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James 1:9-10 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:58 mins 22 secs

Happiness, Humility, and Mastering the Details of Life
James 1:9-10

 

In verses 9-11 we are going to focus on grace orientation, and one particular aspect of grace orientation which is humility. Humility is defined as the absence of arrogance and recognizing that everything you are is a result of God and what He has provided, and not the result of your own efforts and your own energy. That is a difficult thing for us to understand because we live in a society and a culture that rewards us for our efforts and our hard work. In the spiritual life the issue is not what we do, it is what Jesus Christ has done for us and we have a whole different set of dynamics that the spiritual life is based on, so we have to come to an understanding of grace orientation.

James 1:9-11 NASB "But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man {is to glory} in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away."

If you were reading this passage for the first time you might think that it is one that praises poverty, praises the person who doesn't have much in terms of material possessions and wealth, and is a condemnation of the rich and the wealthy. But if you were to read it that way you would be terribly mistaken because that is not the point of this passage. The Bible never impugns anybody or runs anybody down because of their wealth. In fact, some of the greatest believers in all of the Scriptures were some of the wealthiest people in the world at their time; men like Job, Abraham, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Barnabus. The issue here, first of all, is the details as instantiated by money. It could be anything. Maybe for you it is a social position, a family, friends, a particular kind of job or working in a particular position. But James uses the issue of money here probably because that was a problem with this particular congregation. We will see that it is when we come to chapter two. Secondly, the spiritual issue is humility and grace orientation versus arrogance and self-reliance. The contrast is between the humble believer, i.e. the believer who lacks possession of any details of life. Here it is money, but it could be someone who doesn't have family, doesn't have friends, doesn't have social position, doesn't have a job, whatever it may be; it is the one who lacks any of the details of life versus the believer who has an abundance of the details of life.

Verse 11 then provides us with an illustration that focuses on the tests of adversity. "For the sun rises with a scorching wind." This is the attack of adversity that blows across the life of the wealthy person who has the abundance of material things, the details of life, and it withers the grass and its flower falls off; and because of this adversity he loses all that he has, and everything is destroyed as happened with Job. With Job the issue was: would he continue to trust God, apply the doctrine in his soul, would he get mad at God, would he curse God, would he give up on God and react in arrogance and anger and bitterness towards God? So this is the background here. How are we going to handle adversity when  it takes away all of the details of life for us and we are left with nothing. How do we handle that? It begins with grace orientation and humility.

"But the brother of humble circumstances…" The use of the word "brother" here is very important throughout this epistle—HO ADELPHOS [o( a)delfoj], "the brother." This is usually a term used in the New Testament of one believer to another. Throughout this James is writing to believers, fellow Christians, and the subject is always issues in the Christian way of life. The issue is never coming to Christ, the issue is how we are going to handle these situations as a believer in the Christian life. This is going to be critical when we come to some of the problem passages in the latter part of this chapter and in chapter two. This is not talking about a believer versus an unbeliever situation.

James is addressing these believers as brothers because he is emphasizing that we are all believers in Gods family, and we have to remember that there are all kinds of believers. There are carnal believers, spiritual believers, wealthy believers, poor believers, educated believers and uneducated believers, sophisticated believers and unsophisticated believers, and there are all kinds in between. You can't fit Christians into moulds. You can't say that because you are some way other people's experience ought to imitate mine. One of the great problems that we face is trying to fit everybody into the same mould, and yet everybody is different, they have different talents, different abilities. God in His grace has given them different spiritual gifts and different measures of those spiritual gifts. So everybody needs to be the person that they are and the person that God means for them to be. James in this passage takes one of the most superficial of all distinctions to make his point so that all those who read his epistle from then on would be able to understand the issue. He uses this distinction to drive home the importance of grace orientation and humility under adversity and under the attack of adversity. People who think that you ought take wealth away from people because wealth in and of itself is evil misread the Scripture. The Scripture says it is the love of money that is the root of all evil, not money. In fact, what would we do in spiritual life, in missions, in the ministry of the church if it weren't for those people that God has blessed with material possessions and material wealth who then understand the principles of grace giving and use that to support the local ministry in the church, missions, and all kinds of different ministries to provide the communication of the Word of God.

So James starts off, "But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position." This should really be translated, "But let the humble brother glory in his high position." The idea of humility here comes from the Greek word TAPEINOS [tapeinoj] which we will run into several times. It has the idea of humility, of someone who is in a lowly position, someone who has an insignificant place in life, someone who has very little power or ability to advance themselves. This is the idea here. This is a person, obviously, who on his own has very little in the way of finances, no possessions, and he is told in a command to glory in his high position. The word "glory" is the Greek word KAUCHAOMAI [kauxaomai] in the present active imperative. He is commanded. This is not an option, it is a mandate. Rejoice might be a better idea here. He is to rejoice in something. It takes us back to the main theme in verse 2, to count it all joy. He is to rejoice in his lack of the details of life and rejoice in his high position in Christ. As believers we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies and we have more wealth than we can imagine in the spiritual dimension.

Romans 8:16, 17 NASB "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with {Him} so that we may also be glorified with {Him.}"

Galatians 4:6, 7 NASB "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God." We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ through our position in the royal family of God.

1 Peter 2:9 NASB "But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR {God's} OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." So the point here is that we have a new position and a new identity. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies; we have a vast array of spiritual assets; we are all spiritually wealthy; as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we are all sons of God, we are in the royal family and we have a position as a royal priest. So we are now spiritual aristocracy, heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.

