RICH MAN, POOR MAN
Text: James 1:9-11
“Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: but the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace and fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”
There must have been a problem in the churches James was writing to: the poor were envying the rich and looking down on themselves, and the rich were looking down on and oppressing the poor (c.f., Jas. 2:1-4). This is certainly the result of failing to think spiritually, not realizing that in Christ rich and poor are equal (Gal. 3:26-28).
1. POOR, BUT EXALTED BECAUSE:
A. He Has New Life.
Or to be more precise, he has eternal life (1 John 5:11-13). Others may be billionaires, but we are eternitillionaires! What are billions or even trillions compared to eternal life? (Mark 8:36-37)
B. He Has a New Status.
He is a child of God (John 1:12, 13; 1 John 3:1-2) and an heir of the kingdom (Romans 8:16-18; 1 Cor. 2:9; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; Eph. 1:3, 6, 7, 18; Lk 12:32).
C. He Has a New Wisdom (1 Cor. 1:19-21, 26-31; 2: 9-10, 14-16; Col. 2:3)
2. RICH, BUT HUMBLE BECAUSE:
A. Riches Don’t Last (Prov. 27:23-24; 1 Tim. 6:1). And even if you manage to die a very rich man, you can’t take your riches with you (Ecc. 5: 17).
B. Riches Can’t Save You. It can’t save you in the here and now in the sense that riches do not guarantee happiness (Ecc. 4:7-8; Ecc. 6:1-2). And it certainly can’t save you in the hereafter (Luke 12:15-20).
C. Riches Can Create Problems (1 Tim. 6:9-10).
There was once a family that used to be very faithful in attending church and serving God. But in time they became very, very rich. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a blessing turned out to be a curse. They became addicted to gambling and sex, and in the end they practically lost everything. Riches can even keep you from Christ (Luke 18:18-25). That’s why it might not be a good idea to ask God to make you rich (Prov. 30:8-9). And that’s why we should be learn to be content with what we have (Heb. 13:5).
In spite of all we’ve just learned the truth is most of us, if not all of us, will find it very difficult to rejoice in the midst of poverty or to be humble in the midst of wealth. Our hearts, whether we are rich or poor, are just too attached to riches. We think it can save us, we think it can elevate us, and we think it can make us happy. In other words, it’s a God-substitute; it’s an idol. But there is one person who was willing let go of all his riches and deliberately became poor, and he did so for our sakes. He is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Cor. 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
If you are a poor Christian today, please realize that in reality you are unimaginably rich in Christ – rich in eternal life, rich in grace, rich in forgiveness, rich in hope, rich in terms of all spiritual blessings. But please don’t forget that if ever you possess all these spiritual riches it is because Christ became poor for your sakes. He gave up everything – even his very life – in order for you to become a child of God and an heir of the kingdom. Show your faith and gratitude towards him by rejoicing in the midst of your poverty, since you know that the sufferings of this present time, including your poverty, are not worth comparing to the spiritual riches you now have, and the glory you shall someday have.
If you are a rich Christian, remember that Christ became poor in order that others might become rich. Riches were entrusted to you not in order for you to gorge yourself or to spend your life wallowing in luxury and pleasure, but in order for you to bless others, especially the poor.
And if you are not a Christian today, whether you are rich or poor according to the standards of this world, the fact is you are poor beyond reckoning, you are not rich towards God, you are clothed in the filthy rags of your own righteousness. I urge you to come to the Lord Jesus Christ and confess to him your spiritual poverty. Tell him that you need forgiveness. Ask him to save you and to give you eternal life. Ask him into your heart and receive him as your Lord and Savior. And if you do so then John 1:12 says, “As many as received him to them gave he the power to become children of God.” And after you have done so, then you are now a child of God, an heir of his kingdom, then and only then can you claim to be truly rich.