James 1:9
Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
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(9-11) Lowly-mindedness is the subject of the next paragraph. There is wide misapprehension of our state of trial: the poor and humble are apt to forget the honour thus vouchsafed to them, worthier in truth than the wealth of this world, which quickly fades away; and the rich and noble are often unmindful of the true source of their dignity, and that “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48).

(9) Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted (or, better, in his exaltation).—There is no praise from the plain St. James for the pride which apes humility, nor the affectation which loves to be despised. If it please God to “exalt,” as of old, “the humble and meek,” then anew should be sung a magnificat to Him. The lowly-minded doubt of the Virgin Mary, “How shall this be?” (Luke 1:24), was not reproved by the angel; while the question of blunt incredulity on the part of Zacharias was severely punished (Luke 1:20), and this diverse treatment thus experienced was deserved in either case. Both doubted, yet quite differently, and she of the lower degree rejoiced most in God her Saviour for regarding the lowliness of His handmaiden (Luke 1:47-48). Willingness thus for Christ’s service, whether it be great or little, is the right condition of mind for all disciples, and specially the young, with readiness, nay gladness, for “duty in that state of life unto which it shall please God to call them.” Pleasure will be naturally felt by most at the prospect of a rise in the world; but there are some finer spirits who fain would shrink from anything like exaltation; and to these the kindly Apostle writes that they may take heart, and not fear the greater dangers which of necessity accompany a higher call.

James 1:9-11. Let the brother — St. James does not give this appellation to the rich; of low degree — Poor and tempted, or brought low by his sufferings for Christ, and humbled in spirit thereby; rejoice that he is exalted — To be a child of God, and an heir of eternal glory; let him think of his dignity as a Christian, and entirely acquiesce in his low station in life, which will continue only for a short season, and which God has wisely appointed for his eternal good. Or, let him rejoice that he is thought worthy to be called to suffer for Christ, Acts 5:41; Php 1:29. But the rich — Let the rich rejoice in that he is made low — Is humbled by a deep sense of his true condition, and brought to have low thoughts of all worldly excellences, and to be prepared for sufferings. The Greek is, εν τη ταπεινωσει αυτου, in his humiliation, as the word is rendered Acts 8:33; where it is used to express the humiliation of Christ by his various sufferings. And as it is here opposed to υψει, exaltation, in the preceding verse, it may signify the humiliation of the rich man, by his being stripped of his riches and possessions, of his liberty, and his being made liable to lose his life on account of the gospel. Here, therefore, the apostle advises the rich to glory when they lose the uncertain riches of this life, and are exposed to other sufferings, for the sake of truth and a good conscience, with the favour and approbation of God. For the sun, &c. — Literally, For the sun arose with a burning heat, and withered the grass, and the flower fell off, and the beauty of its form perished. There is an unspeakable beauty and elegance, both in the comparison itself and the very manner of expressing it; intimating both the certainly and the suddenness of the event. So shall the rich man fade away in his ways — In the midst of his various pleasures and enjoyments.

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.Let the brother of low degree - This verse seems to introduce a new topic, which has no other connection with what precedes than that the apostle is discussing the general subject of trials. Compare James 1:2. Turning from the consideration of trials in general, he passes to the consideration of a particular kind of trials, that which results from a change of circumstances in life, from poverty to affluence, and from affluence to poverty. The idea which seems to have been in the mind of the apostle is, that there is a great and important trial of faith in any reverse of circumstances; a trial in being elevated from poverty to riches, or in being depressed from a state of affluence to want. Wherever change occurs in the external circumstances of life, there a man's religion is put to the test, and there he should feel that God is trying the reality of his faith. The phrase "of low degree" (ταπεινὸς tapeinos) means one in humble circumstances; one of lowly rank or employment; one in a condition of dependence or poverty. It stands here particularly opposed to one who is rich; and the apostle doubtless had his eye, in the use of this word, on those who had been poor.

