REJOICE IN EQUALITY
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 of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
Never do you see the winner of the Publisher's House Sweepstakes sad and distraught when they open their front door to the messengers sent to notify them of being selected to receive the million dollar reward. Occasionally we observe newsmen filming, and interviewing, winners of various lotteries. Never do we see them sorrowful to receive the millions of dollars given to them in a gigantic check. They are elated to receive those winnings even after deducting a large amount for income tax purposes. Many, even most, of these winners appear to come from a lowly status in life - some below what the government classifies as, poverty level. The same could be said of one that received a large fortune from the will of an unknown relative or benefactor. This reaction has universal acceptance. We all understand the elated rejoicing of one receiving sudden wealth. We understand because it is a reaction found in human nature.
This seems to be sense of verse 9 of our lesson text, if studied alone, and out of context. However, when studied with the following verse, we would probably come to a different conclusion. Verse 10 says that the rich man should rejoice in that he is made low. From a worldly standpoint, this is not the reaction to be expected by a person that has just suffered financial ruin. The materialistic view says that coming into wealth brings joy, but there is no joy in suddenly becoming poverty-stricken. Yet James is teaching us in these verses that both the poor being exalted, and the rich being made low, are to rejoice. How can this be?
A closer examination of these verses infers that both the poor man and the rich man were Christians. The first is noted as a brother of low degree. By inference the rich man was also a brother in Christ. What does this indicate? It tells us that in Christ, all are equal. Neither poverty nor riches are barriers to becoming, and remaining,a Christian. The final reward for a life of obedience, of both the poor and the rich Christian, is the same. Neither will receive more or less than the other. Christianity is the great equalizer. Equality, then, is what brings joy into the lives of Christians.
Christian equality is demonstrated by Paul, the apostle, in his letter to Philemon. In this short epistle, Paul recognizes Philemon as a Christian brother, as dearly beloved, and as a fellow laborer. Philemon was such a strong Christian that volunteered to hold church services within his house (Vs. 2). Philemon's status in life is inferred to be a man of wealth, and having servants to maintain his household and his estate. Onesimus, described as an unprofitable servant, fled from servitude to Philemon, came to Paul, and was converted by Paul to Christianity. Now as a fellow Christian, Onesimus was referred to, by Paul, as a brother beloved (Vs16). As such, Onesimus was also a brother in Christ to Philemon. Paul convinced Onesimus to return to Philemon and to remain his servant. However, as fellow Christians, they were brothers, and equal in the sight of God. It is in this equality that we are taught to rejoice.
Those of low degree, the poor in worldly goods, are exalted - are raised up, in a spiritual sense, to be equal to all other faithful Christians. On the other hand, the rich, when they accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, and become a Christian, recognize that worldly riches have no eternal benefit. To accept this fact, the rich are made low, and must become a humble servant, to be pleasing in the sight of God. They must recognize that their material wealth, as well as their earthly ways, are only temporary, and will pass away, just as the grass withers and the flower thereof falleth under the heat of the sun.
Whether rich or poor in this world's goods, all Christians are spiritually equal. Heaven is the reward for all faithful Christians. Rejoice, and be glad in the equality found in Jesus Christ.