The Book of James, Part 8:
Accept a Lower Place
Last week we identified that James has three "A" instructions for us in the early part
of the first chapter of James.
We identified that all three of these are aspects of how we should lean (rely) on
God, although that is the opposite of what most of us want to do. We want to rely
on ourselves, and if that fails, give up and ask God for help. Contrary to what
Ted Turner says, we are not our savior, Jesus is.
- Ask God For Wisdom (1:5-8)
- Accept a Lower Place (1:9-10)
- Appreciate What Really Lasts (1:11)
We got a good start on:
1. Ask God For Wisdom (1:5-8)
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all
generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must
ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of
the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect
that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man,
unstable in all his ways. --James 1:5-8
We found that what James was really saying was, "You know as well as I do that not a single one
of you has wisdom, so ask God."
Then we contrasted knowledge and wisdom. The world has a lot more knowledge
today than in the past, but it has not led to wisdom. Wisdom comes only from
God. Based on the Proverbs verses we looked at and the definition of the Hebrew
word translated as wisdom, I suggested that wisdom is the practical application
of God's Word to daily living. Wisdom is knowing how to lead your life like God
wants you to live it. If we had that wisdom, things would go a lot smoother.
Bud raised the issue from Proverbs 1:7 where knowledge is referenced.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
The Hebrew word here is da'ath which means knowledge. So that does not get us
around the discussion last week of the difference between knowledge and
wisdom. However, if you look at this verse in context, you will see that the
topic is wisdom, not knowledge.
Fools despise wisdom
and instruction. --Proverbs 1:7
To know wisdom and instruction,
I think the writer is saying that the beginning of wise knowledge is acknowledging
God. So I don't think it undercuts our discussion about wisdom is the secret, not
To discern the sayings of
To receive instruction in wise behavior,
justice and equity;
To give prudence to the naive,
To the youth knowledge
A wise man will hear and increase in learning,
And a man of
understanding will acquire wise counsel,
To understand a proverb and a figure,
words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of
Fools despise wisdom and instruction. --Proverbs 1:2-7
In Today's Lesson: James continues with the Ask God instruction with:
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God... --James 1:5
Ask -- The Greek word here is aiteo and can be translated ask, request,
[even] beg. This word reminds us of God's authority. When we come to God, we
ask. We don't demand; we don't insist.
What are some positive results of praying ("asking God") in our lives?
Prayer is an unnatural activity. From birth we have been learning the rules of
self-reliance as we strain and struggle to achieve self-sufficiency. Prayer flies
in the face of those deep-seated values. It is an assault on human autonomy, an
indictment of independent living. To people in the fast lane, determined to make
it on their own, prayer is an embarrassing interruption. Prayer is alien to our
proud human nature.
- We recognize that it is God who is in control, not us.
- We start to follow God, not try to lead him.
- Prayer prepares us to accept God's decision.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God... --James 1:4
Where do you go for wisdom for living this life?
That's a great question. Where do most people go?
James tells us that we need to develop the habit of going to God. Two practical
ways we can do this are:
"...who gives generously ... will be given -- These phrases really emphasize the grace of
God. Wisdom is not earned by us, it's given by God.
- prayer, (as we're told in this verse) and
- His Word.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all
generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. --James 1:5
Then James throws a ringer at us.
But he must ask in faith without any doubting... --James 1:6
What do you think doubt is?
It's interesting that every Gospel includes warnings by Jesus related to doubting Him:
Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said
to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" --Matthew 14:31
Here's what I think James is saying here: You must firmly believe
that God and God alone is the one reliable source of wisdom.
We must be convinced of this in order to follow through with our commitment to
do everything God tells us to do in His Word.
When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. --Matthew 28:17
Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, "Be taken up and
cast into the sea," and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he
says is going to happen, it will be granted him. --Mark 11:23
And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise
in your hearts?" --Luke 24:38
Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My
hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be
unbelieving, but believing." --John 20:27
But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts
is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. --James 1:6
Doubt paralyzes us. Doubt causes us to be tossed back and forth. We're not sure
what to do or what to believe.