Rejoice - Margin, "glory." Not because, being made rich, he has the means of sensual gratification and indulgence; not because he will now be regarded as a rich man, and will feel that he is above want; not even because he will have the means of doing good to others. Neither of these was the idea in the mind of the apostle; but it was, that the poor man that is made rich should rejoice because his faith and the reality of his religion are now tried; because a test is furnished which will show, in the new circumstances in which he is placed, whether his piety is genuine. In fact, there is almost no trial of religion which is more certain and decisive than that furnished by a sudden transition from poverty to affluence from adversity to prosperity, from sickness to health. There is much religion in the world that will bear the ills of poverty, sickness, and persecution, or that will bear the temptations arising from prosperity, and even affluence, which will not bear the transition from one to the other; as there is many a human frame that could become accustomed to bear either the steady heat of the equator, or the intense cold of the north, that could not bear a rapid transition from the one to the other. See this thought illustrated in the notes at Philippians 4:12.

In that he is exalted - A good man might rejoice in such a transition, because it would furnish him the means of being more extensively useful; most persons would rejoice because such a condition is that for which men commonly aim, and because it would furnish them the means of display, of sensual gratification, or of ease; but neither of these is the idea of the apostle. The thing in which we are to rejoice in the transitions of life is, that a test is furnished of our piety; that a trial is applied to it which enables us to determine whether it is genuine. The most important thing conceivable for us is to know whether we are true Christians, and we should rejoice in everything that will enable us to settle this point.

(Yet it seems not at all likely that an Apostle would exhort a poor man to rejoice in his exaltation to wealth. An exhortation to fear and trembling appears more suitable. Wealth brings along with it so many dangerous temptations, that a man must have greater confidence in his faith and stability than he ought to have, who can rejoice in its acquisition, simply as furnishing occasion to try him: the same may be said of poverty, or of the transition front riches to poverty. The spirit of Agar is more suitable to the humility of piety, "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me, lest I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain, "Pro 30:8-9. Besides, there is no necessity for resorting to this interpretation. The words will, without any straining, bear another sense, which is both excellent in itself, and suitable in its connection. The poor man, or man in humble life, may well rejoice "in that he is exalted" to the dignity of a child of God, and heir of glory.

If he be depressed with his humble rank in this life, let him but think of his spiritual elevation, of his relation to God and Christ, and he shall have an antidote for his dejection. What is the world's dignity in comparison of his! The rich man, or the man of rank, on the other hand, has reason to rejoice "in that he is made low" through the possession of a meek and humble spirit which his affluence illustrates, but neither destroys nor impairs. It would be matter of grief were he otherwise minded; since all his adventitious splendor is as evanescent as the flower which, forming for a time the crown of the green stalk on which it hangs, perishes before it. This falls admirably in with the design of the Apostle, which was to fortify Christians against trial. Every condition in life had its own trials. The two great conditions of poverty and wealth had theirs; but Christianity guards against the danger, both of the one state and of the other. It elevates the poor under his depression, and humbles the rich in his elevation, and bids both rejoice in its power to shield and bless them. The passage in this view is conceived in the same spirit with one of Paul, in which he beautifully balances the respective conditions of slaves and freemen, by honoring the former with the appellation of the Lord's freemen, and imposing on the latter that of Christ's servants, 1 Corinthians 7:22.)

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]. Let the brother; i.e. the believer, (for to such he writes), all believers, or saints, being brethren in Christ, 1 Corinthians 16:20 1 Thessalonians 5:26 1 Timothy 6:2.

Of low degree; the Greek word signifies both lowliness of mind and lowness of condition, (as the Hebrew word doth, to which it answers), but here is to be understood of the latter, {as Luke 1:48} but especially of such a low estate as a man is brought into for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s.

Rojoice in that he is exalted; either exalted to be a brother, a member of Christ, a child of God, and heir of glory, which is the greatest preferment; or exalted to the honour of suffering for Christ: see Acts 5:41 Romans 5:3.

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.

{7} Let the brother of {h} low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:

(7) He returns to his purpose repeating the proposition, which is, that we must rejoice in affliction, for it does not oppress us, but exalt us.

(h) Who is afflicted with poverty, or contempt, or with any kind of calamity.

