sometimes, we might add, it takes us with it!
Fate of the Lowly (1:12)
1:12 Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him.
· James once again comes back to discuss the poor or lowly person.
· He has taken time to tell his readers that the poor or humble person should boast about his situation because they will one day have their riches in Heaven.
· Verse 12 is in direct reference to verses 2-8.
v He states that the person should be happy or have joy when going through testing.
v He maintains the same thinking as the previous passage emphasizing that troubles are reason for rejoicing.
· He states that the condition for this happiness is found in the endurance of Faith or as he states it “in being proven genuine.”
v Remember that being genuine has several perspectives.
v It has the idea of being faithful to God in the middle of trouble.
v It means that we are maintaining trust regardless of the circumstances.
v We can say that we love God
v We can maintain that we trust in Him
v The true test of faith is how it responds under adversity
v Will we keep true to what we say and believe when we can’t understand the situation?
v Genuine faith in James’ mind is that it must take action.
· What James is saying is quite similar to the very first Psalm (1:1):
How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway with sinners, or sit in the assembly of scoffers!
· Those who take action to live according to God’s plan do not find that it is easy
· It is not easy avoid those things that displease, it is not easy to live a life without trouble
· The reward for maintaining a genuine faith is the crown of life
· The reference to the crown of life is one of salvation; the salvation that comes from the grips of Hell.
· So the rich person may have his reward today filled with pleasure and pursuits that seem to bring happiness but in the end they perish
· The vigilant believer may have poverty and trouble but in maintaining genuine faith ( a faith that takes action) they store up for themselves the greatest riches: eternal life.
· In Rev. 2:10 we see the reality of this truth:
2:10 Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. The devil is about to have some of you thrown into prison so you may be tested, and you will experience suffering for ten days. Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown that is life itself.
· James makes it clear that the riches of salvation are found by demonstrating love for God.
· It is displayed by enduring suffering and staying faithful
· It is shown in our actions.
· A book called the Wisdom of Solomon shares James view and may have been used by him:
But the righteous live for ever, and their reward is with the Lord; the Most High takes care of them. Therefore they will receive a glorious crown, and a beautiful diadem from the hand of the Lord. (Wisd Sol 5:15–16a)
It is said that Thomas Edison performed 50,000 experiments before he succeeded in producing a storage battery. We might assume the famous inventor would have had some serious doubts along the way. But when asked if he ever became discouraged working so long without results, Edison replied, “Results? Why, I know 50,000 things that won’t work.”
· The Christian life is a journey not a single event. It is those who are in it for the long haul who receive that crown.
· We began our lesson today by asking a simple question:
Why should I avoid keeping up with the world?
· James makes it very clear that the rich with their values, so called easy life and freedom from troubles may look tempting.
· What James is describing is some respects is an entire philosophy of life; a worldly philosophy.
· He makes it clear that in the end the fate of those who follow the world does not seem a wise choice.
· The lowly may suffer but they need to stay faithful, guarding against falling into the trap of reaching for immediate pleasure.
· It is like the saying “short term pain for long term gain.”
· Christianity is about perspective according to James in this passage.
· We may have to put up with adversity now but those who understand this as trust in God will see the long term gain; eternity in the glory of God.