James 1:1–11 (NKJV)
The apostle James, leader of the Jerusalem Christian church, writes a letter to all the Jewish Christians everywhere. One of his primary points was the concept of faith and works being equally important to one’s relationship with the Lord.
1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad:
James’ greeting was offered as from a bondservant of the Lord, a common moniker for those who were called and sold out to God for the service of the ministry. He addresses the letter to the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.” While this seems slightly unusual for a Christian leader, writing to a primarily Jewish audience, James was a Jew and perhaps had a spot in his heart for other Jews who needed Jesus Christ.
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.James 1:2-8
James opens the body of his letter with a counterintuitive command: “count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” How can one be happy about facing trials? James goes on to explain that the testing of one’s faith produces patience. The believer should let patience have time to produce its complete work so that the reader will be complete and mature, lacking no tool needed for living the life of Christ. He then offers a tremendous offer: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” This promise is offered to any and all who desire wisdom, and is guaranteed to be given liberally and with no argument or scolding. The only condition to this powerful gift of wisdom is that the reader ask in faith and not doubt. A doubter is characterized as being like a wave of the sea, tossed back and forth, driven by the wind. This wavering attitude will prevent anyone from receiving from the Lord. James then calls out the doubter, calling him “a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” This passage identifies a problem (various trials), a solution (faith), a practice (patience), a tool (wisdom), a source (God), and a fatal flaw (doubt). With this treatise, James provides the believer a plan to follow in order to succeed as a Christian in a tough world.
9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, 10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. 11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.James 1:9-11
James continues in these final three verses by again speaking in a way that defies logic. The lowly brother should glory in his exaltation. What? How is the poor man exalted? Because God blesses Him and fights on his behalf. How is a rich man humiliated? Because he may trust in his riches, which will one day fade away like flowers in a field and be forgotten. This does not fit with the success model the world supports, but God knows that only true riches, heavenly riches, will last forever. The riches of this world will fade away and the glory of the rich will turn to humiliation as their bodies decay and fade into the earth. The lowly man here is truly the humble man, not just the poor man. The humble depend upon God, regardless of their financial status. The poor are at times oppressed by the rich, but the humble will be exalted by God. This follows right after the admonition to be strong during trials, to have faith in God, and to walk in wisdom. This is how to overcome poverty and oppression and live in a way that glorifies God through faith. This is the way of the lowly man who will be exalted: Trust God, be wise, and–in faith–be patient and true to the Lord. This will bring exaltation, while pride and oppressive actions will bring one low. It is always better to start humble and allow God to exalt you than to exalt yourself and be brought low. Whatever you face, count it all joy, and let God lift you up to where you need to be.
Artwork from https://imageproxy.youversionapi.com/1280×1280/https://s3.amazonaws.com/static-youversionapi-com/images/base/60137/1280×1280.jpg AND https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1457/1636/products/james-1-5-6-s_1080x.jpeg?v=1544332728