Jam 1:9-10. James subjoins to the idea that the doubter should not think that he should receive anything, the exhortation to the lowly brother; δέ non solum apponendo, sed opponendo gravius hortatur (Theile). At first view the natural sense is, with de Wette, Wiesinger, and most expositors, to take ὁ ἀδελφός as the general idea, which is specified by ὁ ταπεινός and ὁ πλούσιος. According to this view, ταπεινός is not equivalent to ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ, Matthew 11:29, but, in opposition to πλούσιος, must be taken in its proper sense: afflictus, particularly poor; on the other hand, ὁ πλούσιος is the earthly rich, equivalent to opulentus, fortunatus, affluens rebus externis. The exaltation (τὸ ὕψος), in which the brother of low degree is to glory, can naturally only be the heavenly dignity, which the Christian by his faith in Christ possesses, and whose future completion is guaranteed to him by the promise of the Lord; and, corresponding to this, by ταπείνωσις is to be understood the lowliness, which “belongs to the rich man as a Christian through Christ” (Wiesinger), which is essentially the same with his exaltation. There is nothing against this idea in itself; the same oxymoron would be contained in the expression, were we to say, according to 1 Corinthians 7:22 : “the δοῦλος rejoices in his ἐλευθερία, and the ἐλεύθερος in his δουλεία.” But the context is against this explanation: not only because the distinction of Christians into rich and poor would be here introduced quite unexpectedly, but also because Jam 1:2; Jam 1:12 show that the connection of the ideas in this section is the reference to the πειρασμοί which Christians have to endure. Several expositors have assumed this reference in the idea ταπεινός; thus, among moderns, Theile, whilst to the explanation of Morus: carens fortunis externis omninoque calamitosus, he adds: πειρασμῶν περιπεσών, Jam 1:2; δεδιωγμένος ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης, Matthew 5:10; πάσχων διὰ δικαιοσύνης, 1 Peter 3:14; but by this the simple contrast between ταπεινός and πλούσιος is destroyed; for then ὁ πλούσιος must be taken as the rich Christian who had not suffered persecution, which would be evidently meaningless. If, on the other hand, the rich man who shares the lot of persecution with the poor is to be understood (as Laurentius explains it: dives, sc. frater, qui ipse erat una cum paupere fratre in dispersione, direptionem bonorum suorum propter Christi evangelium passus; similarly Erasmus, Hornejus, and others), such a reference is not to be found in the idea ταπεινός in itself; if one puts it into the idea ταπείνωσις, so that by this is to be understood the suffering condition of persecution, in which the πλούσιος is placed, or by which he is threatened (Gebser: “he rejoices in his lowliness, into which he may be brought by persecution”), then there is no reason to find in ταπεινός the idea of poverty expressed. Thus, then, in this view the train of thought, referring it to πειρασμοί, becomes indistinct and confused; and yet this reference is required by the context. But also what directly follows is against the idea of considering the πλούσιος as well as the ταπεινός as a Christian (ἀδελφός); for, apart from the fact that such a rich man would require no such pressing intimation of the perishableness of riches as is contained in the following clauses, it is carefully to be observed that in the words ὅτιπαρελεύσεται, and in Jam 1:11 : οὕτω καὶ κ.τ.λ., the subject is ὁ πλούσιος and not ὁ πλούτος, as that explanation would render necessary; Winer: dives non habet, quo glorietur, nisi ab humilitate sua, nam divitiae mox periturae sunt; so also de Wette, Theile, Wiesinger, and others. This change of the subject is evidently unjustifiable. James says, not of riches, but of the rich man, παρελεύσεται, μαρανθήσεται, which evidently is only valid of the rich man who forms a contrast to ταπεινὸς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Brückner, in order to avoid the change of subject, explains it of “the rich man according to his external relations;” but this reference is not only arbitrarily introduced, but it weakens the train of thought. That such a bad sense should be given by the author to the idea ὁ πλούσιος, is evident both from chap. Jam 2:6-7, where he represents the πλούσιοι as the persecutors of the Christians, and from chap. Jam 5:1-6, where they are threatened with condemnation; besides, the word is elsewhere used in the sacred Scriptures in a bad sense; comp. Luke 6:24-26; Isaiah 53:9, where עָשִׂיר is parallel with רשׁעִים; Sir 13:3 : πλούσιος ἠδίκησεπτωχὸς ἠδίκηται; Sir 17:18 : τί κοινωνήσει λύκος ἀμνῷ; οὕτως ἁμαρτωλὸς πρὸς εὐσεβῆτίς εἰρήνη πλουσίῳ πρὸς πένητα. If ὁ πλούσιος stands in relation of contrast to ὁ ἀδελφὸς ὁ ταπεινός, then the Christian condition cannot be understood by ταπείνωσις, or scarcely with Bouman: animi, nihil sibi arrogantis, modestia; but only the destruction described in the following words: ὄτι κ.τ.λ., into which the rich man on account of his pride has fallen; comp. Luke 6:24-26.[56] The verb to be supplied is neither αἰσχυνέσθω (Oecumenius, Estius, and others) nor ταπεινούσθω, but καυχάσθω (comp. Winer, p. 548 [E. T. 777]). This certainly does not appear suitable, but the expression of James has its peculiar pointedness in this, that the ταπείνωσις, to which the rich man is devoted, is indicated as the only object of his boasting.[57] To this irony (if it be called so)—which already the author of the commentary on the Lamentations in Jerome’s works, and after him Lyra, Thomas, Beza, and others have recognised in our passage—less objection is to be taken, as this was so natural to the deeply moral spirit of James, in opposition to the haughty self-confidence of the rich man opposed to the lowly Christian.

