James here uses, beginning at the end of vs. 10, a graphic image of perishing. Wild flowers could pop out and perish in one day. Some moisture, a cool night, some nice warm sun early -- and then some scorching winds and some powerful heat evaporating the moisture -- and the flower fades as its blossoms fall and then its beauty is history.
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.
We're looking now at some anabaptist stuff and this is the kind of verse that has worked its way into the very fabric of anabaptist thinking and praxis.
Materialism in the issue now; materialism was the issue then.
The problem with materialism is not just materials. Possession of material things leads to a sense of power and pride. Both are intoxicating. Power and pride beget envy and greed, and they feed and fan power and pride.
Furthermore, material things that lead to power and pride and envy and greed freeze the heart and compassion of a human when it comes to others. Material things can beget the conviction that "what I have earned is mine" and "what's mine is mine." The poor can pick themselves up by their own bootstraps.
Here we are face to face with the problem James faced: the rich were using their power to oppress the poor (read James 2:1-13 and 5:1-6). James warned them that the Day is Coming.
Well, what do you think this text says to us about the Western lifestyle? I do not believe James is exhorting folks to be poor or to become poor. He's in that kind of world where the poor are poor and there's not much they can do about it and the rich are powerful and are oppressing. What does this say to the wealthy Westerner?