James 1:11

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits. James 1:11

This verse, among more to come, is one reason that the book of James is equated with wisdom literature. The style of stating something and then repeating it in a poetic form is common in the books of wisdom. The previous two verses spoke of the humble being exalted while the wealthy are made lowly. As an example, he provides these words.

He does this by explaining the nature of the “flower of the field” that he referred to there. He said that, like that flower, the rich “will pass away.” To further define what he meant, he says, “For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass.” The style of the Greek, using the aorist tense, actually presents these words in a narrative form. Young’s Literal Translation shows this –

“for the sun did rise with the burning heat, and did wither the grass, and the flower of it fell, and the grace of its appearance did perish, so also the rich in his way shall fade away!”

It is as if an accomplished fact. The state of the rich man perished when “the sun did rise with the burning heat.” In the Greek, there is an article in front of “burning heat” which sets it apart as a particular heat resulting from the effects of the sun. With the coming of this burning heat, “it did wither the grass” (YLT).

The sun came up, and the grass could not bear up under its intense heat. The heat was strong enough to wither the flower before the sun had set. So it is with the rich man, whose life is as a passing day. In that day, “the flower of it fell” (YLT). The beauty of the flower in the first morning light, so delightful to the eyes, perished without hope. The effects of the heat were worked out in the death of this intricate and magnificent work of God. Jesus spoke of such things in Matthew 6 –

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 6:28-30

James continues by noting that, with the falling of such a flower, “the grace of its appearance did perish.” The colors of flowers are magnificent; they vary in size; they may have a certain smell; the number of petals and the shape of them is unique to each flower, etc. Each is a demonstration of the wisdom of God, and the intricacy of each is beyond finding out. And yet, as quickly as it opens and reveals its glorious appearance, it perishes. And like that temporary flower, with the grace it received from God, “so also the rich in his way shall fade away!” (YLT).

The comparison is intended to open the mind of those who think they are something special. Instead, they should realize that whatever they are is because God so ordained it. The life of the rich man will end, the money he possesses will pass to another, and life will continue on without him.

Life application: The wildflower, though complex and beautiful, is a temporary adornment of God’s earth. In the Mideast, there is a particularly destructive wind which comes out of the east which is known as the khamsin. It is exceptionally hot and dry. When it comes, everything is tested: man, animal, and plant alike. Even without the khamsin, the sun in the Mideast is direct and torturous. When it comes up, only the heartiest plants can endure the day. The wildflowers in particular – being in the direct path of the sun’s rays and the wind’s force – will not stand the extreme weather. Despite being elegant and colorful, they quickly fade away.

In comparison, a rich person is usually bathed in ease and comfort. Should any unusual external pressure or trial be brought on him, he will find it hard – if not impossible – to stand the heat.

On the contrary, the land also has cacti. Despite being largely ignored or shunned, they are hearty and can endure whatever nature inflicts on them. As an interesting comparison, the term for cactus in Hebrew, sabra, is applied to a native-born Israelite. Such a person has normally grown up in otherwise humble circumstances and can endure the trials and pressures of the difficult life in Israel much more readily. Are you a lovely but temporary wildflower, or are you a hearty although less beautiful cactus? If you are one of the lowly people of the world, rejoice in your exalted position. Jesus gives us life which is truly life. In His garden, we will be forever fresh and filled with life!

Lord, as Your people, we may not be beautiful or wealthy by the world’s standards, but we know that we are in Your eyes. Keep us safely in Your care, and fill us with Your life-giving water that we can withstand any test from the heat and pressure of life. Amen.

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