Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
Money has always been a source of temptation, and no society in history has reveled in wealth as much as America. That’s why these words, written by a poor Jewish man 2,000 years ago, land so heavily in our hearts. There is a connection between our attitude toward money and how we deal with all the various temptations we face. Are we willing to trust God in all things, from our spiritual lives to our financial standing?
James’ words about the poor and the rich makes us uncomfortable. That’s probably the point. Jesus said some hard things about money and wealth also, and how we read these words is conditioned by our own experience of living in a wealthy society – even if you don’t consider yourself among “the rich.” Again, money is a temptation, and whether you have a little or a lot, these verses point us to the undeniable truth that, as the old saying goes, you can’t take it with you. Worldly possessions only have value in this world, but we are continuously tempted to think and act as though money had real, lasting value. As James points out, all temptations arise from our desires that entice us to pursue temporary gratification or worldly success at the expense of following Jesus in faith. Whether you are tempted by money or by less material things, we all face hard choices that impact our hearts. Every temptation is a choice set before us, not by God, but by the world and our own desires. James makes the consequences of these choices clear: will you follow Jesus to life or follow your sinful desires to death?
The good news in this passage is that God blesses us when we endure testing and resist temptation. God is pleased when we choose to follow Jesus instead of chasing after the shiny lures of wealth and selfish gratification. It’s hard to say no when everyone else seems to be saying yes, but God sees the choices you make. He sees how you use your financial resources. He sees how you invest your time. He sees which relationships you value. He sees what you give up and what you hold dear. And God promises to add his blessing to all the good choices you make.
Father, You are good and wise. Help me to know what is right and give me strength to follow Your wisdom instead of the temptations I face. Forgive me for falling for the world’s lies. Lead me back to the path You know is best, as I seek to follow Jesus each day. I pray in His good and gracious name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian