The General Epistle of James (Part 5)

vs. 9-11. A. These verses set forth the practical outworking of LUK 1:52, the denial of class superiority or privilege among the true servants of God. Set forth here are the rich poor and the poor rich. 1. The “brother of low degree” is a poor man by virtue of his contrast with “the rich.” (c/w 1CH 17:17). Mind, though, that he is “a BROTHER.” 2. Rich and poor are “...altogether lighter than vanity...” (PSA 62:9-10). 3. One has not more holiness or claim on God because of riches or poverty. a. There is no respect of persons with God. ROM 2:11. b. Partiality in judgment must not be shown to rich or poor. LEV 19:15. c. God is no more partial to rich or poor than is the grave. (1) “Pale death, with impartial step, knocks at the poor man's cottage and the palaces of kings.” (Horace, Odes, 1, 4) (2) Mors sceptra ligonibus aequat / Death blends the sceptre with the spade. (3) (LUK 16:22) And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 4. The obverse is also true: in Christ, one has no less holiness or claim on God because of poverty or riches. B. These verses counter the “gain is godliness” error which is the perverse disputing of corrupt, truth-less men. 1TI 6:5-6. C. The Jewish Christians were decidedly astray in this area, showing partiality to the rich. JAM 2:1-5. 1. One reason men do this is because of hopes of personal advantage. JUDE 1:16. 2. Another reason for this is that “gain is godliness” error: the assumption that material prosperity implies one's superior spirituality and therefore preeminence among the saints. a. Were not Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David and Solomon all men of high degree? Yes, but what about those others that are noted in HEB 11:37-38? b. This equating of riches with godliness was so pervasive in the Jewish culture that Christ's disciples were once amazed that it was not truly so. MAR 10:23-26. c. The “righteous” Pharisees deemed gold greater than God's temple. MAT 23:16. 3. The irony is that they were despising the poor among themselves in deference to the very people who were their own chief oppressors. JAM 2:6, 14-16. a. The Corinthians were by their profligacy shaming the “have nots.” 1CO 11:22. b. (PRO 17:5) Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished. 4. Contrary to the assumption that the men of high degree have some kind of inherent superiority in all things, Paul wrote, “...set them to judge who are LEAST ESTEEMED in the church” (1CO 6:4). The believer of low degree has as much right to vote in church matters as does the believer of high degree. 5. In Christ, all false distinctions are forbidden. Partaking of Him knows nothing of national, racial, genealogical, social, financial, external or sexual barriers or classes. GAL 3:28; 5:6; COL 3:11; 1TI 1:4; 6:2. a. One may not have had the spiritual gift of tongues that another had and so was unlearned in that sense (1CO 14:16) but every bit as much a partaker of Christ. b. The more feeble and uncomely parts of the church body ALL drink of the Spirit, God tempering them together. 1CO 12:13, 21-25. D. These Christians were also at strife among themselves through lust and envy. JAM 4:1-5. 1. envy: The feeling of displeasure and ill-will at the superiority of (another person) in happiness, success, reputation, or the possession of anything desirable. 2. Envy and strife walk with confusion and evil works. JAM 3:16. James 8-24-14 Page 10  3. (PRO 27:4) Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy? 4. Few things destroy spiritual harmony and peace in a church as easily as envy. E. The wicked rich were financially exploiting their poor brethren, finding the Christian cause to be a fertile ground for covetous gain. JAM 5:4 c/w 2PE 2:3. F. Some were boasting about their commercial schemes. JAM 4:13-16. 1. Mind the peripatetic mentality of the commerce-oriented crowd (JAM 4:13). Where was their allegiance to the assembly to which they were joined? 2. The multiplying of Jewish churches “...throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria...” (ACT 9:31) conveniently accommodated those who wanted the best of both worlds: they could transfer from church to church for commercial advantage while maintaining an outward propriety. G. Against the errors of class struggle, class preference, covetousness and envy, etc., James sets forth a better way in JAM 1:9-11. 1. Remembering that James is dealing with the trials of faith / temptations that are to be counted as joy and endured. vs. 1, 12. 2. Material wealth may be a trial of faith. a. The trial may be a matter of one's attitude: will his wealth puff him up with pride and assumed power (PRO 18:23) or can he condescend (to come or bend down, so far as a particular action is concerned, from one's position of dignity or pride; to stoop voluntarily and graciously; to deign) to men of low estate? ROM 12:16. b. The trial may be a matter of how he handles his wealth: will he hoard it or be willing to share it in an act of mercy to a genuinely poor brother? JAM 2:13-17. c. The trial may be a matter of loss: has he really counted all things loss for Christ or will he cast off faith when hard times come? PHIL 3:7 c/w HEB 10:34-35. d. It takes a good, honest heart to not be thwarted in faith by riches. LUK 8:14-15. 3. Poverty may be a trial of faith. a. The trial may be a matter of whether one will steal. PRO 30:8-9. b. The trial may be a matter of envy or covetousness. ROM 13:9. c. The trial may be a matter of faulty cost analysis: will one return to former folly because it seemed to pay better? JER 44:18 c/w HEB 10:38-39. d. The trial may be a matter of faith and patience: will one labor patiently, honestly and diligently to build wealth (MAT 25:19-20), trusting God to honor his putting God's kingdom and righteousness first (MAT 6:33), or perhaps even waiting unto the coming of the Lord Jesus? JAM 5:7. 4. Whether rich or poor, if one's love is money, evil follows. 1TI 6:9-10. 5. James is giving a lesson in learning contentment in abundance or abasement. c/w PHIL 4:11-13. a. One may be poor in stuff yet rich spiritually. REV 2:9. b. One may rich in stuff yet poor spiritually. REV 3:17. c. If you could only pick “a” or “b” above, pick “a.” d. But James is setting forth a means whereby a believer may be rich spiritually and genuinely rejoicing whether he is materially rich or poor. 6. The poor should rejoice in that he is exalted. v. 9. a. exalted: Raised up or set up on high; elevated. b. He is raised up to heaven in Christ. EPH 2:6-7. c. He is made to sit among princes. PSA 113:7-8. d. He is a king and priest to God. REV 1:6. e. He is rich in faith and an heir of the kingdom. JAM 2:5 c/w 1CO 1:26-29. James 8-24-14 Page 11 f. The true riches are not of this world. LUK 16:11. 7. The rich should rejoice in that he is made low. v. 10. a. His riches might well have been a bar to his entering the kingdom. MAR 10:23-25. b. His riches can do nothing for him in eternity (PSA 49:17). He has no advantage over the poor believer in that regard. c. He and his riches are as ephemeral as grass. vs. 10-11. d. He should rejoice to be humbled by these realities. (1) He is made low if he becomes little in his own sight. c/w 1SAM 15:17. (2) God looks to the poor and contrite spirit. ISA 66:2. (3) The poor in spirit possess the kingdom. MAT 5:3. e. The rich who are not thus made low in this life have received all the consolation they shall ever receive. LUK 6:24. H. God's word is to be treasured more than the riches of this world since it endures. 1PE 1:24-25. I. Unlike the grass and worldly riches, our heavenly inheritance does not fade away. 1PE 1:4. J. Rather than strive for perishable riches, all should strive to be rich in faith and good works. 1TI 6:9, 17-19. K. Only in such a spiritually-minded church may PRO 22:2 be realized in peace.
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