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Listen, my beloved brothers: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love him? (James 2:5)

James is calling these believers to take special heed and pay close attention to what he is about to say in writing when he says, Listen (ἀκούω akouō), my beloved brothers. Listen is an aorist imperative, which means he is about to make an emphatic point. James is going to use a play on words to get his point across about this poor man. In this context, when he describes the man as poor, he says that this one is poor because of what he does not have. The poor, who have nothing materially, who are usually rich spiritually, as they have circumstances, which move them to listen receptively to the Good News.

Again, we find James using the not (οὐχ ouch) to introduce a question that expects the reader to see as a positive answer. It is a rhetorical device that James has used and will use over the following few verses. One primary purpose for Christ coming was for people who are poor in spirit to realize their sin, to recognize their spiritual needs, and need for repentance. James asks these believers to consider the reality that God chooses the poor of this world to be rich in faith. Due to their status in life, the poor are more often prone to want to seek after a God who does care for them. Because of their being poor, they are humble and receptive to the good news. The poor man is more aware of his need for help and struggles with sin, while wealth often blinds the rich. Therefore, James says that the first reason these believers should stop showing favoritism to the poor man is that they were the very ones God chose.

This does not mean that all who are poor will receive eternal life just because they are poor. In addition, it is not saying that we cannot be rich and receive eternal life. Instead, James is trying to get his readers to understand that so often, due to the status of one’s life, i.e., living in poverty, they are more willing to listen to the message of Christ. The faith that the poor man has cannot be bought with the expensive clothes of the rich man and his jewelry. The poor man’s faith can only be attained by that which has already been done in Christ. The man who has faith in Christ is rich because not only does he have the fullness of life within this imperfect age of Satan’s rule, but also, he will have eternal life when Jesus returns. Paul tells those in Corinth that often God chooses the things that this world so often considers worthless. – 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.

James says the poor God has chosen are heirs of the kingdom promised to those who love him. The Greek word (κληρονόμος klēronomos), rendered heir, refers to a person who is entitled by law to inherit the estate of another. An heir is the receiver of the kingdom, like a son who would receive his father’s property or possessions because of his blood relation to his father. Whether one is rich or poor, to repent unto Christ means that you come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. As a result, one becomes an heir unto God and a child of God. Paul wrote,

Galatians 4:3-7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things[1] of the world. But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

Adoption: (υἱοθεσία huiothesia) The Greek noun is a legal term that literally means “adoption as a son,” which means to take or accept a son or daughter who is not naturally such by relationship, including full inheritance rights. The apostle Paul mentions adoption several times about those with a new status as called and chosen by God. These ones were born as offspring of the imperfect Adam, were formerly in slavery to sin. Through purchase through Jesus’ life as a ransom, many have received the adoption as sons and daughters becoming heirs with the only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. – Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5.

It is only those who are in a relationship with Christ that become heirs to God’s kingdom. A child of God gains their father’s property, an eternal relationship with the Son and his Father. For this reason, God is saying that the poor man who is rich in faith and rejected by most is just as much a part of God’s family and Kingdom as anyone else. This would also include the rich with the right heart attitude.

[1] Basic principles, elementary teachings

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