on James 1 :9
Let the brother of low degree - The poor, destitute Christian may glory in the cross of Christ, and the blessed hope laid up for him in heaven; for, being a child of God, he is an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ.
on James 1 :9
Let the brother of low degree - This verse seems to introduce a new topic, which has no other connection with what precedes than that the apostle is discussing the general subject of trials. Compare James 1:2. Turning from the consideration of trials in general, he passes to the consideration of a particular kind of trials, that which results from a change of circumstances in life, from poverty to affluence, and from affluence to poverty. The idea which seems to have been in the mind of the apostle is, that there is a great and important trial of faith in any reverse of circumstances; a trial in being elevated from poverty to riches, or in being depressed from a state of affluence to want. Wherever change occurs in the external circumstances of life, there a man's religion is put to the test, and there he should feel that God is trying the reality of his faith. The phrase "of low degree" (ταπεινὸς tapeinos) means one in humble circumstances; one of lowly rank or employment; one in a condition of dependence or poverty. It stands here particularly opposed to one who is rich; and the apostle doubtless had his eye, in the use of this word, on those who had been poor.
Rejoice - Margin, "glory." Not because, being made rich, he has the means of sensual gratification and indulgence; not because he will now be regarded as a rich man, and will feel that he is above want; not even because he will have the means of doing good to others. Neither of these was the idea in the mind of the apostle; but it was, that the poor man that is made rich should rejoice because his faith and the reality of his religion are now tried; because a test is furnished which will show, in the new circumstances in which he is placed, whether his piety is genuine. In fact, there is almost no trial of religion which is more certain and decisive than that furnished by a sudden transition from poverty to affluence from adversity to prosperity, from sickness to health. There is much religion in the world that will bear the ills of poverty, sickness, and persecution, or that will bear the temptations arising from prosperity, and even affluence, which will not bear the transition from one to the other; as there is many a human frame that could become accustomed to bear either the steady heat of the equator, or the intense cold of the north, that could not bear a rapid transition from the one to the other. See this thought illustrated in the notes at Philippians 4:12.
In that he is exalted - A good man might rejoice in such a transition, because it would furnish him the means of being more extensively useful; most persons would rejoice because such a condition is that for which men commonly aim, and because it would furnish them the means of display, of sensual gratification, or of ease; but neither of these is the idea of the apostle. The thing in which we are to rejoice in the transitions of life is, that a test is furnished of our piety; that a trial is applied to it which enables us to determine whether it is genuine. The most important thing conceivable for us is to know whether we are true Christians, and we should rejoice in everything that will enable us to settle this point.
(Yet it seems not at all likely that an Apostle would exhort a poor man to rejoice in his exaltation to wealth. An exhortation to fear and trembling appears more suitable. Wealth brings along with it so many dangerous temptations, that a man must have greater confidence in his faith and stability than he ought to have, who can rejoice in its acquisition, simply as furnishing occasion to try him: the same may be said of poverty, or of the transition front riches to poverty. The spirit of Agar is more suitable to the humility of piety, "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me, lest I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain, "Pro 30:8-9. Besides, there is no necessity for resorting to this interpretation. The words will, without any straining, bear another sense, which is both excellent in itself, and suitable in its connection. The poor man, or man in humble life, may well rejoice "in that he is exalted" to the dignity of a child of God, and heir of glory.
If he be depressed with his humble rank in this life, let him but think of his spiritual elevation, of his relation to God and Christ, and he shall have an antidote for his dejection. What is the world's dignity in comparison of his! The rich man, or the man of rank, on the other hand, has reason to rejoice "in that he is made low" through the possession of a meek and humble spirit which his affluence illustrates, but neither destroys nor impairs. It would be matter of grief were he otherwise minded; since all his adventitious splendor is as evanescent as the flower which, forming for a time the crown of the green stalk on which it hangs, perishes before it. This falls admirably in with the design of the Apostle, which was to fortify Christians against trial. Every condition in life had its own trials. The two great conditions of poverty and wealth had theirs; but Christianity guards against the danger, both of the one state and of the other. It elevates the poor under his depression, and humbles the rich in his elevation, and bids both rejoice in its power to shield and bless them. The passage in this view is conceived in the same spirit with one of Paul, in which he beautifully balances the respective conditions of slaves and freemen, by honoring the former with the appellation of the Lord's freemen, and imposing on the latter that of Christ's servants, 1 Corinthians 7:22.)
on James 1 :9
1:9 Let the brother - St James does not give this appellation to the rich. Of low degree - Poor and tempted. Rejoice - The most effectual remedy against doublemindedness. In that he is exalted - To be a child of God, and an heir of glory.