The Fading Glory of Riches vs. Faith for the Life to Come

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by: Pastor David Huffstutler

02/07/2021

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

Though “lowly” in earthly circumstances, Christians are exalted by their faith and wisdom (James 1:9; cf. 1:2–8). Conversely, though “rich” with the world’s goods and thus glorious in the eyes of men, the rich Christian is humbled by faith and adversity to share an experience common to his lowly brother (James 1:10–11). Both should boast in their faith, and the rich man should not boast in his riches. 

In one of James’s many pictures from nature, James illustrates why the rich man should glory in his faith and not his riches. As the sun comes up, withers the grass, kills its flower, and thereby removes its beauty, so also will the rich man suddenly pass away. The parallel between flower and rich man is striking—just as the flower dies quickly in the sun’s scorching heat, so also the rich man dies suddenly in the midst of gathering his riches. While it is not clear that James parallels the sun’s scorching heat to the business pursuits of the rich man, what is clear is that the flower and rich man both suddenly die. For the rich man, his riches add no hours to his life, and his experience in the life to come is determined by whether or not he had faith. James’s point for both lowly and rich Christians is this: whether you have riches or not, your faith is more valuable than anything else

Other passages speak to the fading glory of riches as well. In his once-lowly estate, Job pointed out that that a rich man can have “pails full of milk” while another has “never…tasted of prosperity. They lie down alike in the dust” (Job 21:23–26). Solomon knew that his riches would ultimately add nothing to his life as well: “As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand” (Ecclesiastes 5:15). The rich and poor die alike, and nobody takes anything with him to the world to come. The riches fade away.

If you a rich, use your riches for the Lord (Luke 16:1–9; 1 Timothy 6:17–19). If you are poor, realize that for whatever you lack in this life, you have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Riches can be used for good, but even then, they fade away. Cling tightly the Lord, and you will have riches forevermore. 

All quotes ESV. Articles by Pastor Huffstutler are at davidhuffstutler.com

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

Though “lowly” in earthly circumstances, Christians are exalted by their faith and wisdom (James 1:9; cf. 1:2–8). Conversely, though “rich” with the world’s goods and thus glorious in the eyes of men, the rich Christian is humbled by faith and adversity to share an experience common to his lowly brother (James 1:10–11). Both should boast in their faith, and the rich man should not boast in his riches. 

In one of James’s many pictures from nature, James illustrates why the rich man should glory in his faith and not his riches. As the sun comes up, withers the grass, kills its flower, and thereby removes its beauty, so also will the rich man suddenly pass away. The parallel between flower and rich man is striking—just as the flower dies quickly in the sun’s scorching heat, so also the rich man dies suddenly in the midst of gathering his riches. While it is not clear that James parallels the sun’s scorching heat to the business pursuits of the rich man, what is clear is that the flower and rich man both suddenly die. For the rich man, his riches add no hours to his life, and his experience in the life to come is determined by whether or not he had faith. James’s point for both lowly and rich Christians is this: whether you have riches or not, your faith is more valuable than anything else

Other passages speak to the fading glory of riches as well. In his once-lowly estate, Job pointed out that that a rich man can have “pails full of milk” while another has “never…tasted of prosperity. They lie down alike in the dust” (Job 21:23–26). Solomon knew that his riches would ultimately add nothing to his life as well: “As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand” (Ecclesiastes 5:15). The rich and poor die alike, and nobody takes anything with him to the world to come. The riches fade away.

If you a rich, use your riches for the Lord (Luke 16:1–9; 1 Timothy 6:17–19). If you are poor, realize that for whatever you lack in this life, you have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Riches can be used for good, but even then, they fade away. Cling tightly the Lord, and you will have riches forevermore. 

All quotes ESV. Articles by Pastor Huffstutler are at davidhuffstutler.com
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