“Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation – since they will pass away like a wild flower.” (James 1:10, 11)
In my estimation, few doctrines are as stately as the perseverance of the saints. Even as I type these words, I want to use fancy script with curls and swirls!
How majestic to consider a God who keeps His people no matter what! How impressive it is to realize the Romans 8:39 truth that nothing can “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God’s people persevere, not by means of gritty determination, but because of a God who has bound Himself to them once and for all.
But for all its grandeur, the perseverance of the saints is not without its threats. Pick almost anywhere to read in the Bible and this becomes painfully clear. This truth has less to do with the veracity of this doctrine than with the reality of this sin-stained world. God’s people, though gathered and protected, are still in the crosshairs of their sworn enemies the devil, the world and their own flesh – who never stop attacking them (Q&A 127, Heidelberg Catechism).
From Scripture’s perspective, wealth is a high-level threat to the perseverance of the saints. This isn’t because wealth is inherently evil or corrupt; instead, it’s due to the natural penchant people have to glory in almost anything other than God. Wealth can achieve a faux aura of god-like attributes: untouchable, unstoppable, invincible. Wealth can be used to elevate oneself over, above, and against “mere mortals” and even God.
Except that the Apostle James compares those who trust in their wealth to a desert flower that springs up in the morning cool. By mid-afternoon, its blossom withers in the heat of the desert sun. “In the same way,” says James, “the rich will fade away, even while they go about their business.” (James 1:11, NIV)
The remedy for this threat begins and ends with Jesus who persevered all the way to the cross in order to attain the unspeakable wealth of the crown of life. Any who would also persevere must go this way, too. They must trust Jesus as they refuse to glory in their wealth and instead, “take pride in their humiliation.” (James 1:10, NIV)
Persevering for the saints is to seek God’s coming Kingdom ahead of kingdoms built by wealth and its influence. It’s to leverage wealth not as an end in itself, but as a means to justice and mercy. It’s to live out of Spirit-abundance rather than marketplace abundance.
Ignore the perils that wealth presents at your own risk. But an even greater risk is to ignore the Jesus-way for the saints when it comes to wealth. It’s the only way to persevere.
Rev. Phillip Leo is the Church Communications Director at Barnabas Foundation. Read Phil's online bio.