October 25, 2009
Now the believer of humble means should take pride in his high position. But the rich person’s pride should be in his humiliation, because he will pass away like a wildflower in the meadow. For the sun rises with its heat and dries up the meadow; the petal of the flower falls off and its beauty is lost forever. So also the rich person in the midst of his pursuits will wither away. Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him. (James 1:9-12)
I’ve often wondered on James’ excursion into people of high and low means. It has just seemed to come out of the blue. Where does his discussion come from? Here’s my guess.
Everyone is going through trials–rich and poor, but the rich man’s transience is being contrasted with the longevity of those who are refined by trials. In his pursuit of money and riches, the one who pursues riches finds himself consumed and chasing a vision which cannot fulfill him or grant him life.
The one who follows Christ on the other hand, is settled on a truly life-giving source whose apprehension sustains and refines rather than consumes as riches do.
October 24, 2009
Last Thursday I was reading James chapter 1 a bit and some things came together for me like they never have before. It’ll probably take three (short) posts, but I’ll try to get them up here in the next couple days.
But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)
How I love the biblical conception of wisdom! Integral in creating the world, key in man’s vice regent reign over God’s good creation in the beginning of time, distorted by man’s thirst for life apart from God, journeying through the Old Testament as the guide of daily relational dependence on the God whose law demonstrates our need for him to declare us righteous.
But what is the wisdom James encourages us to ask for? Mostly I guess I’ve heard this verse quoted in the most global of senses. “Don’t know what to do? Ask God for wisdom? He’s the giver of wisdom.”
While I don’t have any qualms with God being the source of all wisdom–the only real source for wisdom (Gen 3)–I do think James is referring to a certain wisdom, which should be discerned from the context. What wisdom is he referring to? The wisdom to know our one’s surroundings as James redefines them:
My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials… (James 1:2)
While wisdom can be applied in every situation (as opposed to law’s direction in limited settings), James’ interest is in directing his readers to the one who can help them know the value of their trials as the producer of endurance leading to the perfection and completeness of the afflicted.
Need wisdom? Ask God for it. But if you are experiencing trials, and you cannot count them as joy, then James encourages you to approach the only one who can enable you to know them as joy.