Welcome back to the roller coaster!
James has a bunch of twists and turns making it a roller coaster to read - if you don't keep your head you get confused!
Last week the Book of James hit us hard with having joy in the midst of trials. We discovered that it all comes down to trusting Christ during these trials. Today we are going to deal with three verses (James 1:9-11) that seem to just come out of the blue and deal with another topic – rich people and poor people in the church.
This is the roller coaster – one verse James is dealing with trials and the next he is dealing with your socioeconomic status! We have to be ready for what God wants to reveal to us through the half-brother of Jesus.
It is kind of like Havyn yesterday on a Big Ride at the Grange Fair Carnival…
We need something to come along and help us keep our heads.
We live in hard times, there is no doubt. Government bailouts, unemployment, foreign investors, the housing market… you name it – the world around us screams that we should be worried!
While it is busy screaming at us, we might forget what really matters. You see, your check book, and your portfolio is not what matters. What really matters are two basic principles that James wants to present to you today.
The first life principle that really matters:
1. You are a child of the King in Christ
You see, we might forget this due to our Pride. Pride is something that comes naturally for me. I take satisfaction in my accomplishments, and the great things that are happening in my life. I was thinking back upon my life and times that I felt proud:
• I know that there are times while competing in athletics that I have felt pride – when I blocked was fierce on the soccer field, when I made the football team, or when I hit a home run.
• I felt pride on my graduation days when I graduated with a 4.0 in high school. I was one of the first in my family to graduate with a four-year degree.
• I felt pride on my wedding day. I felt as if my life was meaningful.
• I felt pride when my two children were born.
• I feel pride each and every time I see that my life makes a difference here in this church. I am sure that there are other times when I have felt pride due to some advancement, accomplishment, or positional change.
James has a way, however, to pop my big head! James says “wake up” with his words. READ James 1:9-10a
A. James first deals with the poor people in the Church – vs. 9
He says that those who think that they have trivial power or significance, you’d better wake up! You are to glory in your position. You are to have an attitude of confidence that you have been exalted.
You might have been struggling all your life and in a lowly position, but you are of high importance to God!
You are like an old car sitting in a garage. To the wife it might be a heap of trash! But that 1957 Chevy with no windows nor tires and some rust holes is a potential gold mine to the husband.
James is saying “Don't listen to the World telling you that you are nothing!” Haven’t you discovered how precious you are to Jesus?
But that is the rub, isn’t it? Too many people in the Church who struggle financially listen intently to what the world says about them.
1 Corinthians 4:13 (NCV) - ...Even today, we are treated as though we were the garbage of the world—the filth of the earth.
But if you are in Jesus, you have to get out of your poor self-image! You have new value that you can boast about!
1. You matter to the Church! In the early church there were no class distinctions. There was no middle class, high class, or no class. It could happen that the slave was the minister of the congregation, preaching; while the master was no more than a humble member. In the Church, the social distinctions of the world are obliterated and no one is more important than someone else.
2. You also matter to the world! When you are a Christian, you know that every person in this world has a mission. It doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor, they have a task to do. Everybody is of use to God! Even if you are confined to a hospital bed, the power of your prayers can still act on the world of men. You matter.
3. You are also matter to God. Over and over, it has been proven. Just think about what Christ has done for you and has taught you.
You are extremely rich, even if your back account is negative! When we find Jesus Christ, it is like that poor rancher (Neal Wanless) this week who won the Power-Ball and walked away with $88.5 million! The instant we turn our lives over to Christ and place our faith into Him, we are rich beyond what we can imagine.
It is all a matter of perspective. An old man and a young man work together in an office. The old man always has a jar of peanuts on his desk, and the young man really loves peanuts.
One day, while the old man is away from his desk, the young man yields to temptation and scarfs down over half of the contents of the jar. When the old man returns, the young man feels guilty and confesses to his crime.
"Don't worry, son. I never eat the peanuts anyway," the old man replies. "Since I lost my teeth, all I can do is gum chocolate off the M&M's."
The young man learned a new perspective on those peanuts that day. We too need to learn a new perspective about what we have in Jesus.
If we are poor, we are to glory in our exaltation! Christ has lifted us up and we are blessed. In fact, being poor does not mean that you are less blessed than the rich. It quite possibly could mean that you are even more blessed!
That might sound opposite of logic, but it’s the truth. When you are poor, you have to trust God every day. The rich, not so much, and they may miss out on a blessing that you have received just because your dependence on God is so strong.
