Time almost always seems to fly by, but this commitment to memorize the book of James seems to accelerate it somehow! A new week begins and I feel like I’m not quite as comfortable with last weeks verses as I would like and it’s already time to start on the next verses. Which is a long way for me to state that I’m doing OK with the memorization, but I need to work at it little more in order to feel comfortable with how well I know my verses!
This week we will be memorizing James 1:9-11. In this passage, James exhorts the poor and the rich at the same time though his commands to them are different. The lowly brother, or poor, is to “boast in his exaltation”. While the rich should boast in their humiliation. The remainder of verses 10 and 11 go on to address the frailty of life and how eventually all things temporal will fade away.
The ESV Study Bible’s notes were extremely helpful in understanding the instruction that James gives to the poor and the rich. I’m going to quote it here. Both poverty and riches bring enormous pressure on a person to focus on the world rather than on Christ. Thus James exhorts the poor to boast (or glory) in their high status in Christ. The lowly brother will be exalted or vindicated by God. In contrast, James exhorts the rich to boast in their humiliation, (1) by realizing that their wealth is temporary and that it brings them no advantage before God, and (2) by identifying with the poor in their affliction. The church is to be a “countercultural” community, which reverses the values of the world (cf. 2:2–4). Given the context, James seems to be saying that the challenges of poverty and wealth may be one of the greatest “trials” for Christians, as would be suggested by his immediate emphasis (see 1:12) on the “blessed” status of those who remain “steadfast under trial.” James also echoes Jesus’ warning that “You cannot serve God and money”. I especially like the part that whether poor or rich that one of greatest trials may lie in reversing the values of the world. And isn’t that one of our great struggles? For those who have nothing to fight the urge to have more, and for those who are rich to recognize that their wealth ultimately means nothing. That for both individuals the struggles focuses on rejecting what the world values and instead focusing on God.
Verses 10 and 11 call to mind several other passages of Scripture that speak of how quickly life passes. Job 14:2, Psalm 103:15-16, and Isaiah 40:6-7. Of course it also reminds me of the passage yet to come in James where he states that life is but a mist or a vapor that passes quickly.
It’s still not too late to join in if you would like to. You could catch up in few weeks. If you are on the fence at all on whether to participate or not, I would encourage you to give it a try. Already I have realized the benefit of doing this as the commitment to memorizing has placed these verses front and center in my mind. That in turn has caused me to meditate on them throughout the day. At random times throughout the day a phrase or a verse will come to mind and I think on the words and try to gain a better understanding of how these verses apply to my life. All while washing dishes or cooking supper! Here are our verses for this week.
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 ESV)