James 1:9-11 9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. 11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. — KJV
James 1:9-11 9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. — NIV
James 1:9-11 9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. — ESV
Greek Transliteration of James 1:11 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
anatello  make rise, spring up, at rise of, be up gar  verily, therefore, yet, no doubt, as, because that ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) helios  sun, light sun  union, with, together, companionship, possession, beside ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) kauson  a glare, high heat kai  and, also, even, so then, too xeraino  shrivel, dry up, wither ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) chortos  court or garden of vegetation kai  and, also, even, so then, too ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) anthos  flower, blossom autos  her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun) ekpipto  drop away, become inefficient, fall, cast down, fail kai  and, also, even, so then, too ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) euprepeia  gracefulness, good suitableness ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) prosopon  front view, countenance, appearance, face, person’s presence autos  her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun) apollumi  die, destroy fully houto  likewise, in this manner, thus kai  and, also, even, so then, too ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) plousios  wealthy, rich en  preposition denoting place: such as in, at, of, through… ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) poreia  travel, journeying, proceedings autos  her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun) maraino  extinguish, fade away, pass away
1.11.0 Introduction to James 1:11
Verse 11 expounds on verse 10 with poetic beauty. A great deal of time is spent talking to the rich man in this passage when you compare it to the brief message to the poor man given in verse 9. Questions for verse 11 primarily address the temporal.
1.11.1 What is the significance of the reference to the sun rising?
Ps 74:16 Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun. First of all, we know God created the sun.
Ex 16:21 Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted. In this example, Moses had commanded the people to gather the manna first thing in the morning before the sun grew high in the sky and melted it, thus causing it to spoil. We have all observed that as the sun grows higher in the sky through the morning it gets warmer and warmer. The summer sun is very hot as morning heads toward midday. With respect to the context of this passage, James seems to be drawing an allegory from the manna of the desert wanderers to the wealth of the rich man. James is saying that although the manna was good first thing in the morning, it spoiled over time as it was exposed to the sun’s heat. Likewise, the money a man collects takes time to lose its luster in the eye of its holder. As a man acquires more, what he had before just isn’t good enough. Eventually the man will who lives for his riches will find his life to be hollow and spoilt. A time will come when none of it will matter anymore and he will die, leaving all of it behind for others to bicker over.
Jn 9:6 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. The sun may light the world, but it’s Jesus who lights the way to eternal life.
1 Cor 15:40-44 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Just as this life is a but a seed to the next, I think the light and heat of our sun will eventually be replaced by the light of our Lord. His light will fill the city as described in Rev 22:5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Rev 20:12, 15 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. As with the sun’s scorching heat that withers the grass while the rich man fades away, hell fire is reserved for those not found in the book of life. This will be the final judgment of Christ on the dead where those not written in the book will fade away altogether forever.
1.11.2 Why the flower and grass illustration?
Ps 103:15-18 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. James appears to be quoting Ps 103:15, at least in part. Grass and flowers live for a season. So it is with men. The rich pass away just as do the poor. Even if you clip the flower and press it in a book to retain its beauty for a longer time, its life is still gone – no more a living beauty.
Isaiah 40:6-8 A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. This is another passage James seems to draw from. Like the Psalms reference, the point seems to be the brevity of human accomplishment, no matter how grand, compared to eternity.
As our study of James progresses we will see the hope of eternal life revealed, that revelation being woven into the fabric of James’ epistle (1:18, 1:25, 2:5, 4:10, 5:20).
1.11.3 What doesn’t last?
Pr 28:20 A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
Pr 28:22 A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him. Money is temporary. “Unfortunate” things can happen in a heartbeat. A car accident can take your money and your wealth. An illness can break you financially. You could be sued. Your riches are as fragile as your life, if your checkbook is what you count as wealth.
1.11.4 What does last forever?
Phil 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Being perfected as a result of the “upward call” of God is the prize Paul speaks of.
1 Thess 4:17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. No matter when you think this event takes place, we know it eventually does.
Jn 6:54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. Jesus spoke in a metaphor here, but his message in this verse explains much. Feeding on his flesh means to receive his words, to believe in him, to accept him completely and yield ourselves to him, to his sovereignty, and to his eternal Lordship. To drink his blood means we accept his atoning blood sacrifice on the cross in place of our death as payment for our sins. The promise, in exchanging our will for his, is eternal life. The Lord lasts forever. He offers us an opportunity to join him.
1.11.5 Summary of James 1:9-11
James 1:9-11 9Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. – ESV
There are fundamentally two types of wealth. Worldly wealth is temporary. In this life it serves a purpose. We are called to be stewards of what God gives us. He promises that when we share, we receive back even more. If we are stingy and hoard it, what we have will eventually be taken away. It is as temporary and fragile as our flesh and in the end can do nothing to sustain our flesh or our souls. People who are materially wealthy will find it challenging to please God, but there’s plenty of direction in scripture as to how to overcome the world. James explains this is done by humbling ones self to God and man by first realizing the funds come from and belong to God, and their only meaningful purpose is to care for others.
James contrasts the material wealth with spiritual wealth. A person who is filled with the Holy Spirit has minimal physical needs. God will take care of the earthly needs of those who submit to His will, no matter how materially poor that person may be. The poor are exulted to eternal glory while the rich must humble themselves and reckon themselves as less than the least in order to enter the Kingdom of God.
Prov 13:7 One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. You can live humbly or as a snob whether you have a lot of money or not. Our material possessions mean nothing. We have what we perceive ourselves to have, which is to say what we claim to have. Claim God an you have great wealth. Claim material wealth and you have nothing.