James 1:10
But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
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(10) But the rich, in that he is made low (or, better, in his humiliation).—And, on the other hand, let a change of state be a cause of joy to the rich man, hard though the effort thereto must confessedly be.

There is an antithesis between his humiliation and the humility of “the brother of low degree:” “God putteth down one, and setteth up another” (Psalm 75:7). Such seems to be the primary meaning of this passage, though, doubtless, there is a more spiritual significance underlying, which would teach the poorest that he may be “rich toward God,” and win from the most wealthy the acknowledgment of his deep poverty beside the Lord of all “good treasure” (Deuteronomy 28:12). “I know thy poverty,” said the Spirit unto the Church in Smyrna, “but thou art rich” (Revelation 2:9); and to the Laodiceans, “Thou sayest, I am rich . . ., but thou art poor” (Revelation 3:17).

Because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.—No more simple and striking simile of human instability and vanity can be found than “the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven” (Matthew 6:30); and the thought suggests a picture to the mind of the writer, which he draws with strong and yet most tender lines. Our English version misses the setting of his graceful idyl, the exquisite beauty of which can hardly be transferred from the Greek; but the following attempt is at least nearer the original:—

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.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.

10. So far as one is merely "rich" in worldly goods, "he shall pass away"; in so far as his predominant character is that of a "brother," he "abideth for ever" (1Jo 2:17). This view meets all Alford's objections to regarding "the rich" here as a "brother" at all. To avoid making the rich a brother, he translates, "But the rich glories in his humiliation," namely, in that which is really his debasement (his rich state, Php 3:19), just as the low is told to rejoice in what is really his exaltation (his lowly state). But the rich; viz. broher, he that is in a high, honourable, or plentiful condition in the world.

In that he is made low; supply from the former verse, let him rejoice in that he is made low; not as to his outward state, (for he is supposed to be rich still), but his inward disposition and frame of mind, God having given him a lowly heart in a high condition, and thereby prepared him for the cross, though as yet he be not under it.

Because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away: the reason why the rich brother should be humble in his greatest abundance, viz. because of the uncertainty of his enjoying what at present he possesseth; he is neither secure of his life, nor his wealth; he and his enjoyments pass away, and his pomp vanisheth as easily as the flower of the grass, which fades as soon as it flourisheth.

But the rich, in that he is made low,.... That is, the rich brother; for there were rich men in the churches in those times, and which James often takes notice of in this epistle. Such an one should rejoice or glory in his lowness, or low estate; in the consideration of the low estate, out of which he was raised, by the good providence of God, and was not owing to any merit of his; and in the low estate into which he may be at present reduced, through the violence of persecution being stripped of all his riches for Christ's sake, of which he might make his boast, and count it his greatest glory; or in that low estate he may quickly expect he shall be brought into, either in the above manner, or by some calamity or another, and at least by death, which will put him upon a level with others: or this may have respect to the temper of his mind, which he has, through the grace of God, and the station he is in, in the church of God, being a brother, and no more than a brother, and upon an equal foot with the meanest member in it; and which yet is matter of rejoicing, that he is one, and that he is so blessed with the grace of humility, as not to lift up himself above others, not to mind high things, but to condescend to men of low estate; and such a deportment the apostle exhorts rich saints unto, from the consideration of the instability and inconstancy of worldly riches.

Because, as the flower of the grass he shall pass away; shortly, and suddenly; either he himself by death, or his riches at death, or before, and therefore are not to be gloried in; nor should the possessors of them be proud and haughty and elate themselves with them, but should behave humbly and modestly to their fellow creatures and Christians, as knowing that in a short time they will all be upon a par, or in an equal state; See Job 14:2. The metaphor here used is enlarged upon in the following verse, for the further illustration of the fickleness, perishing, and transitory nature of earthly enjoyments.

{8} But the {i} rich, in that he is made low: {9} because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.

(8) Before he concludes, he gives a doctrine contrasted to the former: that is, how we ought to use prosperity, that is, the abundance of all things: that is, so that no man pleases himself, but rather be humble.

(i) Who has all things at his will.

(9) An argument taken from the very nature of the things themselves, for that they are empty and unreliable.

