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James’ perspective on the rich

James 1: 9 – 11

James had just finished his presentation on the issue of double mindedness, and according to the Greek culture, the word was described as dipsychos in the Greek language, which perfectly describes someone who is two spirited, vacillating in opinion or purpose. In other words, it’s about having a divided mind. The people he was referring to here, were those that were brought before the leaders for judgment and who started to vacillate between what they plan to say and what God would deliver to them at the moment they needed it. The choice was theirs, they can choose to follow on with either path and James concluded that they couldn’t get both at the same time. The one who plans on what to say, how and when to say it would have shut his mind to whatever God wants him to say.

Contrary to many interpretations of today, James was not saying that when you doubt, God would change His mind about doing what He wants to do. He did not also say that Faith is the energy you exert in order to get God to do things you have desired or wished for. Nothing stops God from carrying out His purpose and intent particularly when it is in accordance to His purpose and Will. Rather, his statement was related to either choosing to wait until you get to the judges/leaders or plan on what to say to them.

Casting our minds back to the purpose of this Book – James was writing to the Jews in diaspora. He was encouraging them about the times of tribulation and what they should expect. Like Jesus said, they will be brought before leaders/Judges, they should expect to be betrayed by their loved ones and some would be put to death because of their association with Jesus as their Christ.

We also ought to remember that the Book of James was one of the first books in the New Testament even before all the Epistles of Paul so he (James) couldn’t have quoted from anywhere but the Old Testament – meaning that his writing would be different from the writings of Paul.

I know this is in contrast to what many teach in the church today. Many teach that the moment you don’t “exercise your faith” nothing happens. Many have given reasons why some are sick, reasons like the person in question did not believe or have faith in God. All these give a wrong picture about God – depicting that God would withhold any and everything from His children because they have not believed or had faith in Him. This sort of teaching is WRONG. This is the Gospel of Works, which states that there must be an input before an output can be obtained.

Paul describes the gospel of works as: when people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned; people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners, which is a gift.

James moves on to address the poor and the rich. He said the poor should rejoice because they have something to boast about. God has honored them but to the rich, it was an opposing one. He said the rich should rejoice because God has humbled them, he continued and said they will fade like the flower in the field and as the hot sun rises, the grass withers, the flower sags and falls, the beauty fades away and concluded that the rich will fade away with all their achievements.

He quoted from Isaiah 40: 6- 8, which says, “A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”

Does this mean one cannot be rich and at the same time be a Christian? Was there oppression between the rich and the poor? Jesus, before he died said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.” Jesus was right but after His death, there was a paradigm shift from the Old Testament gospel of works to the New Testament Gospel of Grace presented by the Pauline Epistles. James didn’t know better than to present his writings in accordance with the Law and Judaism.

There is no difference between the rich and the poor Christian before God. Jesus sacrificed His life for all without any distinction. The Good Book states that God so loved the world and gave His only begotten son… On that day we would all be judged on whether we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior or not. It would never be based on whether we were rich or poor.

To the rich, Paul said, “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others for Godliness with contentment is great gain”.

In conclusion, here is a quote from C.S Lewis who said, “One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give, and so fail to realize your need for God. If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on God. Now, quite plainly natural gifts carry with them a similar danger. If you have sound nerves and intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is. “Why drag God into it?” you may ask. A certain level of good conduct comes fairly easily to you. You are not one of those wretched creatures who are always being tripped up by sex or dipsomania or nervousness or bad temper. Everyone says you are a nice chap, and between yourselves, you agree with them. You are quite likely to believe that all this niceness is your own doing, and you may easily not feel the need for any better kind of goodness. Often people who have all these natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognize their need for Christ at all until one day, the natural goodness lets them down, and their self-satisfaction is shattered. In other words, it is hard for those who are rich in this sense to enter the kingdom.”

Keep it right here and be refreshed!

 

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