For a more exact explanation of these two verses, the following remarks may suffice. The connection of Jam 1:9 with the preceding is as follows: let the brother of low degree glory amid his temptations in his exaltation (Gunkel). The idea καυχᾶσθαι is neither exhausted by laetari, Ἀ̓ΓΑΛΛΙᾶΣΘΑΙ, 1 Peter 1:6, Matthew 5:12 (Gebser), nor by commemorare, praedicare (Carpzov); it indicates rather glorying, proceeding from the confident assurance of superiority; Theile: notio gloriandi involvit notas 1 gaudendi, 2 confidentiae, 3 externe expressi.

Ὁ ἈΔΕΛΦΌς, according to the above explanation, refers only to Ὁ ΤΑΠΕΙΝΌς, not to Ὁ ΠΛΟΎΣΙΟς, which rather forms the contrast set over against that idea. By Ὁ ΤΑΠΕΙΝΌς is not indicated a kind of ἈΔΕΛΦΟΊ, but is the characteristic mark of true Christians. It is incorrect to take ΤΑΠΕΙΝΌς here as entirely equivalent to ΠΤῶΧΟς; it goes beyond the idea of ΠΤῶΧΟς, indicating the Christian according to his entire lowly condition in the world, which also is not inapplicable to him who is perhaps rich in worldly wealth, especially as these riches have no true value for him. Comp. moreover, 1 Corinthians 1:26 : Οὐ ΠΟΛΛΟῚ ΔΥΝΑΤΟΊ, Οὐ ΠΟΛΛΟῚ ΕὐΓΕΝΕῖς. ΤΑΠΕΙΝΌς is the Christian, in so far as he is despised and persecuted by the world (ΤΕΤΑΠΕΙΝΩΜΈΝΟς ΚΑῚ ΚΑΤΗΣΧΥΜΜΈΝΟς, Psalm 74:21, comp. 1 Corinthians 1:27), is inwardly distressed (ἘΝ ΠΑΝΤῚ ΘΛΙΒΌΜΕΝΟς, ἜΞΩΘΕΝ ΜΑΧΑΊ, ἜΣΩΘΕΝ ΦΌΒΟΙ, 2 Corinthians 7:5), and walks in humility before God; the opposite of all this is comprehended in ΠΛΟΎΣΙΟς. On ὝΨΟς, Theile rightly remarks: sublimitas … non solum jam praesens sed etiam adhuc futura cogitari potest = ΖΩΉ illa, quae in coelis perficienda in terris jam est. Incorrectly, de Wette understands by this “present exaltation;” as little also does ὝΨΟς indicate only “the stedfast courage of the Christian” (Augusti); and still less is it equivalent to divitiae, as Pott thinks, who finds only the thought here expressed: Ὁ ΤΑΠΕΙΝΌς dives sibi videatur.

By ἘΝ is not to be understood the condition in which (Schneckenburger), but, according to the prevailing linguistic usage of the N. T., the object upon which the glorying is to take place; comp. Romans 5:3.

