“9Christians who are poor should be glad, for God has honored them. 10And those who are rich should be glad, for God has humbled them. They will fade away like a flower in the field. 11The hot sun rises and dries up the grass; the flower withers, and its beauty fades away. So also, wealthy people will fade away with all of their achievements.”
How does God honor Christians who “are poor”? Well, first we must realize that typically we associate poor with socioeconomic status and our ability to buy luxury items. However, James is associating the word “poor” above with those of us who face many tests of our faith.
We live in such a materialistic world, do we not? Especially during my infertility journey, I was guilty of looking at people and thinking, “You don’t have a clue as to what this feels like. Oh, boo hoo. You broke a nail!” I would look around at others and think that their lives were perfect…perfect job…perfect kids…house with the picket fence. I looked upon others as “rich” and designated myself as “poor Elaine.” Haven’t we all been there? Then, I’ve also been where I look at others with that attitude and I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth. Here’s an idea of what I’m talking about:
Me: “Gosh, how do you keep it all together?”
Them: “Well, I just take it one day at a time. You know, my husband and I aren’t getting along…” (or whatever)
Me: [Open mouth, insert foot]. “I had no idea. You seem so….together.”
I guess it goes back to the old cliché of “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
We’ve been talking about how James encourages us to count our troubles as joy, but I don’t feel as if God expects us to ignore the hurt, sadness, or anger that our troubles bring us. He was once human, and I choose to believe that God understands those emotions (or else why did He give them to us?). However, I think those of us who are tied down by trouble after trouble fail to recognize that what we lack physically, romantically, socially, or financially God is trying to give us spiritually. He is trying to make us spiritually rich by testing our faith.
James understood this concept, and he was trying to tell his audience to turn to God and trust Him no matter what troubles we face. I believe he specifically chooses to speak of rich and poor because of the idealisms we associate with those who have more than us (whether it be money, education, children, etc). But, what I love about James’ frankness is that he calls out the Christians who believe that riches are means of “an easy out.” Even though God has humbled them (physically, financially, etc), He still desires that they become rich spiritually. These other types of riches do not help the “rich” to see what God has to offer. This person suffers spiritual poverty, which is far worse (in my opinion) than the man who is “poor” because of tests of faith.
I struggle with comparisons and often think that others do not suffer as I do. I’m guilty of saying, “I’m glad that’s not me…” which would be the equivalent of being “rich.” And, it’s inevitable that we will find ourselves between these two categories throughout our lives. The good news is that James is trying to tell us that the same God covers both groups. There is no valley lower than God’s ability to reach! I recently told someone that when you are deepest in your valley (poor) that it’s the hardest to see God, but it is also when He is the closest to us (hoping to evolve our spiritual richness).
Basically, James says this: In any trial, big or small, life changing or not, I don’t need to make comparisons because I never know what the other person has faced or will face in the future. I don’t know how the prior circumstances have been used to grow his/her faith in God, just as this person doesn’t know my trials. I believe God hand picks our “tests” specifically to foster trust in Him. It’s a specialized plan just for me…and no matter how dire those circumstances may be, He chose me. If He has that much faith in me, can’t I put 100% of my faith in Him????