Money itself is not evil. The Bible says that it is the ‘love of money’ that often destroys many people. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 6 that some have strayed away from the faith because of their pursuit of more money. In addition, Paul also tells us that those who rely on their riches are trusting in things that are uncertain. Only God is certain and only He is able to provide us with what we need.
James echoes this thought with these words – “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: but the rich, in that he is made low…” James 1:9-10 KJV What is James telling us?
At first it seems as though James’ words are a contradiction. How can the person who is forced to live with little rejoice in that he has been exalted? James says this because this man’s exaltation does not come from the size of his bank account. He has not been exalted because he operates a Fortune 500 company. His exaltation comes from the fact that God is watching over him and will provide everything he needs. David once said – “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.” (Psalm 37:25 ESV) The poor believer can rejoice, not because he is poor, but because God has promised to provide for all of his needs. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 ESV)
Just as James tells the poor to rejoice in his exaltation, he also says “let the rich rejoice in his humiliation…” (James 1:10) Just as adversity can be beneficial for the poor, it can also beneficial for the prosperous. How so? Like Paul, James warns us about the uncertainty of riches.
…because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 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. ESV
Without trials and afflictions, the affluent man might begin to think that his wealth somehow provides him with security; yet James tells us that his wealth is no more secure than a flower that blooms in the morning and then wilts in the evening. Consider the story of the rich man who had to build bigger barns. “And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:19-21 ESV
Perhaps James’ intent with this counsel can best be summarized by this old saying – “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”