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Author:Rev. David Stares
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Masterton
 New Zealand
 rcmasterton.co.nz
 
Title:Is Humiliation Enough Glory?
Text:James 1:9-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2019-09-22
Added:2023-01-09
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

AM Service
Song Before the Service... 87
Silent Prayer
Praise
*Call to Worship
*Vow and Greeting
*Song of Praise...76
Confession of Faith
Reading of the Law: Exodus 20
Song of Confession: 449
Assurance of Pardon: Luke 18: 9-14
*Song of Thanksgiving: 269
Prayer
Congregational Prayer
Gratitude
Tithes and Offerings
*Offertory Prayer
*Song of Preparation...119: 9-16
Word
Reading: Luke 6:20-36; James 1:1-11
Text: James 1: 9-11
Sermon: Is Humiliation Enough Glory?
*Song of Response...285
*Blessing
*Doxology...368

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. David Stares, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


James 1:9-11 Manuscript

Well, you might recall that the readers of this letter were dispersed throughout the world. They were forced to leave all for the sake of Jesus Christ. And the reality is that when you go somewhere with nothing, you become vulnerable. If you move to a new place and you have money, you may not know the language or the customs, but at the very least you know you won’t go hungry or homeless. But, without money, you have no security.

And acknowledging this, we need to ask ourselves the question: are we willing to give up our security? Are we willing to be poor, to be oppressed, to abandon the comforts of this life? To find ourselves experiencing the humiliation of Jesus?

Because the wealth and praise of this world is fading, we will be content with experiencing the humiliation of Jesus.

1. The Boast of the Poor

2. The Boast of the Wealthy

3. The Fate of Wealth

1. The Boast of the Poor

Well, James has had a focus in the beginning of this letter on what needs to be known. They need to know what God is doing in their trials, they need to know what steadfastness produces in them, and they need to have wisdom. There is a problem with the instability of the double minded man. But ultimately the goal is to be the wise people of God.

And part of the wisdom that they need is to understand what the current text has to teach. V.9.

What this expresses is the first part of the great reversal that takes place in the church. Here it begins by pointing to a brother, meaning a member of the church. And it describes him as being of ‘humble circumstances.’ And this is a helpful reflection of James’s meaning here. He’s describing someone who is low down on the social ladder. Someone who doesn’t have a lot of wealth, a lot of influence, a lot of respect. They are disadvantaged in more ways than one.

And with this statement we see an implicit repudiation of what is called the ‘prosperity gospel.’ The prosperity gospel is preached throughout the world, and its main message is that ‘God wants to bless you.’ And that this blessing is a material blessing. They say, “God doesn’t want you to be poor. If only you have faith, you will receive the blessing of God.” Now, sadly, quite often these prosperity gospel preachers tie someone’s faith in God to a donation to their personal ministry, promising that if they plant this seed, it will produce financial fruit for the believer.

And yes, that seems to be pretty obvious scam tactics, but many people have been swindled by the prosperity gospel, as these preachers sinfully misuse the name of God for their scam. There can be little doubt that he will not take such an abuse of his name lightly. Shai Linne (Pronounced: Shy Lynn) accurately says that “If you come to Jesus for money, then he’s not your God, money is.” And the preachers of the prosperity gospel show who their God is especially when we see how out of step they are with the way the Bible speaks about wealth.

Because our text does not say, ‘let the brother of humble circumstances believe a little more and God will give them more wealth and status!’ No, our text says that the poor Christian needs to glory in that circumstance because it is a high position. And here we can see one of the reasons why we can be so sure that this James is James the brother of Jesus, because of how indebted he is to the things that Jesus taught. This won’t be the last time we see this in the book of James. But you may remember the words of Jesus in Luke 6: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh….” The poor are the ones who are blessed. You can see then where James finds the confidence to speak of th high position of the poor.

Unlike the world’s view, there is no shame in being a Christian of humble circumstances. We may not find ourselves needing to leave our homes and property for the sake of the gospel. But, we should expect that in a number of ways, as Christians we will be sacrificing for the sake of Christ, because we don’t make use of the full variety of ways that the world uses to make money. We worship on the Sabbath rather than work. We tithe to the church and we support other ministries. We prioritize family and church community, so we can’t go just anywhere to live and work. We recognize that part of being a disciple of Jesus means sacrificing financially.

But we sacrifice because we have the perspective of eternity. That we sacrifice for the one who sacrificed all for us, and that prioritizing his kingdom here stores up treasure in heaven.

2. The Boast of the Wealthy

The issue is, perhaps, that many of us find it hard to identify with that phrase, the brother of humble circumstances. I know there are a number of people here who cannot identify themselves, or be identified as being of humble circumstances. People who own a home, or multiple homes, who own a vehicle or multiple vehicles, who own a business or multiple businesses.