This is phenomenal in terms of its implications for who you are. It has nothing to do with your material situation, the details of life that you enjoy or do not enjoy, or your circumstances in this life at all. It has everything to do with your spiritual position, and that is what you should be concerned about developing in light of eternity. So the focus for James is for the believer who lacks the details of life, to focus on who you are in Jesus Christ, and what God has provided for you at the cross. At the moment of salvation God provides 40 different things that make up this vast array of spiritual assets. This is a portfolio of weapons and provisions that God has given us so that we can face and handle any situation in life, so that we can grow to spiritual maturity, and so that we can be true victors in the spiritual warfare and angelic conflict that rages around us.

So the believer who lacks the details of life is to focus on everything that he has in Jesus Christ, and he is to celebrate in that, rejoice in that. That is the thrust of the words to "glory in his high position." Let the lowly believer celebrate his high position in Jesus Christ because of divine grace. All that he has is because of Jesus Christ.

"…and the rich man [the man who has an abundance in the details of life] {is to glory} in his humiliation…" In the English Bible the word "glory" and the word "let" is in italics. This is because they are not in the original language text. What happens here is because of the previous sentence which is a comparison there is a stated verb, KAUCHAOMAI, in verse 9. In his excitement he has left out the main verb in v. 10 in the original but you can supply it by bringing it down to v. 11 because of the context. What is his humiliation? This is really a bad translation because there is a difference in being humble and being humiliated. True humility sees yourself as you truly are, not inflating yourself or deflating yourself.

The doctrine of grace orientation

To understand grace orientation we must understand that there are two major categories of grace: saving grace and post-salvation grace. What happens at saving grace? At saving grace God the Father in eternity past recognized that the greatest problem man would face was sins. Every one of those sins was poured out on the cross. Jesus Christ died as a substitute for our sins on the cross, and God the Father poured those sins out on Him and Jesus paid the price in full. When it was done, He said: "It is finished." There is nothing left for man to do; man adds nothing to what Christ did on the cross. Man must come to the cross with his hands empty. He must come in true humility, recognizing that there is nothing in man—no good works, no good deeds, no talent, no wealth, no detail of life—that gains for us approbation from God. When we come to the cross we must leave it all behind and realize that we do nothing, Jesus Christ does everything. This is the beginning of true humility. We understand in grace that God does all the work and man simply accepts it. So the rich man glories in his humility because he realizes that there is nothing that he can add, and that at the cross God provided everything for him. 

What happens at the moment of faith alone in Christ alone, relying on nothing of our own, God the Father takes the perfect righteousness of Christ and imputes it to the believer. So at the moment of salvation it is not that you become good, it is that now God has credited to your account the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. So when God looks down on you He sees the perfect righteousness of Christ—this is what you are clothed with—and because of that God then pronounces you justified. Before the Supreme Court of heaven you are declared just. Remember, what the righteousness of God demands the justice of God executes, motivated by the love of God and expressed by the grace of God. The application of that: what the righteousness of God rejects the justice of God condemns, but the love of God provides a solution through the grace of God, which is the cross. So the righteousness of God looks down on man (the believer) now and sees that he has perfect righteousness. So what the righteousness of God approves the justice of God blesses as it is motivated by the love of God and expressed through His manifold grace.

So this brings us to the first category of post-salvation grace which is logistical grace. Logistics is that science and art of supplying the physical needs of a military unit out on the field. We are a military unit as a believer out in the field doing combat in the angelic war, and God has said that He is going to provide for us everything we need for our physical and spiritual sustenance in the battle. He is going to provide food, shelter and clothing and he is going to provide Bible doctrine so that we can grow. He is going to provide the Holy Spirit so that we can have power to understand and apply doctrine, and he is going to provide the Word of God so that we can apply it.

The perfect righteousness of God looks at you and sees your perfect righteousness. Then the justice of God is going to bless you, not because of who you are or what you have done, but because you possess the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is not because as a believer you decided to apply doctrine, you have decided to give money to the church, because you are going to teach in Sunday School, etc. God never blesses us on the basis of what we do, God blesses us because we possess the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 6:25 NASB "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, {as to} what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, {as to} what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" What do we have here? Logistical issues, the provision of the physical needs for the believer. For this reason do not be anxious for physical needs. Why?

Matthew 6:26-28 NASB "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and {yet} your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a {single} hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin." They don't have to work for it, God just provides it as part of His grace.

Matthew 6:29 NASB "yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these."

Now he is going to drive home the point.

Matthew 6:30 NASB "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is {alive} today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, {will He} not much more {clothe} you? You of little faith!" In other words, if God is going to take care of the plants of the field and the birds of the sky, how much more will God take care of your basic needs if you are His child?

Conclusion:

Matthew 6:31 NASB "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?'" Don't worry about the details of life or physical sustenance because thos is covered under the category of logistical grace. God is going to supply that to you as a believer because you possess the perfect righteousness of God. He is going to take care of your basic needs, but what are you to do?

Matthew 6:33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." How do you seek His righteousness? Put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. That is when the righteousness of Christ is imputed to you. Because you possess His righteousness—you seek it by receiving Christ as your savior and then all of these blessings of logistical grace will be automatically supplied to you because you are a child of God and you possess the perfect righteousness of Christ. This is not an issue for the spiritual life. The issue, once you believe, is not to seek His righteousness; you already have it; you can't get any more of it; you were given a full measure of the righteousness of Jesus Christ at the moment you put your faith and trust in Him. 

So in James chapter one: Let the rich man glory, not in the fact that he has this abundance of the details of life because he could easily lose those, but let him glory in his humility because he doesn't have this on his own effort. Everything he has, all the details of life that he enjoys are the result of the grace of God. God has supplied them on the basis of who and what He is and on the basis of who and what Jesus Christ is, not on the basis of who and what the individual believer is.

But how is this person going to handle this when he loses those details of life?