Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 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.
In this brief text, James jumps to a subject that will keep cropping up in this letter: Rich and Poor. James takes an approach to this subject that is very much in line with that of Jesus, and is quite different from the one most have today, for James sees material wealth as a snare.
Have you ever seen a TV show called “The Edwardian Country House”? In my history geek view, it is the best “reality” show of all time. A bunch of volunteers are placed in an Edwardian era country house in northern England, and they have to live and work as people would have in the Edwardian Era (1901-1910) for three months. There is a family who are designated as the Lord and Lady of the Manor, and they must live as such high-ranking people would have lived in those times, being waited on hand and foot. The rest are the servants, from the butler to the scullery maid, and they do all the work. Boy oh boy do these people have their challenges adjusting from the 21st century to Edwardian times!
In those days, everyone went to church. In one episode they show how this worked out. The Family rode to church in their motor car; the “upper servants” rode in a horse-drawn carriage behind, and everybody else walked the two miles each way. Now of course, everyone involved was a “good Christian” but they had very different stations in life. The rich landowners all sat in the front of the church in places of honor, while their servants sat in the very back or in the balcony in silence as second-class citizens.
I thought this was an important scene for any Christian to see, for it shows how the attitudes of this world have played out in the Body of Christ. Of course history shows us that this sort of thing has gone on since the very early days of the church, and we see much written against it in Scripture, such as in these verses; interesting isn’t it? Have you seen things along these lines?
As for me, I’ve only seen this kind of thing expressed in subtle ways, but I’ve seen it, and it is nothing less than disgraceful. In Christ, we are equal. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, black or white, rich or poor, for in God’s eyes we are His children… and we are all expected to love one another and to put the interests of others ahead of our own.
I think this is an important point for all of us to reflect upon and to ask for God’s guidance in, that we might truly understand what it means to be a follower of Christ.