And if that’s the case, then the next verse is for you. This might not be immediately obvious based on the way the English is rendered, but in the Greek, the term ‘rich’ is connected to brother. Now, elsewhere James is going to talk about the wealthy outside the church, but here, he seems to be addressing the wealth disparity in the church. v.10.

And the point here is that, if the wealthy man is to find any glory, then that glory can only come from humiliation. This is actually the same word as the one used to describe the poor man. But now, the glory of the rich man can only come from becoming like the poor man.

But what rich man would become like a poor man? This is precisely the question that our world would ask. One question people like to ask politicians is: what is the price of milk? Something that your average person knows, and that the poor people in society live or die by. In fact, in the 2020 election, this was asked to both Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins, and both got it wrong.[1] And when a politician or celebrity doesn’t know the price of those basic things it can show that they are out of touch with the people who vote for them. And the reason for this is that the wealthy rarely take a moment to empathize with the plight of those less well off. Poor people play the opposite game, what would it be like to be rich? If I had a million dollars, what would I do? But the rich of this world don’t dream of being in humble circumstances. They don’t think about, ‘what would it be like to live on minimum wage in a flat full mold?’ Nor would they glory in being put in humble circumstances.

So, what does it mean to glory in our humiliation? It means that there must be a change in attitude in the heart of a wealthy believer. The world glories in wealth. But what must the believer glory in? Christ! And to find one’s glory in Christ is to find glory in humiliation. It means to abandon pride and humble yourself before a holy God. It is to glory in the one that the world considers to be foolishness, the foolishness of a crucified Saviour. It means to identify yourself not as rich, nor with the community of the wealthy and powerful, but with the community that serves the king of kings, but that also imitates that king. The king who took the form of a bondservant to serve those who were helpless. If that is the kind of king we serve then we also have a clear picture of how we should glory in humiliation.

The point is not that all those who are wealthy are condemned, but that those who are wealthy need to decide where they want their identity to rest. And if you say: I want my identity to rest in Christ, then that needs to affect how you view and use your wealth. As John says in 1 John 3: “Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” Or as the wealthy Zacchaeus does in Luke 19, giving half his wealth to the poor. This is not the way the world handles their wealth, but a follower of Jesus imitates jesus in the way they use their money. Sacrificing it for the needs of others.

3. The Fate of Wealth

And if that is not sitting well with you, then James has a metaphor for you. v.10b-11. And this draws on something that would have been common in Palestine, where these wild grasses would spring up and the blazing midday sun would cause the flower to whither. Leaving the grass withered and dead. Well, the fact is that the same thing happens to each and every one of us. Life is fleeting, and life can be cut short.

And for the wealthy man, that life can be full of outward glory, of nice clothes, cars and posts on Instagram. But that comes to an end. Danger, illness and death are not only the part of the poor, but it is the wealthy who seem to be the most sheltered from them. Until they, too are struck. Before they expected it, as our text tells us, right in the middle of his pursuits. The sun rises high, the hot winds blow, and they wither. The beauty is gone.

The fact is that politicians, movie stars, and the pillars of our local communities. They will all die. Both rich and poor end up in the grave, where all their wealth benefits them nothing. Their life is doomed for destruction, their empires doomed to be divided and crumble. And if that is the foundation of their lives, they will soon learn what a poor foundation these idols are! The passing things of this world.

Wealth is not a hope for this life, because moth and rust destroys, as Jesus says, and thieves break in and steal.

But of course, there is much more than just earthly destruction in view here. This earth is not eternal. You may have a massive investment portfolio, businesses named after you, or people cheering your name, but all the glory that this world has to offer will fade at the second coming of Jesus Christ. Then it will all be wiped away to make way for the new heavens and the new earth! When the king of glory will reign unopposed and all the power and honour of this world will be shown for the trifles they are. So then essentially, we are given a choice: do we want to identify with our wealth, or in any other way that this world values, or do we want to be identified with Christ? Do we build our security on what is fleeting and doomed, or on the eternal treasure secured by Jesus himself. If choose the former, the woes of Luke 6 apply you “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”

The call for the church, no matter the size of your bank account is to see yourself as who you are in Jesus.

If you are of humble means, influence, or status, this means that you can rest content because you are loved by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. You are included in the family of God for the sake of Christ, and he pours out his riches on you as you await your glory.

If you are wealthy, it means humbling yourselves and recognizing the idolatry that naturally lives in your hearts. It means seeking the needs and interests of others, and sacrificing to provide for them. And it means being eager to be identified with and reflect the sacrificial suffering king who died for you.

You see, the picture of the church is not like the world, where the wealthy rejoice and the poor weep. It is one where we all rejoice, because we have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus.

 

 

[1] https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/10/nz-election-2020-jacinda-ardern-and-judith-collins-guess-prices-of-common-household-items.html




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. David Stares, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. David Stares

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