Week 11: James and the Fatherless
Day 5: Of Daisies And Dollars
Grass does not do well under the burning sun. Last summer, we had a drought, and our yard suffered greatly. We were re-siding the house, and often couldn’t run the sprinklers because of it. We live in a semi-arid climate anyway, so when you cut your annual rainfall in half things are really dry! The grass quickly became brittle. It completely wore away around our front steps. Even my lavender bushes, which survived one of the harshest winters I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen some harsh ones), struggled to make it. One did not. The sun and the lack of moisture were too much. It shriveled up, turned grey, and died.
Had I picked between my lavender and my newly planted daisies, which the rabbits greatly enjoyed, I would have chosen the lavender for survival. But I was wrong. Even though I planted the daisies late in the season when the temperatures were sweltering, and even though the rabbits ate them right down to the ground, they are about to start blooming.
This is very similar to the principles that we find in James 1:9-11. Here James is warning the rich. The warning he gives here is foundational for a warning he will give later in chapter two – a warning that takes us right back to the basis of God’s commandment to care for the fatherless (found in Deuteronomy 10:17,18). James says:
“Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”
As humans we tend to think that money means security. But God sees it differently. God says that riches, and the rich, are like my front lawn in drought – they wither up and fade away. They can be lost as quickly as they were gained, in fact, more quickly in some instances. They are temporal. The satisfaction, security and status that they appear to give only last for a moment, then they are either gone or no longer sufficient.
As we consider this in light of the fatherless this passage prepares us for two things. First, it sets a little background for further discussion of the matter when we reach James chapter two which is a very, very important passage. Secondly, it gives us some of God’s perspective for those moments in ministry when we are tempted to say, “If only I were rich. Then I could…” or “If I had just a little bit more…” It prepares us for those moments when what we had is lost. It teaches that even then we are to rejoice.
It is easy for us to vigorously nod our heads in agreement with James when we feel that we have nothing, but what about when we lose what we actually had? Or when we have to turn down what could have possibly meet real, genuine needs? Several times in the last few years, I have had opportunity to take on a little extra work to bring in a little extra. My income is not ginormous, so those opportunities were very encouraging. In the end however, every one of them either had to be turned down, limited or cut short because of ministry decisions that had to be made. I made all of those decisions with the confidence that I was doing what God had directed me to do, but I will not lie to you and tell you that the decisions were easy. I’m not going to say that I was always excited about it. I struggled. One in particular was very difficult, and I felt its effects for months. In moments like those, it’s not so easy to say, “Eh, who needs money anyway.” But if we go back to our “Tribulation Trio” we are reminded that those are the moments, in which we are to rejoice because God is testing and growing our faith.
Twice, Paul told the Corinthians that if a man is going to glory, his glory should be in the Lord. ( I Corinthians 1:31, II Corinthians 10:17) Riches will fade away, but God’s power to provide will never fail. Don’t forget the lily of the field, “…they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, oh ye of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30) God has a plan to take care of the tiniest need, just as He cares for the tiniest flowers. He will not fail. Let Him be your glory!