God’s Word for You
James 1:9-11 a flower in the grass
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, July 11, 2020
Rich and Poor
9 Now, let the lowly brother boast in his high position, 10 and the rich one in his lowly position, because like a flower in the grass he will pass away.
James is addressing people he knows, members of his church who had to flee from the city, who have lost their fortunes, large or small, on account of their faith. But rich or poor, enthroned or homeless, anyone with faith is better off than everyone without. We see this when Jesus describes Lazarus, the poor man who died at about the same time as the unbelieving rich man at whose gate Lazarus begged. One man went to heaven and is blessed forever; the other man went to hell and is eternally punished for his unbelief.
When James refers to “a flower in the grass” (anthos chortou, ἄνθος χόρτου), he is recalling a Psalm: “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Psalm 103:15-16). The point of the Psalm is that God endures forever; the point James is driving home is that, through faith, man (even if he loses everything else) has a place with God forever.
11 For the sun rises with burning heat and scorches the grass. Its blossom falls and its beautiful appearance dies. In the same way the rich man will wither away along with what he pursues.
This verse does not condemn anyone for being rich or for pursuing ungodly gain. It merely warns that nothing in this world really lasts. “All we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see. Dust in the wind; all we are is dust in the wind” (Kansas, 1977). James only wants us to realize that our focus needs to be on God. We use the gifts he gives, but we must never fall into believing that we deserve those gifts or that we could never get along without them. Those things will wither and fade, and God gives and takes back at his own pleasure, for his own good purposes (always good), but he doesn’t always explain those purposes to us. It might be flames that wither our possessions (Job 15:30) or the moth (Hosea 5:12) or rust (Matthew 6:19-20), or even the thief. But whatever it is, if the test leaves us with our faith, then we have all we need. If that makes you want to “crown yourself with roses before they wither” (Wisdom of Solomon 2:8), and you want to glorify God and what he has done, that’s fine. Just keep your life in perspective with heaven as your true destination, and remember that Jesus is the Way.
“And do what they will,
hate, steal, hurt, or kill,
though all may be gone
Our victory is won;
The kingdom’s ours forever.”
A Mighty Fortress (Christian Worship 200:4)
Pastor Timothy Smith