But the rich, in that he is made low - Εν τῃ ταπεινωσει· In his humiliation - in his being brought to the foot of the cross to receive, as a poor and miserable sinner, redemption through the blood of the cross: and especially let him rejoice in this, because all outward glory is only as the flower of the field, and, like that, will wither and perish.
But the rich, in that he is made low - That is, because his property is taken away, and he is made poor. Such a transition is often the source of the deepest sorrow; but the apostle says that even in that a Christian may find occasion for thanksgiving. The reasons for rejoicing in this manner, which the apostle seems to have had in view, were these:
(1)because it furnished a test of the reality of religion, by showing that it is adapted to sustain the soul in this great trial; that it can not only bear prosperity, but that it can bear the rapid transition from that state to one of poverty; and,
(2)because it would furnish to the mind an impressive and salutary illustration of the fact that all earthly glory is soon to fade away.
I may remark here, that the transition from affluence to poverty is often borne by Christians with the manifestation of a most lovely spirit, and with an entire freedom from murmuring and complaining. Indeed, there are more Christians who could safely bear a transition from affluence to poverty, from prosperity to adversity, than there are who could bear a sudden transition from poverty to affluence. Some of the loveliest exhibitions of piety which I have ever witnessed have been in such transitions; nor have I seen occasion anywhere to love religion more than in the ease, and grace, and cheerfulness, with which it has enabled those accustomed long to more elevated walks, to descend to the comparatively humble lot where God places them. New grace is imparted for this new form of trial, and new traits of Christian character are developed in these rapid transitions, as some of the most beautiful exhibitions of the laws of matter are brought out in the rapid transitions in the laboratory of the chemist.
Because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away - That is, since it is a fact that he will thus pass away, he should rejoice that he is reminded of it. He should, therefore, esteem it a favor that this lesson is brought impressively before his mind. To learn this effectually, though by the loss of property, is of more value to him than all his wealth would be if he were forgetful of it. The comparison of worldly splendor with the fading flower of the field, is one that is common in Scripture. It is probable that James had his eye on the passage in Isaiah 40:6-8. See the notes at that passage. Compare the notes at 1 Peter 1:24-25. See also Psalm 103:15; Matthew 6:28-30.
The prophets to whom these great scenes were revealed longed to understand their import. They “inquired and searched diligently: ... searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify.... Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you; ... which things the angels desire to look into.” 1 Peter 1:10-12. Ed 183.1
To us who are standing on the very verge of their fulfillment, of what deep moment, what living interest, are these delineations of the things to come—events for which, since our first parents turned their steps from Eden, God's children have watched and waited, longed and prayed! Ed 183.2
At this time, before the great final crisis, as before the world's first destruction, men are absorbed in the pleasures and the pursuits of sense. Engrossed with the seen and transitory, they have lost sight of the unseen and eternal. For the things that perish with the using, they are sacrificing imperishable riches. Their minds need to be uplifted, their views of life to be broadened. They need to be aroused from the lethargy of worldly dreaming. Ed 183.3Read in context »
From the rise and fall of nations as made plain in the books of Daniel and the Revelation, we need to learn how worthless is mere outward and worldly glory. Babylon, with all its power and magnificence, the like of which our world has never since beheld,—power and magnificence which to the people of that day seemed so stable and enduring,—how completely has it passed away! As “the flower of the grass,” it has perished. James 1:10. So perished the Medo-Persian kingdom, and the kingdoms of Grecia and Rome. And so perishes all that has not God for its foundation. Only that which is bound up with His purpose, and expresses His character, can endure. His principles are the only steadfast things our world knows. PK 548.1
A careful study of the working out of God's purpose in the history of nations and in the revelation of things to come, will help us to estimate at their true value things seen and things unseen, and to learn what is the true aim of life. Thus, viewing the things of time in the light of eternity, we may, like Daniel and his fellows, live for that which is true and noble and enduring. And learning in this life the principles of the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, that blessed kingdom which is to endure for ever and ever, we may be prepared at His coming to enter with Him into its possession. PK 548.2Read in context »