One of the basic themes of James’ letter is that God exalts the poor and humbles the rich. Why does he do that? It’s so only the humble can boast. Think about that for a second. When we allow God to work in our lives and give God the credit for what we have accomplished, our whole mindset shifts. Who gets the glory? Certainly not us, and rightly so.
Even Paul was clear on this. He told us he was glad to boast about his weaknesses because that showed God at work when he overcame times of adversity. Our text here in James is using the example of being poor and rich. James may be recalling Psalm 49:6 which reads, “They trust in their wealth and boast of great riches.” Think about some wealthy people you know. Do they humble themselves before God and give God the credit for their abundance? Or are they more like the one described by the psalmist?
Keep in mind that our reading today comes from the Preacher’s closing remarks. As such, we encounter those important “last-minute details” we mustn’t overlook. These few verses handle three hot-button items: Marriage, Sex, and Money.
Times haven’t changed that much because we could agree those are highly relevant topics still today. What wisdom can we glean for ourselves?
Paul’s parting words to close out his first letter to Timothy share great wisdom. While he is using the example of a rich person, I realize not everybody has great riches. In fact, there is more poverty in this world than wealth. If you have healthy bank accounts, Paul’s message should surely resonate with you!
Several readings ago, Paul spoke of being careful of the evil money can evoke. It’s not the money that is evil, it can be used for good. So, Paul encourages Timothy, “Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.” We have all known very generous people, but also seen those who keep all their wealth to themselves.
Look around your community. Do you see big houses in one area and smaller, run-down ones in another area? We do see that clear division between people based on their economic standing. God’s love and mercy is available for all, the rich and the poor!
Where’s the wealth? Paul suggests we are wealthy simply by being believers who will inherit the kingdom. “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” Ponder that verse for just a moment. You may need to put aside your current financial needs for just a moment lest they interfere with your feeling the enormous blessing you have as a follower of Jesus. Great wealth indeed!
God’s economy presented here to the Israelites seems to be very generous. If you are in debt to another, that debt is cancelled every seven years. From the reading, it appears the cycle is the same for everyone (except foreigners). On a given day, all debts with other Israelites are forgiven and life goes on. Can you imagine doing business like that?
God’s promised blessing was for those who obeyed. Who wouldn’t want to obey God to have their debts forgiven every seven years? I realize I’m writing these words in a time when the economy has taken a big hit from a pandemic. Many are wondering how they are going to make their mortgage payments and car payments. They are watching their credit card debt skyrocket. Oh, to have a year of release coming up would be like answered prayer! Some communities around the world are doing something to lessen the financial blow by not expecting payments for rent or other debts, no interest or penalty charges to be applied, and so forth. That will be a huge relief to many.