James 1:9-11 – 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 also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
Culturally, we tend to think in two categories – rich and poor – and depending on your political leaning, you would most likely assign the words “good” and “bad” to one of these categories.
In our culture, we tend to think of the rich as oppressors and poor as the oppressed. However, Biblically, there are actually four categories, which contradicts the two cultural categories: godly poor, ungodly poor, godly rich, and ungodly rich. Godliness or ungodliness has to do with how you acquired your wealth and what you did with it.
If you vote “red”, you more than likely think just of numbers 2 & 3. On the other hand, if you vote “blue”, you probably think mainly think of numbers 1&4. But the Bible easily brings to mind people who can fit into each of these four categories.
Godly poor – James, who’s writing this book, is in Jesus’ family, and their parents, Mary and Joseph, were poor, rural, peasants who were very young when they had Jesus but the way they get their money and what they do with their money is very godly
Godly rich – In Genesis, Joseph is in charge of the biggest economy in the world (Egypt) and they trust him because he’s Spirit-filled
Ungodly poor – Many of these people can be found in Proverbs (sluggards, drunkards, lazy people)
Ungodly rich – Political leaders like Pharaoh in Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar in Babylon, and Herod in the Roman Empire who have palaces, gold, and riches, but they terrorize God’s people and give zero percent of their income to the Lord
While there are certainly stingy, ungodly rich people, some of the wealthiest people I know are the most generous and godly. While growing up in a poor neighborhood with a hardworking dad and a praying mom leading our godly family, a lot of my friends’ families were also poor and acted ungodly by trying to cheat the system.
The struggle is like that of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 18) – between our stuff and our Savior. Jesus shows us how to be both poor (while on this earth) and rich (now in Heaven). Whether we’re rich or poor, the most important thing is that we’re like Jesus.
Which of these four categories did you grow up in? Do these four categories help explain those you’ve met better than just having two categories?