Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
So we pick right up from where we left off. There's an interesting paradox here (obviously). And we all know how much Bible writers like a good paradox to mix things up...
The "lowly" man is the one rejoicing. Why? Why would he rejoice when he encounters trials of many kinds? Oh, yes. Wait a minute... We've seen this before.
James is coming back to the first thought: trials ultimately lead to being perfect and complete - a reason for joy, yes?
The rich man cannot attain this sense of perfection and completeness that we as humans are designed for.
It is an important journey that we have made so far to understand this. Normally, I think we as Christians have this belief when we read verse 2 and 3 that is simple - like "God will work out all the bad things, so be happy that He does that." Now we understand the verse means so much more than that. Without these trials we cannot become all that we are supposed to be. Rejoice when you face trials! You're on the right track!
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those that love him.
The "crown of life." Interesting. It's as if trials are a test to see whether or not we will gain this special sort of life. Perhaps one of completeness...
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one, But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
James seems to be combating some sort of worldview or widely held belief that God tempts us. Ironically, I think most Christians today more or less do believe that.
The other thing I notice here is that James uses this metaphor to express what sin ultimately brings about: death. This is a polar opposite of what he has been talking about up until this point. That's probably important.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
The way James refers to God is different here. There is a creational (not a real word) tint to his language now. It's almost as if he's saying, "All these wonderful things come from the God who created everything to begin with - even light!"
Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
This creation idea continues. James is suggesting that the God from the previous verse (that really big, unchanging God) not only makes good things, but He has in fact designed humans with a purpose out of His will. He wants us for something. That's huge!
I mean really when you think about it. We've clearly already started to grasp how big this Creator God is, and yet He desires us to do something. What exactly? To be a "kind of firstfruits of his creatures."
So where do we go with this? I think the question starts with, "What does it mean to be a firstfruit of creation?" Well, I know that this question forces us to look at Eden. A place of perfection. A place of completeness. There was no emptiness. Only wholesome community and fellowship.
I feel this is a good place to sort of end this section. We get the idea. We know the thesis of James' letter. We're on the right track. And although we're going to start a slightly altered discussion with James now, these ideas will come back. We must remember the purpose of the writing. We must remember that James desires us to be "perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."