|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:1-11 Christianity teaches men to be joyful under troubles: such exercises are sent from God's love; and trials in the way of duty will brighten our graces now, and our crown at last. Let us take care, in times of trial, that patience, and not passion, is set to work in us: whatever is said or done, let patience have the saying and doing of it. When the work of patience is complete, it will furnish all that is necessary for our Christian race and warfare. We should not pray so much for the removal of affliction, as for wisdom to make a right use of it. And who does not want wisdom to guide him under trials, both in regulating his own spirit, and in managing his affairs? Here is something in answer to every discouraging turn of the mind, when we go to God under a sense of our own weakness and folly. If, after all, any should say, This may be the case with some, but I fear I shall not succeed, the promise is, To any that asketh, it shall be given. A mind that has single and prevailing regard to its spiritual and eternal interest, and that keeps steady in its purposes for God, will grow wise by afflictions, will continue fervent in devotion, and rise above trials and oppositions. When our faith and spirits rise and fall with second causes, there will be unsteadiness in our words and actions. This may not always expose men to contempt in the world, but such ways cannot please God. No condition of life is such as to hinder rejoicing in God. Those of low degree may rejoice, if they are exalted to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom of God; and the rich may rejoice in humbling providences, that lead to a humble and lowly disposition of mind. Worldly wealth is a withering thing. Then, let him that is rich rejoice in the grace of God, which makes and keeps him humble; and in the trials and exercises which teach him to seek happiness in and from God, not from perishing enjoyments.
Verses 9-11. - A very difficult passage, three interpretations of which are given, none of them entirely satisfactory or free from difficulties.
(1) "But let the brother of low degree glory in his high estate [i.e. his Christian dignity]; but let the rich [brother glory] in his humiliation" (i.e. in being poor of spirit, Matthew 5:3).
(2) "But let the brother," etc. (as before); "but the rich man [rejoices] in his humiliation" (i.e. in what is really his degradation; cf. "whose glory is in their shame," Philippians 3:19).
(3) "But let the brother,... but let the rich [grieve] in his humiliation." The ellipse of ταπεινούσθω in this last is very harsh and unexampled, so that the choice really lies between (1) and (2). And against (1) it may be urged
(a) that the "rich" are never elsewhere spoken of as "brothers" in this Epistle. See James 2:6; James 5:1, and cf. the way in which they are spoken of in other parts of the New Testament (e.g. Luke 6:24; Matthew 19:23; Revelation 6:15); and in Ecclus. 13:3;
(b) that in ver. 11 the thought is, not of riches which make to themselves wings and fly away, but of the rich man himself, who fades away;
(c) that ταπείνωσις is elsewhere always used for external lowness of condition, not for the Christian virtue of humility (see Luke 1:48; Acts 8:33; Philippians 3:21). On the whole, therefore, it is best to adopt (2) and to supply the indicative: "but the rich man [not ' brother'] glories in his humiliation;" i.e. he glories in what is really lowering. Because as the flower, etc. A clear reference to Isaiah 40:6, which is also quoted in 1 Peter 1:24.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Let the brother of low degree,.... By "the brother" is meant, not one in a natural, but in a spiritual relation; one of Christ's brethren, and who is of that family that is named of him; of the household of faith, and is in church communion: and whereas he is said to be of "low degree", or "humble", this regards not the affection of his mind, or his conduct and deportment, he being meek and lowly, and clothed with humility, as every brother is, or ought to be; but his outward state and condition, being, as to the things of this world, poor, and mean in his outward circumstances, and so humbled and afflicted. This appears from the rich man, who, in the next verse, is opposed unto him, and distinguished from him; see Psalm 62:9 such an one is advised to
rejoice in that he is exalted; or to "glory in his exaltation"; in that high estate, to which he is advanced; for a person may be very low and mean, as to his worldly circumstances, and yet be very high, and greatly exalted in a spiritual sense: and this height of honour and grandeur, of which he may boast and glory, amidst his outward poverty, lies in his high birth and descent, being born from above, and of God, and belonging to his family; in being an adopted Son of God, and so an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ, and of the heavenly inheritance and kingdom; in the present riches of grace he is possessed of, as justifying, pardoning, and sanctifying grace; and in the high titles he bears, as besides the new name, the name better than that of sons and daughters of the greatest potentate, even that of a Son of the Lord God Almighty, his being a King, and a priest unto God, and for whom a kingdom, crown, and throne are prepared; and also in the company he daily keeps, and is admitted to, as of God, and Christ, and the holy angels: and this height of honour have all the saints, be they ever so poor in this world, who can vie with the greatest of princes for sublimity and grandeur.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
9, 10. Translate, "But let the brother," &c. that is, the best remedy against double-mindedness is that Christian simplicity of spirit whereby the "brother," low in outward circumstances, may "rejoice" (answering to Jas 1:2) "in that he is exalted," namely, by being accounted a son and heir of God, his very sufferings being a pledge of his coming glory and crown (Jas 1:12), and the rich may rejoice "in that he is made low," by being stripped of his goods for Christ's sake [Menochius]; or in that he is made, by sanctified trials, lowly in spirit, which is true matter for rejoicing [Gomarus]. The design of the Epistle is to reduce all things to an equable footing (Jas 2:1; 5:13). The "low," rather than the "rich," is here called "the brother" [Bengel].
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