9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
It seems as though James as suddenly shifted gears when we begin reading this passage. He was just talking about trusting in God and not being double minded and in the next line mentions the difference between the humble (it appears here the use of the word is to mean poor) and the rich. However, on second look, it seems to me James is using the comparison of rich and poor to illustrate his point. The first thing I noticed is that he says both people will “glory” in their circumstance. How can this be?
The point is taking joy in the trials. The brother of humble circumstances will “glory” in his circumstance because even though he is poor, he perseveres and in the end will be in glory. This is the “perfect and complete” James mentioned in verse 4. Likewise, we look at the rich man. How can a person “glory” in a circumstance compared to flowering grass that will pass away? Let’s not think about the man himself, but rather his attitude on life. In the hardship that would likely bring about humiliation (as mentioned in verse 10) we can look at it as if it diminishes the proud heart of the rich man. In the end, he no longer has the heart of a rich man, rather he too is now in a humble circumstance. What is the moral of this 3 verse story? We see it in verse 12.
It is noted in my study bible that references to receiving a crown in the bible are to represent blessings or heavenly rewards. This is what happens when we persevere under trial. The comforting thing in the comparison between rich and poor tells us that this is available for EVERYONE. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your life situation is, you will be subjected to tests and trials. By design they are for us to persevere with God’s strength and oversight so that we may be refined into His purpose for our lives. We hear these stories in the testimonies of people who tell their life story. Everyone has a story of God in their lives. This is the story of humility and hardship that God carries us through as a pathway to peace. That peace is in Jesus Christ.
Sometimes the pathway is a way to finding Christ. Other times we have already accepted Christ, but the pathway helps us understand the importance of our relationship with Him. The pathway is different for everyone, but the destination is the same. Too often we get scared and try to turn around along the way or we just stop and refuse to go any further.
Where are you in your pathway? If you’ve stopped, why have you? If you’ve turned around, what has made you do so? These are the things in our lives that God has put there to show you that you must rely on Him to get you through.