The Test of Earthly Riches

A biblical attitude towards wealth can help us more effectively live on mission.

“Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.” (James 1:9-10 ESV)

An eternal attitude produces earthly gratitude.

James affirmed that the starting point for dealing with trials is an attitude adjustment. We can count them all joy (1:2) because they produce perseverance and maturity (1:3-4). In 1:9-11, he returned to this idea of attitude with another imperative. He commanded the poor to boast in their exaltation and the rich to boast in their humiliation. Interesting contrast.

Often these verses are neglected or skipped over quickly in a study of James as they seem to be disconnected from what precedes and what follows. But verse nine starts with a conjunction that many English translations omit. The conjunction demonstrates that what preceded and followed is, in fact, connected.

The word for trials (1:2) is also translated as temptation (1:13). It means to test or determine the quality of something. Trials and temptations are both tests for followers of Christ. Verses nine and ten focus on testing experienced by the poor and the rich. James indicated that an eternal attitude is required for both.

Poverty is a trial. However, it provides the poor who follow Jesus with an opportunity to exult in the spiritual riches he gives them (Ephesians 2:4-7). Since their spiritual wealth is secured, they can count it all joy in their physical poverty. This eternal attitude produces earthly gratitude.

Wealth doesn’t seem like a trial, but it is a test. The rich are tempted to trust their physical riches instead of God who supplied them. James reminded them that their wealth will pass away like the grass. For both the rich and the poor, their situations could create the doublemindedness rebuked in 1:8. But an eternal attitude produces earthly gratitude.

America is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. A quote that has seen a lot of circulation says, “If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75 percent of the world. If you have money in your bank, your wallet, and some spare change, you are among 8 percent of the world’s wealthy.”

So, here’s a missional thought. As you boast in the reality of your eternal riches in Christ, how are you leveraging your earthly riches for the Great Commission? That’s something to pray about.


“Lord, I want to boast in you. Help me. Show me ways to leverage my wealth for the advancement of the gospel. Give me an eternal attitude that produces earthly gratitude.”

Prayer requests for ABWE

  1. Pray Matthew 9:38—“therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest”—each morning and/or evening at 9:38.
  2. Pray for God to fully supply the financial needs for our missionaries.
  3. Pray for the North American church to strategically use their resources for the Great Commission.
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