Poverty & Wealth from God’s Perspective “Real Life” [James] Series  James 1:5-8
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO TRIALS WITH FAITH? Recap: We can have RADICAL JOY amidst trials… By COUNTING it through radically transformed values of our faith (= a joyful attitude). By KNOWING the benefits of trials through God’s testing of our faith (= an understanding mind). By SUBMITTING to God’s sovereign grace in trials through steadfastness of our faith (= a surrendered will). By ASKING God in faith for wisdom which can guide our steps with a vision to see things from God’s perspective during trials (= a believing heart).
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO TRIALS WITH FAITH? In today’s text (1:9-11), the context is still trials (1:2-18). James presents poverty and wealth as an example of various trials. All trials are for two ends, that we may be better acquainted with the Lord Jesus and better acquainted with our own hearts. George Whitefield
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO TRIALS WITH FAITH? In today’s text (1:9-11), the context is still trials (1:2-18). James presents poverty and wealth as an example of various trials. To the lowly brothers [socio-economically], poverty was a test of their faith due to persecution/dispersion. To the rich brothers, wealth was a test of their faith. To both, James applies God’s wisdom for the proper perspective on poverty and wealth.
The brother who is poor may be glad because God has called him to the true riches. The rich may be glad that God has shown him his spiritual poverty. For the rich man, as such, will wither away as surely as summer flowers. One day the sunrise brings a scorching wind; the grass withers at once and so do all the flowers - all that lovely sight is destroyed. Just as surely will the rich man and all his extravagant ways fall into the blight of decay. J. B. Phillips' Paraphrase of James 1:9-11
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO TRIALS WITH FAITH? In light of this context, we ask these three questions this morning: 1)What should the poor do facing poverty? 2)What should the rich do facing wealth? 3)What is the overarching wisdom that guides us in both conditions?
BOASTING: AN UNLIKELY COUNSEL FOR FACING POVERTY AND WEALTH 1)What should the poor do facing poverty? “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation” (v.9) To “boast” [kauchaomai] here means not arrogant bragging in self-importance but being joyfully proud of (glory in) what God values.
23 Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD." Jeremiah 9:23-24
BOASTING: AN UNLIKELY COUNSEL FOR FACING POVERTY AND WEALTH 1)What should the poor do facing poverty? “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation” (v.9) To “boast” [kauchaomai] here means not arrogant bragging in self-importance but being joyfully proud of (glory in) what God values. The poor believers are to boast in their EXALTATION. James’ point is not socialistic justice or capitalistic hope. James’ counsel is to see their transient poverty in light of their exaltation as eternal co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). Hence, the poor should not be discouraged by their suffering in material poverty but they are to count it all joy amidst of their suffering (Rom. 8:18).
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:16-18
BOASTING: AN UNLIKELY COUNSEL FOR FACING POVERTY AND WEALTH 2) What should the rich do facing wealth? “and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.” (v.10) The rich believers are to boast in their HUMILIATION. Why? Their true riches are in Christ which was given only in their humiliation as a poor miserable sinner at the cross. This humiliation is a blessing for them in God’s wisdom (Matt 5:3) because God has done the humanly impossible thing to save the rich (Matt 10:25). Hence, the rich believers are not to put their trust in their wealth but to humble themselves in the transient affluence, being a good steward of their wealth (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 [NIV]
BOASTING: AN UNLIKELY COUNSEL FOR FACING POVERTY AND WEALTH 3) What is the overarching wisdom that guides us in both conditions? 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. (v.11) The key to God’s wisdom in material possession is to see it through an eternal perspective [God’s BIG PICTURE]. Why? The world lures us in the distorted view of material possession—we are to live counter-culturally (Luke 12:15). Hence, God’s wisdom points us to  eternal perspective  contentment,  steadfastness/stewardship and  humility in all we have—little possession and wealth.
Then he [Jesus] said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15 [NIV] “ 19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
“ 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Revelation 3:17-19
The Trial of Financial Hardship The trial of financial hardship presents the opportunity for a testing, or an exercising, of faith. Christians will engage in the testing by exulting in what they believe: the more important reality of their high position with God. This very act is a rejection of the culture's materialistic values and therefore a growth toward maturity. It will lead the Christian to renounce any anxious outlook about the future, any self-accusing attitude in financial struggles, and any complaining or jealous view toward others' comparative wealth. Instead of adopting anxiety, guilt, complaint or jealousy, the Christian will consider it pure joy... because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance... so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Further, this proper pride in their high position means that Christians' treatment of others will no longer be affected by others' wealth. - George M. Stulac
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR OUR EVERYDAY LIFE 1.Seek THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE of God’s wisdom in facing financial hardships or material wealth. In financial hardships, boast in the eternal riches of your high position in Christ. In material affluence, boast in the humiliation of your brokenness in God’s sovereign grace for you. 2.Turn from THE CULTURE’S MATERIALISTIC VALUES that shape you. Say NO to the false standards of self-worth/security/status. Say NO to the treatment of others by their wealth. 3.Cultivate AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE regarding possession. Remember that material lack/affluence is only temporary. Remember that that your riches in Christ are eternal.