The words ὅτι ὡς ἄνθας χόρτου παρελεύσεται announce wherein the ΤΑΠΕΊΝΩΣΙς of the rich consists. As regards the construction, it forms one simple sentence. Baumgarten incorrectly construes ΠΑΡΕΛΕΎΣΕΤΑΙ with Ὁ ΠΛΟΎΣΙΟς, and considers ὍΤΙ Ὡς ἌΝΘΟς ΧΌΡΤΟΥ, sc. ἐστι, as a parenthesis, by which an epigrammatic sharpness is conveyed to the preceding sentence. The figure, which is further drawn out in Jam 1:11, is of frequent occurrence in the O. T., whilst with the quickly fading grass and its flower is not only man generally (comp. Job 14:2 : ὭΣΠΕΡ ἌΝΘΟς ἈΝΘῆΣΑΝ ἘΞΈΠΕΣΕΝ; Psalm 103:15 : ἌΝΘΡΩΠΟς ὩΣΕῚ ΧΌΡΤΟςὩΣΕῚ ἌΝΘΟς ΤΟῦ ἈΓΡΟῦ ΟὝΤΩς ἘΞΑΝΘΉΣΕΙ; Isaiah 40:6-7 : ΠᾶΣΑ ΣᾺΡΞ ΧΌΡΤΟς, ΚΑῚ ΠᾶΣΑ ΔΌΞΑ ἈΝΘΡΏΠΩΝ Ὡς ἌΝΘΟς ΧΌΡΤΟΥ· ἘΞΗΡΆΝΘΗ Ὁ ΧΌΡΤΟς ΚΑῚ ΤῸ ἌΝΘΟς ἘΞΈΠΕΣΕ; comp. 1 Peter 1:24), but also specially, as here the ungodly[58] (comp. Psalm 37:2 : ὩΣΕῚ ΧΌΡΤΟς ΤΑΧῪ ἈΠΟΞΗΡΑΝΘΉΣΟΝΤΑΙ, ΚΑῚ ὩΣΕῚ ΛΆΧΑΝΑ ΧΛΌΗς ΤΑΧῪ ἈΠΟΠΕΣΟῦΝΤΑΙ; see also Psalm 90:6), compared.

ἌΝΘΟς is here, not as in Isaiah 11:1, LXX. translation of נֵצֶּר = germen, surculus (Hottinger), but the flower; however, the combination צִיץ חָצִיֹר is not found in Hebrew; in Isaiah 40:7 it is צִיץ הַשָׂדֶה. Παρέρχεσθαι, in the meaning of destruction, often occurs in the N. T. (so also in the Hebrew עָבַר); also in the classics: Soph. Trach. 69: ΤῸΝ ΠΑΡΕΛΘΌΝΤʼ ἌΡΟΤΟΝ.

[56] According to Lange, the expressions ὁ ταπεινός and ὁ πλούσιος are to be taken in a prophetico-symbolical sense, so that the first “designates the Jewish Christian and the Jew absolutely in their low oppressed theocratic condition as contrasted with the heathen world and the secular power, or still more exactly the theocrat, inasmuch as he deeply feels his condition;” the second, “again, designates the Jew and the Jewish Christian, inasmuch as he sees the hopeless situation of the Jewish people in a brilliant light, inasmuch as he is not only rich in the consciousness of his Jewish prerogatives, but also in chiliastic and visionary expectation,” etc. This interpretation requires no refutation.

[57] A similar connection is found in Php 3:19 : ἡ δόξα ἐν τῇ αἰσχύνῃ αὐτῶν.

[58] Lange observes: “This is not here the image of the ungodly, but is to be understood as a historical figure with reference to the decay of the O. T. glory!”

