The Great Equalizers
Read James 1:9-11 (ESV)
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 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.
According to today’s verses, what do the rich and the poor both have in common?
You’ve probably heard the old saying that nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. But I’d argue that there are other certainties—trials and tribulation. Jesus said as much in John 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Yes, trials, troubles, taxes, and death come for all of us. Our status doesn’t protect us from pain, suffering, or mortality. They are great equalizers. We can’t buy out death or pay our troubles away. When trials and tribulation come, any illusion of independence and self-sufficiency fades away. We all realize in those moments that regardless of what we do or do not have, we depend on the Lord and Him alone.
That’s why James advises that the lowly, or those of humble means, “boast in their exaltation.” He means that even if you are poor, you can rejoice in knowing that in Christ, you are rich. You may not have status, success, or fame by the world’s standards, but believers in Christ are children of God! You may have a low social standing but be proud, you have a high spiritual standing which is of eternal and infinite value.
But James also has a word for the rich. He counsels that the wealthy should boast in their humiliation. But what in the world does he mean by that? Who would brag about being humiliated? Believers in Jesus Christ, that’s who. When we have a lot of money and worldly possessions, we tend to forget that we rely on God alone. When the world really thinks we are something because of our success and status, trials are a reality check that we are nothing without Christ.
James continued to point out that worldly wealth is fleeting and temporary. Like grass scorched by the sun or a flower that wilts away, wealth does not last. It is momentarily beautiful but eventually it’s proven to be worthless. We can work and strive for money, success, and status and “fade away” in the middle of our efforts. Our wealth can’t save us. So praise God for hard times that remind us of this truth and turn our hearts back to God and away from our financial pursuits!
Friend, are you poor? Take heart, you are wealthy in Jesus Christ and will be for all eternity! Are you rich? Everything that you have is from His hand and the only wealth that you have that will last forever are the riches of God’s grace. Whether we have only a little or whether we have a lot, we all need Him. And in Him we have everything we will ever need and more.
Lord, whether I am in times of plenty or times of want, I rejoice because in You I have everything I need. When I am in humble circumstances, remind me that You will lift me up. When I am prospering, remind me to depend on You. Tough times are guaranteed to come. Use them to teach me to rely only on You. Amen.