I was reading the first few verses of James again today. It all sounded vaguely familiar. Not just because I have read James before but because I’ve heard it somewhere else. And then I got to verse 11, and I knew where to look. James talks about the grass withering and the flowers fading. That’s what it will be like when a rich man fades away. You can read very similar verses in Isaiah 40:6-8. But that isn’t the only place. Jesus says something very similar in the Sermon on the Mount. If you look at Matthew 6:25 and the following verses, he is talking about worry. Why do you worry about things like life and food and clothes?
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you?Matthew 6:30
Both James and Jesus talk about how quickly grass and flowers fade. They talk about a lot of the same things actually. In Matthew 7 Jesus talks about asking God, and receiving good gifts from him, and he talks about choosing whom to serve in 6:24. These were topics we covered last Sunday. And there are more parallels as well. And I started to wonder why James sounded so much like Jesus did in the book of Matthew.
James didn’t write his letter in isolation. James was part of the church in Jerusalem from the very beginning (see Acts 1:14). The disciples were leading that church, and their teaching would have been all about the things Jesus said and did during his ministry. As they taught the new believers that were coming in droves, James was learning too.
Not only that, but he would have been in the inner circle, friends with the 12. He knew Matthew and Peter and John and the others. In fact, he probably knew every New Testament author, including Paul who comes on the scene a bit later. Sometimes I forget how connected they all were, and I study them in isolation. When I step back and look at the big picture and remember the connections, And the connections can help us understand what James is saying.
So what about these strange verses in James talking about the poor and the rich? (James 1:9-12) If James is writing to encourage the believers scattered from Jerusalem, of course he would remind them of the things Jesus said! And one of the things Jesus said is that God takes care of the grass and makes it beautiful, even though it is here for such a short time. Don’t you think he will take care of you? No matter how much money you have? Money is fleeting. It is not our reward. What is? The crown of life that we receive when we have stood the test. What an encouragement that would have been to people facing persecution and poverty and possible homelessness.
So when you see flowers, remember they are only here a moment and God cares for them. He will take care of you too. You don’t need to worry and stress about your financial situation or boast about it. Instead focus on the true reward — the crown of life — that God has promised to those who love him, who have chosen to serve him and persevere. For you are much more valuable to him than the grass of the field.