Lifestyles of the Rich & the Lowly (James 1:9-11)

Notobasis syriaca – Syrian Thistle – Barkan (Flickr CC – by nc sa)

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. (James 1:9-11)

In addition to writing his book full of imperative statements, James also relies heavily upon contrasting elements. In 1:9-11, he contrasts the “lowly” against the “rich.” He challenges them with action in the present, but does so by previewing the future.

We must take note that James’ emphasis is not upon their bank accounts; it’s upon their attitudes. The lowly (humble, 4:1-10) brother acknowledges the utmost importance of God in all that he does. He will be exalted in the life to come. The rich are not necessarily all who are financially blessed, but those whose pride and boasting are founded upon their possessions–and the status in life they provide (cf, 5:1-6).

When Jesus came to earth, he turned it upside down–especially for the Jews. He didn’t come with the purpose of doing away with rich and poor designations while on earth. He came to show that man will not be judged by their political, socio-economic, or even religious status. He will judge all men by their hearts (Matt. 5:8).

To illustrate this reversal of standing, James turns to nature in a way where first century Palestinians could not misunderstand him. He compares those who are rich to the grass and flowers of the land. Though beautiful, they don’t last forever. Though beautiful, they don’t withstand the elements of heat. Likewise, he says, the rich man will perish “in the midst of his pursuits.”

These few verses are not James’ final word on proper attitudes, partiality, riches, and the brevity of life. He further develops those themes throughout his letter. But we cannot gloss over these specific instructions. Humble and lowly Christians should take courage from their relationship with the Creator of the universe; Christians who choose to build their lives on possessions should repent. Soon, there will be a day when those possessions are nothing but dust.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matt. 7:24-27)

The Gym

Dear journal,

I’ve been needing to write this for some time now. I’ve known the truth about my situation but have not admitted it to myself. I am not in the physical shape I need to be in. I need to lose quite a few pounds and lower my cholesterol. I also have high blood pressure, don’t sleep well, and run out of breath quickly. But those are all really connected to being overweight. I know taking care of these problems will make me feel better and lengthen my time here on earth.

I’ve tried to talk to my Doctor about it, but surely he’s too busy to really care about my health, right? I know that’s his specialty, but his answers are so easy to say but really hard to do. He says the main thing I need to do is exercise regularly. He highly recommends me join the local gym.

I love the idea of exercising with other people. But I’m not sure I can find the time very often. I mean, most days after work, I’ve only got five or six hours left to eat dinner, watch my favorite TV shows, help with the kids’ homework, and surf the internet. Someone told me the gym is open in the morning, too. But as it is, waking up as late as I do, I’m already rushed for work. I want to exercise, but I clearly don’t have any time during the day.

And besides, though I love the idea of exercising with other people, I’m not sure I want to exercise with those people. Most of the people that go to the gym feel way too good about themselves and their bodies. They clearly don’t want someone there who’s chubby and out-of-breath. If I went they would judge me. None of them know what it’s like to struggle with their weight. There are other people at the gym–some of the most prominent gym members, in fact–who are nothing but hypocrites. I’ve seen some of them in the drive-through line at Dairy Queen; I’ve seen others buying sugary drinks at the grocery store. Why should I commit to helping myself if other people aren’t doing the same? Not to mention no one’s very friendly at the gym, anyway. All they want is my money each time I go.

So, I guess after thinking about it some, I’ll wait a little while longer before I go exercise at the gym. I know I need to, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I’ll start exercising one day. I really will. Maybe when the kids’ sports season is over; or I may have to wait until after they graduate. Their social well-being is more important than my weight, right?

Again, I WILL decide to do this. And when I do, I won’t let anything stand in my way.