Given James 1:1-18,  how should a wealthy Christian relate material wealth?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The verses mentioned bring out some significant elements regarding how Christians are to view issues of wealth, power, and the contingent in the light of the transcendent.  It should be noted that the specific passages are addressed in an open letter, almost as if to spread a deliberate word of overarching totality in the temporal face of reality.  Consider this being very dominant in the ninth and tenth verses:

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.

In these verses, there is a definite argument being made that wealth and power should not be coveted as if they are ends in of themselves.  Rather, the transcendent end of being in the Lord's grace is something that money cannot purchase and power cannot gain.  Wealth and materialism are seen later in the verses as "temptation" to which only faith in God can be professed in order to repel such enticements.  In this light, a wealthy Christian must recognize that spiritual wealth trumps material wealth at any point.  The "Father of heavenly lights" can only be fully embraced when these material elements are placed in their proper contexts.  To "persevere this trial" is where the verses speak to the importance of wealth and material desire.  It is here where a wealthy Christian is taught to understand that the true wealth is not something that can be possessed, but rather conferred by the power of the divine.