Jam 1:10. ὁ πλούσιος: equally a “brother”; cf. the whole section Jam 2:1-13 below.—ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου …: these words, together with ἐξήρανεν τὸν χόρτον, etc., in the next verse, are adapted from the Sept. of Isaiah 40:5-8, … καὶ εἶπα τί βοήσω; Πᾶσα σὰρξ χόρτος, καὶ πᾶσα δόξα ἀνθρώπου ὡς ἀνθος χόρτου· ἐξηράνθη ὁ χόρτος καὶ ὁ ἄνθος ἐξέπεσεν, τὸ δὲ ῥῆμα τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν μένει εὶς τὸν αἰῶνα, which differs somewhat from the Hebrew. It is an interesting instance of the loose way in which scriptural texts were made use of without regard to their original meaning; the prophet refers to πᾶσα σάρξ, whereas in the verse before us the writer makes the words refer exclusively to the rich, cf. the words at the end of the next verse, οὕτως καὶ ὁ πλούσιος ἐν ταῖς πορείαις αὐτοῦ μαρανθήσεται. To the precise Western mind this rather free use of Scripture (many examples of it occur in the Gospels) is sometimes apt to cause surprise; but it is well to remember that this inexactness is characteristic of the oriental, and does not strike him as inexact; what he wants in these cases is a verbal point of attachment which will illustration the subject under discussion; what the words originally refer to is, to him, immaterial, as that does not come into consideration. χόρτος in its original sense means “an enclosure” in which cattle feed, then it came to mean the grass, etc., contained in the enclosure, cf. Matthew 6:31.—παρελεύσεται: equally true of rich and poor, cf. Mark 13:31 for the transient character of all things, see also Jam 4:14 of this Epistle.

10. But the rich, in that he is made low] Better, in his humiliation or lowliness. The context implies that the rich man also is a “brother.” Such an one was tempted to exult in his wealth as that which raised him above his fellow-men. The view which Christ had taught him to take was, that it placed him on a level lower than that of the poor. His true ground for exultation would be to accept that lower position, to glory in it, as it were, as St Paul gloried in his infirmities (2 Corinthians 12:9), and to make himself, by the right use of his wealth, a servant of servants unto his brethren. The two other interpretations which have been given of the words, (1) that suggested by the English, that the rich man is to rejoice when he is brought low by adversity, and (2) that the sentence is to be filled up not by an imperative but an indicative, “but the rich man” (on this assumption, not a “brother”) “exults in what is indeed his degradation,” are, it is believed, less satisfying. Possibly, still keeping the imperative, the words may be taken as ironical “let him glory in his shame.” The whole passage, however interpreted, shews, like chap. James 4:11; 1 Peter 5:6, the impression that had been made on the minds of the disciples by the teaching of their Master in Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14.

because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away] This, so the train of thought runs, is that which is most humbling to the man of wealth. His riches are transient. They vanish often during life. He can carry nothing with him when he dies. For the third time in this chapter we notice a close parallelism of thought and language with St Peter (1 Peter 1:24), both drawing from Isaiah 40:6, as a common source.

Jam 1:10. Πλούσιος, the rich) A Synecdoche for every one that is flourishing and gay.—ἐν τῇ ταπεινώσει, in that he is brought low) This is strictly construed with καυχάσθω, let the rich man rejoice. Compare 2 Corinthians 12:9; 2 Samuel 6:22. Ταπείνωσις does not denote the fading away of the rich man, but the lowliness of mind which arises from the sight of that fading away.—ὅτι ὡς, because as) “As the flower of the field—the fashion of it perisheth; the Protasis: “so shall the rich man fade away,” Jam 1:11; the Apodosis.—ἄνθος χόρτου, the flower of the grass) That part of the grass which is most pleasant to the sight, the flower, 1 Peter 1:24.

James 1:10In that he is made low (ἐν τῇ ταπεινώσει αὐτοῦ)

A form of expression similar to the preceding. Lit., in his humiliation. Both the A. V. and Rev. preserve the kinship between ταπεινὸς and ταπεινώσει, by the word low.

Flower (ἄνθος)

Only here, James 1:11, and 1 Peter 1:24.

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