“But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away” (James 1:9-11).
As we ask God for wisdom to understand the trials we’re to count as “all joy,” James tells us “to glory,” (KJV: “rejoice;” ESV: “boast”). Ironically, “the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position (or, his elevation or exaltation); and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation (or, his abasement).”
Grace is the currency of heaven. Every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ is ours by grace (Eph. 1:3). Our adoption as God’s children was accomplished by grace (Eph. 1:5-6). Our redemption and forgiveness were bought and paid in full by grace (Eph. 1:7).
The poor Christian has great grounds to boast in Christ, whose grace grants him perfect access to his heavenly Father independent of his own wealth, success, or any personal prowess. By grace, he is “raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). He’s also made “alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:12-14). Whatever he may lack of the world’s treasures, he possesses great wealth in grace. Because he stands in grace, all his blessings are permanent. Nothing can diminish his access to God or his approval by God.
The rich Christian is to rejoice in his humility because Christ, and not his affluence, gains him access to God. Wealth earns him no favors with God. In fact, he learns not to trust in ephemeral treasures that are here and gone. No one will ever gain heaven by riches. The rich may have monuments and cathedrals named for them, but before God, all the testaments of their greatness are vanity.
The grace of God slays our pride and promotes our gratitude and praise in Christ. In the richness of His mercy, God raises up both rich and poor and seats them together at table with Christ in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:6). So, rich and poor stand on the same ground of grace. All that we have – all that we are, “show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). Instead of comparing ourselves against each other in terms of possessions or achievements in the flesh, we’re to glory, boast, and rejoice in the grace of God in Christ, by which we gain full access to God.