Verse: James 1:9-11
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wildflower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
The act of being humble, per Merriam-Webster, is defined as not being proud, haughty, arrogant or assertive. The description stands out to me because it’s how we shouldn’t behave. Interestingly enough, verse 9 tells us that we are to act out of humility based on our life happenings, and as a result of said reserved behavior, we can take pride. A prideful nature sounds outward to me, but it doesn’t have to be an observable expression. We can take heart and feel good about our actions when we have acted in humility.
Then the verses become a bit prickly. Upon first reading verse 10, I felt uneasy. Humiliation, or feeling ashamed, is not fun. What type of wealth are we talking about here? How much is too much? Surely this doesn’t apply to us, right? Riches are a relative term, and contemplation led me to dig deeper and brought me to perspective and priorities. Scripture says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). What is the focus of my “riches”?
This phrase, coined by Theodore Roosevelt, resonates with me. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Oftentimes, the pursuit of wealth is driven by the need to climb to the top, to have more than the person next door, and to fulfill the insatiable desire for the latest and greatest treasures. Avoiding the act of comparing myself to others is rather challenging. It is so easy to do subliminally. Access to social media can be dangerous. Am I scrolling from the lense of a cheerleader or a griper? I struggle with this. My inner dialogue can sound like, “I can’t possibly do that, have that, or be that.” Maybe it’s a bunch of questions to God that sound like, “When will I have that, be given this, achieve that?”
Let’s come back to verse 11, “…the rich will fade away while they go about their business.” Ouch. I am convicted to examine my perspective. How is my generosity with my money and my time? Am I quick to go about my business or stop to see my neighbor in need? Am I too busy worrying about what I don’t have (yet) to see what I can do for those around me?
The pursuit of riches does not necessarily yield happiness. Feeling true, inner joy, comes from Jesus. It does not come from things. Sounds like a fairly easy concept, but the application is rather difficult. Acquisition of riches are a fleeting feeling. Pursuing Jesus, seeking others, and offering genuine care is where we will find great joy.
Jesus, I pray we will catch ourselves when we are tempted to compare. Humility can be rather abstract; please help us to be more like you. When we are slow to speak or act, we are more easily able to channel your humble and calm nature. Let us focus on your promises instead of the world’s riches.
Author: Megan Ahern