“Let every believer who is lowly boast in being raised up.”
~James 1:9 (NRSV).
One of my favourite lines in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) is when Ezra Kramer, director of the CIA, played by Scott Glenn, says his number one rule is, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” It’s a poignant and pessimistically optimistic angle on life.
In fact, it’s possibly more. It could even be a grand truism standing between us and the godly hour.
I’ve heard much ado about living ‘expectantly’ and there is a lot of truth to it, but it doesn’t factor in the harsh realities of how we’re to live with almost constant disappointment. And life tends to be like that at times... roundly and consistently disappointing.
“Expectant” faith wrangles tenuously with the flavours of the prosperity doctrine—it’s so close to it it’s not funny. But at the very same time, faith of its most basic nature affords us the requirement to be expectant. It’s a spiritual conundrum.
Perhaps what James is getting to in the above verse is that there is an accepted place for the believer in being low—or in being of humble circumstance and disposition.
Yet, they can boast always in one thing.
That’s in being raised. From a low position we can only really be raised. When we find ourselves in a low position we truly can have hope, for no hope can be taken from us. This is the pre-resurrection reality. Friday’s been, Sunday’s coming. It’s Saturday night!
This is a deeply spiritual thing that the true (active) believer in Christ can identify with. They enjoy a lowness that identifies intrinsically with the bludgeoning of Jesus—and not just that of the physical sense. Jesus was crushed for our transgressions more than physically and it was necessarily so. So it is for us. It’s in living the death of Jesus that others see his life through us (2 Corinthians 4:10).
James’ lowliness has this in sight. We don’t wish lowness upon ourselves but we accept it as wisdom from God. We see that it’s lowness that precipitates the raising.
Is This What Faith Really Means?
Can it possibly be that James is shedding the indelible light of the gospel paradox over us?
Can it be that we’re called to something no worldly person would touch with a twenty-foot barge pole?
Simply, this is inscrutable wisdom of God, and it is operant to such a degree that a blind world will not know the true blessings of God—for their ignorance and want of pleasure cannot pay the price of allegiance. High expectations can only be consistently dashed. Can we see the cursing in that?
If we can hope for the best at the same time as planning for the worst we may actually run incredibly close to the intent of James as wisdom for living the good life.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.