This is a study on James 1:9-11. You may find it helpful to read this passage before looking at the study. Although I’ll primarily be using the NIV version for the preparation of this study, you can use whichever version you prefer.
Looking for the start of this series? Check out the study of James 1:1-8 here.
Today’s passage talks about poverty and wealth within the church. As we explore these themes, it’s important to remember that these verses are connected with the ones that come before them. Poverty is a trial faced by some in the church.
Verse 9 tells believers that if they’re in “humble circumstances,” they should take pride in their high position. When believers face poverty, they know how much they need God and cling to their faith to get them through.
When Grant and I were first married, money was tight. We were both students and working part time. Although our families still paid for our school bills (a major blessing), rent and food were still our responsibility.
I remember one time it was getting near the end of the month and money was very tight. We had enough to eat, but I was anxious and discouraged about our situation. That’s when there was a knock on the door. The wife of one of my professors had a huge paper bag full of goodies for us. It had food and hygiene items.
When she left, I began looking through the bag and noticed a bunch of my favorite treats. I sobbed for a long time. It was the boost I needed to get through a really difficult time.
James moves on to talk about the rich and the fleeting nature of wealth. Verses 10 and 11 most likely refer to wealthy church members. Riches are fleeting and the wealthy often face hardship when they’re faced with the loss of those riches.
In yesterday’s passage, James reminds God’s people that God provides wisdom to those who ask because God gives generously. The verses that follow condemn sin and favoritism within the church.
We cannot read this passage without seeing the need for wealthy believers to put forth reasonable effort to help those in need. God’s people have always been called to be a blessing to other people. When needs arise in a community of believers, we’re called to respond with generosity.
In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells a story about a rich man and Lazarus.
Lazarus is a poor man who lives outside the gates of the rich man’s house. When the two die, the rich man goes to a place of torment while Lazarus finds rest. Instead of being humbled by the turn of events, the rich man begs Lazarus to relieve his suffering.
Both today’s passage and the passage in Luke remind us that riches do not necessarily mean righteousness. When someone is suffering in our midst and we have the ability to help them, we’re called to be good stewards of what God has given us.
God has demonstrated generosity and expects Christians to live out that same generosity. We give because we’ve been given so much.