James, in the prior verses, gave instructions for how Christians should deal with trials, and here are some specific examples. A lowly brother is one who is physically poor. He can face his trials by rejoicing in the fact that he is a child of God and an heir of heaven. The rich brother is one who is physically rich. He can face his trials, not by priding himself upon his material wealth, but by rejoicing in the fact that he is a child of God and that he can use his physical riches to serve God and do good.
Friends, we should always remember that riches and poverty can be a curse or a blessing, depending on our attitude toward them. God doesn't want us to place our emphasis on the externals of life. If we do, we will never be able to rejoice in the midst of trials. What's really important to God is our character, and we can all have a godly attitude and disposition, regardless of whether we are rich or poor.
Verse 11 is a simple extension of the previous two verses - "For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits." This illustrates the futile desire for physical riches. If a person's pursuit is earthly treasure--if they rejoice in things--then when the burning heat of trials comes upon them, they won't survive. They'll be like grass that withers in the hot sun or a flower that falls and loses its beautiful appearance. Let me say it again: God doesn't want us to place our emphasis on the externals of life. If we do, we will never be able to rejoice in the midst of trials. As the Lord said in Matthew 6:19,20 - "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." A person who loves money and physical things will never develop to spiritual maturity, as God desires.
1:12 reads - "Blessed is the man who endures trials [temptation, NKJV]; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." First, let me point out that the Greek word used in this verse is better translated as trials, not temptation. This verse declares a wonderful promise, and we need to believe it! It is also a wonderful conclusion to what we've seen thus far. The Christian who can faithfully endure trials, whether he is rich or poor, will receive the crown of life (i.e., everlasting life in heaven)! That crown is for all those who love the Lord (John 14:15)!
Let us summarize this first half of James 1 before we close. It is the design of trials (life's afflictions) to make Christians mature. We should, therefore, rejoice in trials. We all need wisdom to recognize this, and God will supply it if we seek it. Our faith, however, must be stable and without doubt, or we will receive nothing from the Lord. We must not allow outward circumstances to change our status with God. Patient endurance leads to a crown of life.
Dear listeners, what about you? Are you allowing the trials of this life to make you more spiritually mature or, are you allowing them to drag you down into discouragement and despair? Do you rejoice in trials, knowing that God has a purpose in all of it, even if you don't see the purpose at the time? The more I study the New Testament, the more I see that one of the most important components of living a faithful Christian life is having a proper attitude. We need an attitude that can accept and rejoice in difficult situations and in pleasant ones. We need an attitude that seeks wisdom from God always. We need an attitude that is positive and unwilling to give up when life gets tough. Yes, a proper attitude is so very important for one who wants to receive the crown of life. Without a proper attitude, one will never be able to endure the difficult trials of this life. Without a proper attitude, one will never receive the crown of life from the Lord!