JAMES - Be Doers of the Word, and not Hearers Only
Studies in the Letter of James (by Dr. Richard Thomas)
Poverty and Riches (James 1:9-11)
9 But let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his high position; 10 and the rich, in that he is made humble, because like the flower in the grass, he will pass away. 11 For the sun arises with the scorching wind, and withers the grass, and the flower in it falls, and the beauty of its appearance perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in his pursuits.
In Romans 12:16 Paul exhorts us not to mind high things but to mix with humble folk. This is precisely what our Lord did; He spent time with ordinary people, with the despised and the outcast. A valid inference from several relevant passages in James is that he too loved the poor and cared for them. He calls the man of low degree ‘brother’. For James worldly status is of small account; spiritual elevation often accompanies lowliness. Poverty voluntarily chosen brings evident spiritual benefits, as the careers of apostles and missionaries prove. Although it is hard to do, the rich man who unexpectedly loses his wealth should rejoice at the opportunity of spiritual progress that deprivation affords.
In verse 11 we have an extended simile so familiar in a Middle Eastern climate. The scorching heat of the Palestinian sun can turn landscape from green to brown in few days. Circumstances can play similar tricks with the rich, one day they are securely affluent, the next day they are destitute. Elsewhere the sun is symbolic of Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness who rises with healing in his wings. There is life, warmth and healing in the suns rays; but around the Tropic of Cancer, south of the regions with Mediterranean climate the effect of solar heat is different. The Bedouin shields his face from the burning glare of the sun, cursing its furnace temperatures, whereas in Provence and Tuscany the sunshine gives a pleasant warmth valued by tourists as a rest cure and a quality of light that thrills the artists soul. Jesus as our friend is the same as Christ the Judge of those who choose to wander in the wilderness ‘across a void of weariness and dread’.