If I have everything, Our Lord must be more.
If I have nothing, he must be enough.
James 1: 9 “The brother in lowly circumstances should take pride in his high standing,”
Verses 9-11 kind of all go together: poor person, rich person, and flowers in the sun. First, right here in verse 9, is the poor person. The question? How should they feel about things?
Some translations have this word, that literally means “humble”, translated as poor. There’s a good reason for that. In the Greek, the words for “the one in lowly circumstances” are “ὁ ταπεινὸς”. If you’ve read me for a while you know how I love me some Greek. And now for the pronouncing.
“ὁ ταπεινὸς” – “the one in lowly circumstances”
is pronounced ho topinos
with the accent on the colored part,
and always pronounced like a Greek Chef.
Seriously, say it few times, and you’re speakin’ Greek!
So why is “poor”, a not so bad translation, for a word that usually means “humble”? Because context tells me that “humble in circumstance” is really what James is conveying with these words. Humble in circumstance means poor. And James has a pretty obvious contrast thing going on in these verses – the poor, contrasted with the “rich”, only one sentence away.
Here’s a little about me.
My circumstances have been better in my life. They’ve been worse too. I’m content – but if I look around at other people – and start to compare – there goes the contentment. Right now, and this is not easy for a man to admit, I’d be classified with this group – the poor – not with rich ones.
The shrinking away I feel, when I compare with others, is actually a good thing. The comparison game the world provides us with is nasty. There is always someone with more. There is always someone to be jealous of.
I find that this shrinking away I feel when I look around is humbling. I need humble. I was once arrogant, and sometimes, even in my lowly circumstance, arrogance tries to make a comeback. And it’s far better to be humble.
So do I like the rougher circumstances?
Do we need to ask?
But I like what being in the lowly circumstances does to my spirit. It puts it in the “high spiritual position”. To be rich, and yet remain in the spiritual “high position” – well there’s a person who has it right.
But with little or nothing, the circumstances bring me low, no trying necessary. So like it or no – it’s blessed.
It’s better to be humble.
It’s more like Our Lord.
And that’s what I want.
So really, the being poor? Not so bad.
James is onto this fact. He’s a guy brimming with wisdom. I’m on board with him. I didn’t used to be. But I know now that being reduced has given me wisdom. I can name that tune, because I’ve lived it. I know that James is right.
So is it kind of a blessing to be poor? It’s written in the Gospel of Luke, “Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
I know this
I know for fact
that it is kind of a blessing
to be poor,
because there are fewer things
between me and God.
And I need fewer things between me and God. If I had more, would I be wise enough to keep God between me and all those things? Other people might have to answer that question right now.
I may have to at some time.
But I don’t have to now,
because I’m one of those lucky poor.
And right now, I’m not feeling too bad about it.
Thank you James.