Why would James say “the rich in his humiliation?” Many rich people have money and power enough to avoid significant humiliation in this world. In Jesus’ and James’ day, most thought the rich were blessed, and today, many think the same.
Jesus gave us a great parable on this subject. Remember that James was Jesus’ brother, so I wonder if James heard Jesus say, “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops… 18 he said, ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’” (Luke 12:16, 18-20, NLT). Jesus brought the punchline: “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God” (Luke 12:21, NLT).
This is serious fuel for thought for everyone, because James says, “For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes” (v. 11, NKJV). James is not referring to crops, but to the human soul. Our earthly end may come sooner than we expect, and what we have cannot accompany us, but only the memory of how we used it. This is something that God keeps excellent records on, and, sadly enough, many are oblivious to that fact when they leave this world.
God doesn’t want anyone to be humiliated. He wants to exalt us—doesn’t that sound amazing, but it is true! Jesus told the story of a Pharisee and a tax collector—both of whom were typically wealthy in Jesus’ day: “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like… like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:11‑14 NIV)
We are all poor in spirit, but the good news is that Christ has paid the debt that our sins have piled up, and now we are free, blessed, with only one debt remaining: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8, NIV). Whether you’re rich, or poor, or somewhere in-between, the call is to share the love of Christ. We can do that in a material way, but that’s not the only way. Let us give serious thought to how we can share the love of Jesus, with what God has given us, in the station of life that He has called us to.