James 1:9-11
9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.
When James writes “brothers” here, he means anyone—men and women.  So anyone in “humble circumstances” (a euphemism for being poor), James writes, should “take pride in his high position”.  Did I read that right?  Take pride in being poor?  That doesn’t sound very American, does it?  No wonder the so-called “prosperity gospel” (which is really no “gospel at all”) is so appealing to people: who wants to be content with a small amount of money?  Don’t we want to be rich?  Isn’t that part of the “American Dream”?  James, speaking to Christians, tells the dream a little differently.  He says if we are poor we should “take pride in” our “high position”.   “Take pride” is a translation of a single Greek verb and as much as we struggle with its meaning does, in fact, means “to take pride in something”.[1]  The issue here is not one of pride in and only in us.  Jeremiah 9:23-24 also speaks of this same kind of boasting James speaks of:
This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.
James is telling these Christians without high socioeconomic status to look beyond their money and “boast in the Lord” and the fact that they are, in fact, children of the King.  This world is not all there is.  We cannot live like it is.  This is why in verse ten, James warns the rich to rejoice in their “low position”.  It is so easy to fall in love with money.  It has a way of dominating our lives.  All the business deals that acquire wealth will die the day the rich person dies.  If we are rich, we must also realize there is more to life than this world and we have a responsibility to use our wealth for the Kingdom of God.  It is ALL His and He gave us the ability to generate wealth as we are breathing HIS air.
In verse eleven, James further sharpens this point by stating just like a flower is eventually killed in the course of time, so a rich person will eventually taste death.  We cannot outrun it.  Death will come for us all—rich or poor.  As Psalm 49:16-17 states, “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.”  Before we go too far and start looking down our noses at our friends who are rich, let us settle the issue: James is not cursing wealth.  But like anything else, we must be careful not to let it become our God.  And remember: Americans are among the wealthiest in the world.  James’ warning is for all of us!  About a year ago, I heard a commentator on a news show say, “When obesity is a problem among the homeless of our country, you know we are all wealthy people.”

Ultimately for all of us—rich or poor—we must keep our eyes on Jesus.  We shouldn’t envy the positions or wealth of others but instead realize we are to boast only in the Lord and what He has done.  Because apart from Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

[1] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), s.v. “kaucavomai”.