Monday, April 23, 2007

How are the poor to respond to trials?

We are continuing in our study of James chapter 1. Today we are beginning a look at verses 9-12 learning what is involved in “Responding to Life’s Trials.” James begins this letter with this subject.

He says, “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. 12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

As we look at the proper response to trials, we can’t help but to think of Job. Job had a tremendous trial as recorded in the book bearing his name (Job 1-2).

Job 1:3 tells us about his possessions: 700 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and a large household. Verses 15-19; 2:7-10 tell us of his predicament with his possessions (vv.15-17), with his family (vv.18-19), with his body (boils, 2:7-8), and with his wife (bad advice, 2:10). Verses 20-22; 2:10 tell us of his praise. Verses 20-22 tell us his response regarding the loss of his possessions. 2:10 gives the response he had concerning his painful boils and his wife. Job 42:5-6 records Job’s response at the end of his trial. He says, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” James makes note of his response in 5:11 to his trials as an “example of suffering and patience” by saying, “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord–that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”

All trials are geared to drive you to God. And by putting all your trust in Him you can go through any trial with the instruction that James gives here in verses 2-12. You can have a joyous attitude (v.2), an understanding mind (v.3), a submissive will (v.4), and a believing heart (vv.5-8). Now as we look at verses 9-12, we see another response we are to have to trials, and that is a humble spirit.

Trials have a way of putting everyone on the same level, whether you’re rich or poor. Proverbs 22:2 says, “Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all” (NIV). And as such both are to be treated fairly and not with partiality. God told the Israelites that they were not to charge any interest to the poor (Ex.22:25) or to show favoritism in his lawsuits (Ex.23:3), nor were they to deny justice to them in their lawsuits (Ex.23:6). In the 7th year when the land was to rest from sowing and harvesting, the poor were to be able to get food from the land (Ex.23:11). In the words of Psalm 82:3 they were to “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed” (NIV). If they oppressed “the poor,” they were showing “contempt for their Maker.” (Prov.14:31 - NIV) And if they didn’t listen to the cries of the poor, they too would cry and not be answered (cf. Prov.21:13). So as Proverbs 28:27 says, “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses” (NIV). When your “kind to the needy” or the poor that “honors God” (Prov.14:31 - NIV).

James also addresses the problem with the unjust treatment of the poor when they come in the assembly. Instead of showing partiality to the rich because of their riches, they were to treat both the poor and the rich the same but instead they were showing favor to the rich and contempt to the poor (See Jas.2:1-2). In our text we see that trails are no respecter of persons. Trials affect both the poor and the rich. And in James 1:9-12, James addresses 3 types of people: The poor or lowly, the rich, and the blessed man.

Let’s look at the lowly brother in verse 9. James says, “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation.” The word “Lowly” (tapeinos) is used in the LXX to translate the Hebrew word for “poor,” “without possessions.” It is one who is financially poor, “one who is lowdown on the socio-economic scale” (Douglas Moo, James 60). This word is translated “humble” in 4:6. The word “brother” (adelphos) means, “coming from the same womb.” He is also referred to as an heir of the kingdom in 2:5 and a brother or sister in 2:15. James is addressing in verse 9 – poor Christians. The poor are identified in James letter in various ways: First by his clothing in 2:2: “A poor man in filthy clothes.” Next by his identity in the world in 2:5: They are “the poor of this world.” And third by his destitution in 2:15: He is “naked and destitute of daily food.” Though he is in this “lowly” state, he is to “glory in his exaltation.” His attitude is to be that of “glory” (kauchastho, pres.mid.imp.), “to boast,” “to rejoice,” “be glad,” “take pride in” (UBS). It refers to the boasting of a privilege or a possession. It is the joy of legitimate pride. D. Edmond Hiebert says, “It denotes a strong personal reaction, a feeling of pride or exultation in the condition mentioned. It encompasses the individuals total reaction, both his inward feeling and his outward expression of exultation” (James 89). It is “boasting in a good sense of an attitude of confidence in God” (Friberg). Paul said in Romans 5:2-3 that “we exult (boast) in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult (boast) in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance” (NAS). What is he to “boast” in? James says, “In his exaltation.” This is the Greek word hypsos which means, “in his height,” or “high state.” This “refers to the present spiritual status which, by virtue of his relation to Christ, the Christian now enjoys” (Fritz Rienecker, The Linguistic Key to the Greek NT 722).

A Christian has every reason to boast of his position in Christ. The poor as well as the rich. He is “chosen by God” (2:5); He is “rich in faith” (2:5); He is an “heir” of the kingdom (2:5). In Mary’s Magnificat, she says in Luke 1:52 that “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble” (NAS). To the church at Smyrna, Jesus said in Revelation 2:9, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)...” (NAS). John MacArthur says, “The poor Christian may have nothing in the material world to rejoice about, but he can rejoice in that he is exalted in the spiritual realm in his standing before God. He may be hungry, but he has the Bread of Life. He may be thirsty, but he has the Living Water. He may be poor, but he has eternal riches. He may be cast aside by men, but he has been received by God. He may have no home here, but he has a glorious home in the life to come” (Benefitting from Life’s Trials 66-67). Hattie Buell said, “A tent or a cottage, why should I care? They’re building a palace for me over there; tho’ exiled from home, yet still I may sing; all glory to God, I’m a child of the king.”

If this describes your condition, you can “boast” in that you are exalted by God. Rejoice in Him today and remember all trials bring us to the same level: humility.

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