Have you ever been tempted to take what you have and compare it to what someone else does or doesn’t have? I know, I know. It’s a rhetorical question. Of course, we all are guilty of doing this at some point or other. (Honestly, there’s an entire industry of reality TV shows that are based on the fact that we want to compare our lives to the lives of others.)
Well, the Book of James has something to say about it.
In the previous post on James, we talked about finding joy even in the midst of trials — when you’re walking out of the valley (click here to read it). Then, immediately after that discussion of joy and trials, James tackles the issues of wealth and comparsion.
Here’s what the writer has to say:
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. – James 1:9-10 (NIV)
Have you ever looked down on someone because you saw them as beneath you? Maybe we don’t enter the day with that intention in mind. Yet, we see another person and make snap judgments based upon the way they look, the way they are dressed, their overall cleanliness. Or, we hear what they have to say and the way they say it and we make a judgment.humiliation.” Is this a statement about wealth or something else?
James is pointing out the fact that in a spiritual sense, we all come to the same place before God. For those who have nothing, God reaches out to lift up and love the “least of these.” For those who fall into a temptation of wealth as a god (with the little g), God shows what it means to lose all of our shame, guilt, etc., to be built up again in love.
James challenges us to see the world in a new way.
So, what about us? Our world is separated by nearly 2000 years of time. Yet, we still have some of the same very issues today. We still compare our lives to others. We still have those among us who are the “least of these.” We still lift up and celebrate the “blessed of the blessed.” There’s still appeal in star power, fame and fortune.
We have the “haves” and the “have nots.” Those classifications exist in the overall society and we still have those classifications in the church. We still make excuses about why we compare our lives to the lives of others.
So, maybe in our world, those words of James still are speaking just as loudly as they did when they were written.
Whether you are the one who should be taking pride in your humble circumstances or the one who should be taking pride in your humilation, there is hope. In the end, all of the stuff, the material possessions, the wealth, the lack of wealth, the lack of stuff — all of it — will no longer be a factor. In the end, all that will matter is Christ.
And when it comes to Jesus, there is abslutely no comparision.
All-loving God, open our eyes to the world around us. Expose to us our biases and show us the ones that we might otherwise ignore. God help us to know that in you, we are all equals in need of your love, grace and mercy. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
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