Thanks for giving me a chance to help you connect with God through Scripture this year.
If you missed any of last week’s posts, catch up by clicking on any day below:
- Day 1: James 1:1
- Day 2: James 1:2-4
- Day 3: James 1:5-8
- Day 4: James 1:9-11
- Day 5: James 1:12-18
- Day 6: James 1:19-26
- Day 7: James 1:27
- Day 8: James 2:1-4
5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? – James 2:5-7
John Q is one of my favorite movies.
It tells the story of a desperate father (Denzel Washington) whose son needs a heart transplant but they don’t have adequate health insurance or money. Given no options, John Q takes the hospital hostage and demands that his son get the care he needs. If you’ve got two minutes and a few tears to spare, watch the clip below.
SPOILER ALERT (for a 14 year-old movie): John Q saves his son’s life and the movie ends when he’s taken off to jail with a profound “thank you” from his son who was doomed to die.
When James writes about “the poor in the world” (v.5) he’s talking about people who woke up with a John Q type of desperation each and every day. These are not just poor people in general but desperately poor Jesus-followers.
It is these people whom God has chosen to make “rich in faith.” Here, James speaks to an abundance of faith not an abundance of stuff. Remember, James is all about real, active faith so an abundance of faith in the lives of these Jesus-followers would make a very real impact on the world around them. I wonder if our faith shouldn’t be doing the same.
Isn’t this just like God?
God uses the people nobody wants to bring the hope that everyone needs.
But James isn’t primarily writing to the poor or the rich. He’s writing to the middle.
God knew we would read this letter one day and be tempted to think about ourselves as not quite poor but not quite rich either so we should not have to give James’ teaching much thought.
James is showing us that the way to life in the upside-down kingdom of God starts with John Q desperation. James’ teaching about God’s love for the poor parallels the way Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3
James is echoing the words of his brother, Jesus, about the value of desperation. “Poor in spirit” is not a concept that easily translates in our lives today. It’s difficult to explain it but we use the phrase “spiritually bankrupt” a lot. If you could translate “poor in spirit” to financial terms, it’s not as if you’re a bit down on your luck this month. It’s like you’ve lost literally everything you own and there’s no insurance.
That’s our standing before God apart from Jesus Christ.
But it’s that very standing that Jesus calls “blessed” because he knows it’s the beginning of the road to the real, active faith James writes about here that frees us from status and materialism.
Re-read verse 5 again. Did you catch the last four words? “Those who loved him.” How do you love God? You start by realizing your desperate need for him. John Q desperation.
Questions for Prayer and Application
1. If God granted you an unlimited amount of something, what would it be? Why?
2. How do you see God using unexpected people in our world today? In what ways do you think God is wanting to use you? Pray this simple prayer today, “God, I give myself to you today.” God will always use someone who can sincerely pray that.
3. How often are you aware of your desperate need for Christ? Have you ever realized how spiritually bankrupt we are apart from him? Simply rest in silence for a few minutes and let God’s love become real in your life today.