B. To the rich. - vs. 10a
James also has a word for the rich – “the rich should glory in his humiliation!”
This seems like a weird statement. A rich person is generally in a high position and not a low position and yet James tells rich people to take pride in their humiliating position. How can a rich person’s position be low and why should they take pride in it?
Some scholars suggest that the rich are in such a low position, because they hav few opportunities to trust God. The poor are in a high position because of their lack of wealth giving God an opportunity to do a work in his life. The rich person it is vice versa. The rich person is in a low position because of he has his wealth and self-reliance that he can trust. Rather than having to trust God, they have their stability. So the thinking goes, the rich person does not have the opportunity to see God working in their life like the poor person does, thus making their position low.
But I am not sure about this – I should glory in the fact that I see God work less in my life? That doesn’t make sense.
I believe that once again, the rich should glory in their humiliation, because of their new found position in Christ. A rich person has to come to Christ and say, “I need Jesus! I am not sufficient because of my own sins, and I need Jesus to be my Lord and Savior!”
The world is whispering to them the whole time – “you don’t need this, you are a better than them!”
They have to humble themselves, or come to a humiliating position – I am not good enough without Jesus.
This is why Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 19:23 (NKJV) - “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
In fact, James even paints an ugly picture of the Rich. James says that the rich are prone to violence (2:6-7), fraud (5:4), and fattened living (5:5). Their gold and silver, which rust, will witness against them at the judgment (5:3).
The rich must admit their essential human helplessness and humbly put their trust in Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 6:17 (HCSB) - Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy.
This is why James says to us that the rich should TAKE PRIDE in their humiliation. This word humiliation has an appropriate word picture here – it means there is something swollen and it needs to be reduced. You got a big head and it needs to be popped! Take pride when your head can fit through the door!
A group of natives in Africa found a very clever way to catch monkeys alive. They made a hole in a hollow log just big enough for the monkey to squeeze his hand inside. With very desirable bait inside any passing monkey could reach in and grab the bait. The problem (for the monkey) is that when his hand closed on the bait, it became bigger than the hole. If he refused to let go – which is what stupid monkeys do – he would be trapped by his own greed.
A question we must ask is, Am I any more mature than a stupid monkey?
You see, James ends this little turn of the roller coaster ride with a parable about life – READ vs. 10b-11.
He not only tells you that You are a child of the King, but that Your life’s journey is short!
The Parable - flowers in the field (before the sermon a flower is buried in the field where people are sitting – point it out.)
Some Lessons from the Parable:
• The Sun is in inevitable
• Being rich is attractive - called "beautiful"
• Life is too short to be pursuing wealth, because in the midst of your pursuits, death and loss of all your wealth can happen any time.
So what should you pursue?
To the worldly minded, you are going to pursue a big bank account and position. These are the most prized possessions in the world.
• You may step on other people to get mo’ money!
• You may neglect your family
• You might even neglect your own physical health
• But if you amass a great fortune, you might think it is all worth it.
But for what? James tells us that just like that flower, it will all pass away. It might be BEAUTIFUL for a moment, but in the end – it crumbles in a dry heap of ash.
James is calling for contentment, because life is short! Can you say like the Bible does in Philippians 4:11? NLT: …for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.
These few short verses challenge us in our American society. Wealth is glamorized, and the poor have cause to worry even more! But it is because of Christ that we can glory in our position.
You see, in a moment we are going to take COMMUNION.
When Jesus passes a piece of bread to you, it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. When the cup is passed to you, it doesn’t matter if you have your finances in order or not. At the table of Jesus, we are all welcomed.
The poor can rejoice that they are a child of the King!
The rich should not take pride in his wealth, but rejoice that they have learned to humbleness themselves. They are also a child of the King!
Life is too short to be worrying about anything else.
We have great spiritual wealth because of Jesus and this is what the bread and cup represent. What makes us wealthy in Jesus?
Well, in the book of Jesus, Jesus said seven times, “I am!” Jesus said, “I am…
• …the Bread of Life.” (John 6:51) – for those who hunger and thirst
• …the Light of the World.” (8:12) – for those in the dark about life
• …the Door.” (10:9) – for those who feel shut out
• …the Good Shepherd.” (10:11) – for those who need protection and guidance
• …the Resurrection and the Life.” (11:25) – for those thinking their life is worthless and are facing death, wasting away
• …the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (14:6) – for those who gotten caught up in the world’s way of thinking
• …the True Vine.” (15:1) – for those who want a fruitful and meaningful life