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But let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, (James 1:9)
The phrase lowly (ταπεινός tapeinos) brother (ἀδελφός adelphos) has the sense of a believer who has a humble quality or status, that is, he holds a low or inferior position or station in life. He exists within humble circumstances, where he has no significance in the eyes of the world, even being afflicted by the world. He is dependent on employment for his earthly goods and wanting any desirable thing, as he lives impoverished or thereabouts. James has now moved on from trials in general to a more subtle kind of trial, significant life changes, a change in circumstances. The believer has now gone from poverty to a state of having a great deal of money; that is, he is now wealthy. There is a trial in life as to how a Christian can cope when circumstances reverse themselves, and he is elevated from living in poverty to riches. The other reverse conditions would be to go from wealth to poverty. Whenever such an extreme circumstance takes place in one’s life, his faith will be put to the test. And God has allowed either of these circumstances to take place. Thus, James is not contrasting alone poverty versus riches, but the spirituality that goes with it as the brother transitions from one state to another. So, the spiritual state is under consideration, namely, being rich or poor spiritually. A spirituality must also be maintained if one lives in poverty, as he must avoid despair, hopelessness, anxiety, resentment, and selfish determination. And, of course, the rich must avoid the love of money, depending on his wealth instead of God. And it can be easy to fall into a spiritual shipwreck when an extreme change in circumstances takes place.
James uses the present tense imperative to boast (καυχάομαι kauchaomai), which is always used negatively throughout the rest of the New Testament, except here and 4:16 of James. Generally, it has the sense of showing off or bragging about, pride, or self-importance. However, the other meanings for the Greek term are “rejoice in” or “glory in,” which is what James likely means here. So, James is telling the lowly brother to “rejoice in” or “glory in” God. James is drawing on the mindset of the Old Testament (Jer. 9:23–24), a common practice in his letter. For a poor man to boat or rejoice in his exaltation (ὕψος hupsos) seems like strange advice from an apostle. But if we look at it from the position of what a faithful, righteous, Christian brother might be able to do with his wealth for the furtherance of the kingdom work, it becomes more feasible. Yes, most unbelievers would rejoice over the wealth itself because being wealthy is their life goal, enabling them to live a life of luxury, sensual gratification as they display their new wealth. However, James has a much deeper idea in mind, for the concept of remaining faithful through trials has been the ongoing subject. This believer is to boast or rejoice in his surviving the trial of a significant change in his life circumstances with his faith intact. Yes, he can know that his faith is genuine by staying spiritually sound during such a trial as life transitions. The most important thing we need to know for all Christians is whether our faith is genuine and whether we are true Christians. Thus, we can boast or rejoice in all things that impact our lives, which will equip us to verify this.
If we are looking at this text from a completely spiritual aspect, we can say, most Christians in the first century up unto our day come from a humble background. (1 Cor. 1:26) Most were poor before their finding and accepting Jesus Christ. (Jam. 2:5) The world tends to view such poor ones in a bad light, spurning them, feeling contempt for them. However, after they have come to know (in an experiential way) the Father, and the one he sent forth, Jesus Christ, they are exalted, elevated to a dignified standing with Jesus Christ. (John 17:3.) In addition, some in the congregation were rich before their finding and accepting Jesus Christ. However, they became poor through some form of persecution. (Heb. 10:32-34) While one might suspect that this would cause doubts, it enabled them to appreciate the special relationship they had with Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life that lay ahead. In a Christian congregation, unlike the world, poor Christians are on equal ground as to position and wealth (i.e., they are rich in Christ), suffering no shortcomings whatsoever. They have the same opportunity to possess the same amount of spiritual riches as anyone else.
 2 Cor. 6:10; 8:9; Gal. 3:28, 29; 1 Pet. 4:10, 11; Rev. 2:9; see comments on James 2:1-9.
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