Sunday, January 16, 2011

Book of James - Part 2: Poverty and Riches

The Book of James
Part 2 - Poverty and Riches
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | |


Last week we spoke about James writing about the victory over trials and temptations. When we stand against these trials and temptations, they develop in us perseverance.

We also spoke about how God wants to give you wisdom in this area of your life, and that when you face trials and temptations, if you turn to the Lord, He will grant you the wisdom you need to not only understand the situations in your life, but also successfully navigate through them.

The book of James is divided into sections, each with a name describing its content.  This week we will be talking about humility, poverty and riches.

James, who is the half brother of our Lord Jesus, expresses a deep spiritual understanding which we need to remember was truly inspired and authored by the Holy Spirit of God.

Listen today as James instructs both the poor and rich on what grounds to build their joy and comfort.


James 1:9-11
Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.


a.      James is speaking about “believers”
                                                             i.      Originally intended for the Christ believing Jews of the Twelve Tribes, there is much instruction and wisdom in the Book of James.

                                                          ii.      James was not only the half brother of Jesus, but also one of the leaders of the Jerusalem Council, and worked to bring up other Jews to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

                                                       iii.      The verse begins with the word “believers”, telling us that he is speaking to ALL who follow Jesus Christ.

                                                         iv.      This is “key” in scripture, we must always be aware of “who” the scriptures are addressing when trying to understand the meaning.

1.      The basics of good exegesis
a.      Observations
b.     literary form
c.      unit of thought
d.     atmosphere
e.      purpose
f.       outlining
g.      word study
h.     background study
i.       textual analysis
j.       theological implications

                                                            v.      We try to understand the “who, what, where, when, how and why” of scriptures.  Simply reading without forethought will leave you confused.

b.     Who are of “low degree” {KJV}
                                                             i.      Out of the “believers”, James first addresses those of “low degree”.

1.      More specifically, James is addressing believers who are the lowly, the insignificant, the weak, but more importantly, the poor.

2.      We may consider “poor” in this country someone who only has one TV in his or her house, or one car, or perhaps you rent instead of owning your home.

a.      Poor in James’ time was more likely someone with no home, no income at all, no food or clean water.

b.     Any of us here today would be considered rich Americans in most third world countries, yet most Americans are not satisfied with what they have.

c.      The curse of money is this...the more you have, the more you want.

3.      However, James tells those who have nothing, “Rejoice!”

a.      Because they have the greatest position of all, they are believers in Christ Jesus.

c.      Where is your joy and comfort?
                                                             i.      Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

                                                          ii.      James tells the poor to rejoice, for they are exalted in Christ Jesus! 

                                                       iii.      The poor should find joy and comfort knowing that they are His, and each day they serve Him, they store up for themselves treasures in heaven!

                                                         iv.      Without the worldly riches, one MUST rely on God for their needs, rather than what they have to get them through life.

a.      Still speaking of believers
                                                             i.      James is still addressing believers.

b.     Who are “rich”
                                                             i.      “But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they pass away like a wild flower.

                                                          ii.      First James points out to the poor to rejoice because of their “high position”, now with the rich he reminds them of their mortality.

1.      James tells them to take pride in being humble...removing the pride from their riches, and reminds them that they will one day pass away, regardless of how much they think they have.


I watched a documentary on living forever, first turning there thinking it was a program about the after-life and beliefs in the everlasting spirit of man.  Much to my surprise, it was a program about living forever without dying.

Many scientists believe they have discovered that the human body can actually live much longer than it currently does, perhaps forever.

Really?  I learned that years ago reading Genesis.  That is how we were originally designed after all.

They believe they can isolate the gene which causes aging and eliminate it from the body.

What they do not understand is, that gene was placed there by it is destined for man to die once and face the judgment.

However, what was sad about the program was the fact that there were millionaires, and one was a billionaire, who spends millions and millions a year trying not to age.

They do not want to die.

One said, in fact, “I do not have any heirs, and I want to enjoy my fortune.”

The riches have corrupted their thinking.  They have become self-serving, self-centered and selfish old men who, despite all of their wealth they have worked so hard to accumulate, will still pass away, dying just as a flower in a field.

James contrasts the thinking of worldly riches and power, with the frailty of a wild flower passing away.

c.      Where is your joy and comfort?
                                                             i.      If you are rich, are you humble?
1.      On the other hand, do you constantly have to tell everyone about what you have, how much you have, and what it is worth?

2.      Funny thing about the rich, they seem to think others are as interested in their wealth as they are.

                                                          ii.      James tells those who are rich, find your joy and comfort in one place, humility.

                                                       iii.      For those who did not catch the contrast, James continues;

1.      “The sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant.”
a.      In the same way, the Lord will put all of our works to fire, and all that is straw and stubble will be burned away, leaving only the things we did for righteousness sake.

2.      “Its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed.”
a.      Nothing that is, will remain.  In the end, everything will be destroyed, and nothing but the Word will remain.

3.      “In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.”
a.      No matter how much you have, how much you store up for yourselves in warehouses, how much you buy, build or is appointed for each man to die once and face the judgment.

a.      Both poor and rich should have joy and comfort
                                                             i.      James shows both the poor and the rich where they are to find comfort in this life.

1.      Poor find joy and comfort in knowing they are in a high position with Christ.

a.      Luke 6:20 “Looking at his disciples, Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

2.      The Rich will find joy and comfort only in being humble.

a.      Proverbs 28:20 “A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.”

b.     Those who are rich must never look to their riches for joy or comfort, and riches must never be the focus in life.

b.     Economic status should not prevent you from living a humble life
                                                             i.      Riches kept the young rich man from being able to follow Christ, we must never allow anything to come between us and a relationship with God.

c.      There are many warnings in scripture about riches...none for being poor.

                                                             i.      Ecclesiastes 4:13 “Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning.”

                                                          ii.      Matthew 19:23-24 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

1.      How many who are rich will barely get in to heaven, only to find no treasure awaiting them?


Rich or poor, we must keep ourselves and our lives in perspective with the Lord.

We must not allow what we “don’t have” to steal our Joy and Comfort from what we do have, and that is a high position in Christ.

We also, must not allow what we “do have” to steal our true joy and comfort which can only be achieved through living humbly.