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The theme of James 1:9-11, as we tried to show yesterday, is reversal. The current oppressive conditions of the poor will be overturned by an act of God and the oppressors will be brought before the bar of the Lord and they will be found wanting. The poor will be vindicated. Hence:
9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For
the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom
falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will
fade away even while he goes about his business.
One of the most common problems in the earliest churches, especially the messianist communities, was suffering. And not all of this was because they were messianist. Some of it was just bad years of famine. Still, a text like Acts 8:1 is the sort of thing we are thinking about: “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at
Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea
and Samaria.” James sees something bigger because he addresses the scattered in the diaspora (which is not Judea or Samaria). So, these messianists were in need of wisdom, and James provides it here.
What James believes in is Justice — final justice. He means God will make things right — those who have been wronged will be restored to their rightful place. Those who have wronged others will be put in their place.
The poor will be put into a “high position” and the rich will be put into a “low position.” These are terms of reversal, and they could refer to earthly judgments or to eternal judgments. The ending of vs. 11 gives off the strong scent of an eternal judgment (perishing) so I tend to think he is talking about the final judgment before God.
Two questions: Do you think this text addresses the issue of universalism? (How so?) Do you think this text suggests passive waiting for an act of God to establish justice?