This week, we begin a series of devotions from the letter of James.
My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing. But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. Whoever asks shouldn’t hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways.
Brothers and sisters who are poor should find satisfaction in their high status. Those who are wealthy should find satisfaction in their low status, because they will die off like wildflowers. The sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up the grass so that its flowers fall and its beauty is lost. Just like that, in the midst of their daily lives, the wealthy will waste away. Those who stand firm during testing are blessed. They are tried and true. They will receive the life God has promised to those who love him as their reward.
Satisfaction. Have you got it? We talk about customer satisfaction, job satisfaction, and every product promises “satisfaction guaranteed.” Mick & Keith might have wanted a guarantee, but of course then the Stones wouldn’t have had a hit. Not satisfying at all.
What bizarre places James asks us to look for satisfaction! The poor are supposed to find it in their “high” status. Come again? And the rich are supposed to find it in their “low” status. What gives?
This is a strange new world we live in as Christians. Everything is upside down. As we read through James, traditionally attributed to the brother of Jesus, the leader of the Jerusalem church, we’ll see this theme over and over again: the poor aren’t any less for having little, and the rich aren’t “all that” just because they have a lot.
Satisfaction, James says, is found in realizing that your status in the world has nothing to do with your status before God. The poor are lifted up by this realization, naturally enough. But the rich are likewise blessed by the realization that no matter how people may fawn over them, their Creator is not impressed. Satisfaction is found neither in thinking too little of ourselves nor too much of ourselves, but rather in recognizing our essential connectedness with all of God’s people.
For Pondering & Prayer
Do you struggle more with thinking too little or too much of yourself? Today, ask God for guidance in seeing yourself as God sees you.
Satisfaction seems to hinge on our willingness to stop comparing ourselves with other people. In what areas of your life are you most prone to comparing yourself with others? Do they also happen to be areas where you are least satisfied?