James wants us to understand how important faith is to daily living. The words
"faith" and "believe" are used 19 times in the Book of James.
When James talks about faith here, he's talking about faith in the fundamental
character of God. Back in v.5, we're given a promise that God answers prayers
and answers them generously. James tells us here that we need to be confident,
not doubting the goodness or generosity of God.
So the first "A" instruction from James is to Ask God. The second "A" instruction is to:
2. Accept A Lower Place (1:9-10)
But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high
position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like
flowering grass he will pass away. --James 1:9-10
So another way we can rely on the Lord is by accepting our place in life.
How many people do you think have a measure of disappointment with some aspect
of their life?
A common experience is to feel that we don't have enough, financially.
How many of us feel like our lives would be better if we only had more money?
We think, "If I had more money I'd be happier; if I had more money I'd be
better able to provide better for my family; if I had more money I'd be able
to do more for the God." But God doesn't need our money. He will always provide
all that we need, by His grace. Notice that I said need, not want.
James introduces a subject here that he will focus on in more detail in
Chapter 2 -- the economic diversity among Christians. When James wrote this
letter in about 47 A.D., there were rich and poor Christians in the same churches -
just like today.
It's important for us to notice that both here and in chapter 2, James never
suggests that God's plan is for all Christians to be on the same plane
financially. He never suggests that poverty is the consequence of some spiritual
failing or lack of faith (as some "Christian" speakers suggest today), or
that wealth is a sign of great faith.
Have you ever considered that economic diversity among believers serves the
purposes of God? God's plan is to "scatter" His people throughout
And He said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the
kingdom." --Matthew 13:37-38
One of the most effective ways that God can "scatter" us is financially. Think
about how finances determine where we live and what we do. If you have Christians
who are all over the financial spectrum, top to bottom, then you'll have
Christians living in neighborhoods all over the city.
But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position. --James 1:9
What do you think James means by what he says in this verse?
Our tendency is to define ourselves by our finances. Our culture tends to esteem
wealthy people and ignore the poor. But James gives us wonderful news - that even
the poorest of the poor have a "high position" in God's eyes, if they belong to
Him. Believers may be desperately poor in this life but all of us are immeasurably
rich in eternity!
Years ago I worked in the Bellamah Corporation. For 30 or so years, Bellamah
built thousands of small houses in many different cities, but most of them were
"starter houses", for the first time homebuyer. Dale Bellamah was quoted as saying,
God surely loves poor people, because he made so many of them.
A theme throughout the New Testament is that the servant is greater than the
master. Jesus came to serve. We are also told that wealth can be a great obstacle
to a relationship with God.
"Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of
a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples
heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" And
looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible, but with God
all things are possible." --Matthew 19:24-26
You can take several messages from these verses.
Meanwhile back to the verse at hand.
- Wealth cannot get you to heaven, only God can. That is the easy message.
- Wealth is likely to impede a relationship with God, because it is a distraction
and can lead to self-sufficiency. But, God can overcome that also.
A great passage on our "high position" in Christ is in Ephesians 1. Scattered in
verses 3 through 18 you find:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has
blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places... --verse 3
What a comfort to know that, no matter what happens in this life, we have the
wonderful hope of all of this in eternity! Now that is a high position.
He predestined us to adoption as sons --verse 5
In Him we have redemption … according to the riches of His grace --verse 7
...so that you will know … the riches of the glory of His inheritance --verse 18
...and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering
grass he will pass away. --James 1:10
I think James is emphasizing, by contrast, the brevity of wealth in this life.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust
destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not
break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
True wealth, stored in heaven is eternal but the material possessions and wealth
of this life are brief and fleeting.
But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from
now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those
who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they
did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and
those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the
form of this world is passing away. --1 Corinthians 7:29-31
C. S. Lewis wrote, "One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may
be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give and so fail to
realize your need for God. If everything seems to come simply by signing checks,
you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on God."
Do not weary yourself to gain wealth,
Cease from your consideration of
When you set your eyes on it, it is gone.
For wealth certainly makes itself
Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens. --Proverbs 23:4-5
Next week, we will deal with James' third "A" instruction, to Appreciate What