"Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation..."
I've been pondering the seeming irony of this verse for the past couple of months. To the lowly, James instructs to boast in their exaltation but the rich are told to focus on their humiliation. It's counter-intuitive to way this world works but it's the way the invisible, other-worldly kingdom of Christ.
Many of us will, at times, find ourselves either as lowly or rich, depending on the circumstance. The focus of my meditation however, has been on what it means for the rich Christian, to "boast in his humiliation". The idea of humiliation in this context is stark and extreme. Boasting or making much of our humiliation does not come naturally to any of us, even less so for those who are rich or powerful. Yet, it's exactly the prescription James offers for those who are rich in the assembly of the church.
More importantly, how does one boast in his humiliation. Here are four ways that you may find helpful if on occasion and circumstance, you find yourself counted among the rich.
1. Consider our own mortality and finitude -
Reading James 1:10-11 in entirety sheds light on this -
"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 will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits"
The rich person ought to boast in his humiliation because he will pass away - his wealth, fame and power will not last. Boasting in your humiliation means reminding yourself and anyone around you) that your wealth and power is finite and will pass with time. It also means that you want live to as to demonstrate that this is true.
2. Live to pursue God, not wealth, power or fame
The admonition assumes that the rich man is pursuing wealth as the aim of his life. But boasting in our humiliation means demonstrating the folly of this approach. The wise rich believer who chooses to do this, will pursue God instead of wealth or self-aggrandizement of any kind.
3. Make plans with deference to God's will
James 4: 13-16 speaks to the mindset that undergirds this kind of plan-making. It is the kind of plan making that not only seeks to discover God's will but also depends on God's power to accomplish the objectives of the plan.
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
The temptation for some of us is to invest trust not in God but in our ability to execute well-crafted plans. When you're in a position of relative wealth or power, you might not be aware of your daily need for God's provision. God calls such presumption - evil boasting. Rather, we ought to make our plans with deference to God's will and with an awareness of our need for His blessing.
4. Remember your true identity.
Boasting in our humiliation means keeping in mind our true identity as sinners saved by the grace and generosity of God. While there isn't a particular verse in James that clearly illustrates this, it is unquestionable that James himself understood this. He chose to address himself as "...servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" even though he was, humanly speaking, the brother of Jesus. In the words of Paul, James chose to count his familial relationship "as loss" for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus. Whether rich or poor, we were spiritual orphans, adopted into God's family and now we enjoy full privileges only as a result of God's kindness.