Jam 1:9-11. An entirely new subject is now started, which has no connection with what has preceded; such a connection can only be maintained by supplying mental links artificially, for which the text gives no warrant. Jam 1:9-11 deal with the subject of rich and poor; they may be interpreted in two ways; on the one hand, one may paraphrase thus: Let the brother who is “humble,” i.e., belonging to the lower classes and therefore of necessity (in those days) poor, glory in the exaltation which as a Christian he partakes of; but let him who was rich glory in the fact that, owing to his having embraced Christianity, he is humiliated (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:10-13), “let the rich brother glory in his humiliation as a Christian” (Mayor)—taking ταπείνωσις, however, as having the sense of self-abasement which the rich man feels on becoming a Christian. This interpretation has its difficulties, for it is the rich man, not merely his riches, who “passes away”; so, too, in Jam 1:11; moreover, if it is a question of Christianity, ὕψει and ταπεινώσει cannot well both refer to it, since they are placed in contrast; this seems to have been felt by an ancient scribe who altered ταπεινώσει to πίστει in the cursive 137 (see critical note above), thinking, no doubt, of Jam 2:5, οὐχ ὁ θεὸς ἐξελέξατο τοὺς πτωχοὺς τῷ κόσμῳ πλουσίους ἐν πίστει … It seems wiser to take the words as they stand, and to seek to interpret them without reading in something that is not there, especially as the writer (or writers) of this Epistle is not as a rule ambiguous in what he says; in fact, one of the characteristics of the Epistle is the straightforward, transparent way in which things are put. Regarded from this point of view, these verses simply contain a wholesome piece of advice to men to do their duty in that state of life unto which it shall please God to call them; if the poor man becomes wealthy, there is nothing to be ashamed of, he is to be congratulated; if the rich man loses his wealth, he needs comfort,—after all, there is something to be thankful for in escaping the temptations and dangers to which the rich are subject; and, as the writer points out later on in Jam 2:1 ff., the rich are oppressors and cruel,—a fact which (it is well worth remembering) was far more true in those days than in these.

9–11. Riches, and their perishableness

9. Let the brother of low degree] The Greek joins the sentence on to the preceding with the conjunction which may be either “and,” or “but,” implying that there is a sequence of ideas of some kind. The train of thought would seem to lie in the fact, as shewn in our Lord’s words (Matthew 6:24) that the love of mammon is the most common source of the “double-mindedness” which St James condemns, both in the poor and in the rich. The “brother” is used, as commonly in the New Testament as meaning one of the brotherhood of Christ. The word Christian had probably not as yet come into use in the Churches of Judæa, and was, at any rate, used of the disciples by others rather than by themselves. “Of low degree” is, perhaps, somewhat too narrow a rendering. Better, he that is lowly or more simply “he that is low.” The contrast with the rich man shews that “poverty” is the chief feature in the low estate spoken of.

rejoice] Better as elsewhere, glory, or exult.

in that he is exalted] Better, in his exaltation. His lowliness instead of being a thing to be ashamed of, was his true title to honour. Christ had marked him out as an heir of the Kingdom (Luke 6:20; see ch. James 2:5). Man’s estimate of honour and dishonour is reversed by God.

Jam 1:9. Καυχάσθω δὲ, but let him glory) The best remedy against double-mindedness (διψυχίαν) or a divided soul. The word “glorying” occurs also, ch. Jam 2:13, Jam 3:14, Jam 4:16.—ὁ ἀδελφὸς, the brother) James thinks it befitting to apply this title to the lowly rather than the rich.—ὁ ταπεινὸς, of low degree) poor and tempted.—ὕψει, in his exaltation) The apostle proposes to speak of the lowly and the rich: he shortly afterwards treats of the rich, Jam 1:11; and then of the lowly, Jam 1:12 : being about to treat of each subject more fully in ch. 5. The design of the whole Epistle is, to reduce all things to an equable footing. Comp. ch. Jam 2:1, Jam 5:13. Ὕψος, blessedness, the crown of life, that fadeth not away.

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. James 1:9But

Omitted in A. V. Introducing a contrast with the double-minded.

The brother of low degree (ὁ ἀδελφὸς ὁ ταπεινὸς)

Lit., the brother, the lowly one. Not in the higher Christian sense of ταπεινὸς (see on Matthew 11:29), but, rather, poor and afflicted, as contrasted with rich.

Rejoice (καυχάσθω)

Not strong enough. It is, rather, boast. So Rev., glory. Compare Romans 5:3; Philippians 3:3.

In that he is exalted (ἐν τῷ ὕψει αὐτοῦ)

Lit., in his exaltation. Rev., in his high estate.

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