The promise of exaltation mentioned by James is a promise that can be fulfilled providentially in this world and will be fulfilled certainly in the next world. What does exaltation include? Here are some suggestions.
James’ readers were experiencing trials of different kinds because of their faith in Jesus. Some of them may have lost their possessions during those trials. They may have had to leave everything behind when they were forced to leave their homes. It would have been very difficult for them to remain dependent on God during those experiences. James encourages them to continue looking to God and assures them that they could enjoy his recompense even in this life. After all, Jesus has said that those whose commitment to him is costly for them will receive a hundredfold in this life. And a hundredfold is an example of exaltation.
In addition, there will be the blessings of heaven and whatever else can be said about them they are all expressions of exaltation. They are often depicted as crowns. As Matthew Henry said, ‘The highest honour in heaven will be the reward of the greatest humility on earth.’ Jesus makes clear in the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 that there will be great reward given by him to those who served him in humble ways. As he said to the overcomers from the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, they will sit with him on his throne, and that certainly is exaltation.
Some of the people to whom James is writing had failed in their commitment to Jesus. This promise of exaltation comes at the end of James’ call to them to repent of their wrong attitudes and behaviour. We can deduce from his promise that past failures are not a barrier to future exaltation as long as we repent of the wrong things we had done. This promise of exaltation is another reminder of the graciousness of God in his dealings with his people.