We are doing a series called “Faith in Action” and the topic we will explore today is on having a heavenly perspective of poverty and riches, the passage we are looking at is James 1:9-11.
9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation,
10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.
11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. – James 1:9-11
First of all, let me once again reminded that James primary audience are believers, men and women who have put their trust in God, and because of their faith in Christ they are now living in a foreign land away from the place of birth, among unknown people groups, and going through trials.
And among those believers, some of them were poor and some of them were rich.
In verse 9 the lowly brother is in reference to the poor, and what James is saying is that the poor brother should be proud of his position, why? Because being a poor man his dependence is on the Lord all the time, he trusts the Lord evermore for his daily needs, he has a humble demeanour & contrite spirit, and therefore James is saying it a good standing to have in the eyes of God.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus mentions about the lowly saying “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” therefore James is saying, boast in your high position as a born-again believer, called to the true riches in Christ.
On the other hand, to the rich Christians, James is saying that they should boast in their humiliation, being humbled, humbled by the trials that reveal human frailty, their sinful and boastful heart, knowing that true riches are found in the grace of God.
You may ask how can being rich be a humiliation.
Imagine a moment when you have all the money and wealth in the world, and even after having all of that you see how wretched and sinful you are.
And because you have money it is now even more easy for you to indulge in your sinful pleasures, access to everything at your fingertips. Instead of feeling happy, you are only feeling more miserable about yourselves, and In addition to that, there is Pride and a boastful spirit towards God and people.
Can rich people feel humiliated in that position?
Yes of course!
Like Solomon who said “I have seen and done all things under the sun and have found them futile, a chasing after the wind.
I have considered all the works my hands have accomplished and toiled for and found them futile.”
And therefore, while addressing the rich he is also reminding them of the fading nature of worldly riches. Its there today and gone tomorrow, like the flower of the grass that withers away under the scorching heat of the sun.
At one time it may look good, beautiful and pleasing to the eyes and in a moment it can be taken away, right in the middle of our pursuit of riches it can be taken away forever.
And as we are looking at both these statements made about the poor and the rich, James is not suggesting that to be poor is better than being rich.
Because there are passages in the bible that also tells us that poverty could be the result of sin & laziness (Prov 10:4), it can be a result of ignoring God’s ways (Proverbs 13:8, 18), Prov 10:15 also suggests that the poor are brought to ruin by their poverty, poverty can affect relationships (19:4,7), and it can even tempt him to steal (30:7-9)
and that there is profit in hard work (Proverbs 10:4; 14:23). The Bible tells of many wealthy men who followed God: Abraham, Job, David, Solomon, Zaccheus and others.
Brothers & sisters, whether you consider yourself as a poor person or as a rich person, it is important to have a heavenly perspective regarding your current state, and if we do not cultivate a heavenly perspective we are in trouble, whether we are rich or poor.
Why? Because whether we are poor or rich, trails in life are inevitable, both of them go through trials of different nature.
Therefore, the rest of our time, I want to talk about the heavenly perspectives we need to cultivate, whether we are rich or poor.
1. Money, fame or wealth will not save us from the trials of life.
Growing up most of us have been taught and programmed to believe that money, fame, position and wealth is the ultimate goal in life. When we have money we can buy anything we want, go anywhere we like and that will make us happy.
And therefore, we spend our whole lives pursuing these things. Especially when some of us go through trails that are caused due to lack of money and resources, we think only if I had lots of money I wouldn’t have had struggles in life.
But in reality, that isn’t true. If you look around and watch the ones who’ve achieved these things, we will learn that these things never make us happy, rather we end in a trial of different nature, sometimes related to health, sometimes related to our children etc.
You can be found having a deadly sickness which money can’t take away, or your children completely ashtray, away from God which money cant bring back.
A famous Hollywood actor once said, “Everyone should get rich and famous so that they learn that being rich and famous is not the answer”. Yes, there is some truth in that statement.
Recently I saw this documentary of a young Jazz singer girl by the name of Amy Winehouse, at a very early age she started writing songs and quite famous in a short span of time.
From the age of 16 she struggled with depression and hoped that it will get better if she received fame & money, but unfortunately as she was rising up to fame and become popular, she got into unhealthy relationships, struggled with drugs and at age 27 died due to accessive alcohol consumption.
If money and fame was the answer to life’s struggles then Amy would have been alive today, but that is not what is true.
I am reminded of the story of a rich greedy man. One day a genie came to him asked him to wish for anything. The man, because he was greedy for more wealth asked the genie to grant him a power by which whatever he touch would turn into gold, and the genie granted him his wish.
Immediately after that he went to eat food that was on the dining table and as soon as he touched the food it turned into gold, and in the next moment his children came to give him a hug and they too turned into gold. He got the gold but he lost the capability to consume food that would keep him alive, and also lost the affections of his loved ones.
Friends, in God’s Kingdom, worldly wealth holds no value, it’s just a piece of paper in your hand and a number in your bank account. And if you think more money and wealth will save you from all your troubles than you are mistaken.
God is more interested in deep heart transformation than making people prosper for no reason. You can be a poor person and through your dependence and trust in God, by walking in humility before Him, allow Him to change your heart, transform you into the image of His son Jesus and use you for the glory of His name.
And you can be a rich person, who is humble and contrite in heart, trusting him and savouring His grace in your life, …. allowing Him …
Think of all the precious moments you are missing out in your life where God is working in your heart, just because your heart is somewhere in the future, thinking of the day when you will get a promotion, a raise in salary, an inheritance from your parents and a business deal you also wanted.
As a Christian, every day God is doing something beautiful in our heart, it may look quite small to you now but it will bear much fruit if you yield towards it.
And how does he work in our heart?
He works through the transforming power of the Gospel, which brings me to the second perspective we need to cultivate regarding poverty & riches.
2. Besides Jesus there is nothing in this world that will satisfy us, that includes money, wealth & possession.
To feel happy, what we truly need is heart transformation and not more money. And heart transformation only happens when our hearts are inclined to the Gospel.
The bible says, by nature, we are sinful people, as long as we live in the flesh we are sinful. And a sinful flesh only produces corruption and hatred. We know that was not how God created us to be, he created us to live a full life, walking in obedience to Him and worshipping Him. But believed the lie the serpent told us, when he told us that we can be like God, we liked the idea and therefore rebelled and sinned against God.
The brokeness, agony, restlessness, dissatisfaction, the pain we experience, whether we are poor or rich is the result of our sin against God. Therefore, the poor to desire riches is not the answer, because a lot of rich have sold everything to become monks and sadhus and still miserable under the burden of their sin.
What we truly need is a restored relationship with God, and we can’t earn it on our own capabilities and good works. The help is provided by God himself, only through His grace and mercy which he showed us through His son Jesus can restore it back.
Our response to his love and grace is an act of obedience, where we come to Him in repentance and ask his forgiveness, and trust in his on Jesus with all our heart, mind and soul.
Therefore, even in times of trials, the poor, instead of grumbling, complaining about the lack of money should instead boast in their position as a child of God, and for the work, He is doing in our heart through the trials they are going through.
The rich, instead of allowing the humiliation of our riches to press you down and take you to places you shouldn’t go, do things you shouldn’t do should remind themselves of the vanity of wealth and cherish the true riches they have in Christ alone.
Therefore, the questions we need to ask is not whether we need to stay poor and become rich, the question we need to ask is whether we are rich or poor are we enjoying Christ and his redeemer work in our heart.
I hope you hear the Holy Spirit of God speaking to you
I like to end my sermon with a beautiful confession from Paul in 4:10-13
10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.