James: Everyday Faith: Book Preview: Chapter 4

Day 4: Temporary Versus Eternal Value
(James 1:9-11)

We live in a world where so many things seem to rest on our social status. Many people view their social status is based on how many likes they get on social media. Many people will take, retake, and then take again selfies in order to make sure they have made the picture that is most likely to receive the most likes and show the least amount of flaws. 

In our culture, one of the markings of social status is money. People with money tend to have greater opportunities, influence, and social status. The American dream defines success by a person’s ability to make money and become rich.  

In today’s passage, James redefines social status and points us to what truly has long-term value…

“Let the lowly boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of 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”- James 1:9-11

According to James, the lowest should be proud because one day they while be exalted while the rich should be humble because one day his riches will fade away.  

It has been said you never see a U-Haul riding behind a hearse. No matter how much stuff you have, one day you will die. Once you die, you cannot take any of your stuff with you.  

In this passage, James makes a reference to a flower to explain the temporary nature of wealth and earthly treasures. Though the flower may look beautiful initially, it will fade and eventually die because of the rays of the sun over time. In the same way, though riches and status seem like something that are beautiful and extremely desirable now there will be a time when they will fade away as well. James says “the rich man (will) fade away in the midst of his pursuits.” 

Does this mean we should not pursue riches or success in this world? Not necessarily. We must understand the riches and success we may get here and now have a limited lifespan. They are not ultimate.

What would it look like to see success and riches as not ultimate?  

First, those who see these things as not ultimate understand the source of their gifts. They are things that have been given by God to them. The source is not the successful person but the God who grants the success.  

Second, those who see these things as not ultimate realize the things they have been given are not just for them. They are things God has given them to bless other people. Their gifts are not simply to be spent on them. They are gifts the successful and rich person gets to share with others. 

Third, those who see these things as not ultimate realize eternal things are what lasts. Why would a person spend their entire life, energy, and focus investing in something they knew was going to be temporary? Many people in our culture invest so much in things that in the end won’t last. 

If we are going to make our lives count and invest in things that will last, we must choose to live counter-culturally and invest in eternal things. There are two things that will last into eternity: people and God. It is the relationship with God and the relationships with other people that will truly last. 

We invest in our relationship with God by studying His Word, experiencing Him in worship, and seeking Him in prayer. We invest in our relationships with others by being willing to take a break from the busyness of our lives in order to spend time with them. As Christians, we should take time to spend getting to know, love, and serve others both inside and outside the church. 

In wanting to be people who don’t waste our lives, we need to be people who invest in eternity through relationships- with God and with others. 

Response

  • What are you doing to invest and grow your own relationship with God? 
  • And what are you doing to grow your relationships with others? 

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