Greek hupsos means height of measurement or place, such as heaven; and metaphorically refers to high rank or station. Hupsos appears 6 times in scripture and in KJV is rendered “exalted” only once, here in James. In the other cases it is rendered high, on high, or height. In Lk 1:78, Lk 24:49, and Eph 4:8 the word hupsos is used to describe a location. In Eph 3:18 and Rev 21:16 it is used to describe physical dimensions. Jas 1:9 is the only instance where hupsos is used metaphorically to describe a person’s condition.
In English, “exalt” means to elevate in status or glory or otherwise increase the intensity of heightening. “High,” in metaphoric sense, has a similar meaning. In this instance “high” and “exalted” appear to work equally well. That said, the word “exalt” seems to convey the concept of a transition in progress toward higher position as opposed to “high,” which implies already being in that higher position. Since we don’t realize the fullness of God’s grace and glory in this life, we can only taste it here as we hope for its fullness in Heaven. A person who regards himself as lowly, therefore, is a person in the process of traveling along the narrow road to heaven. There can be no greater exaltation than salvation when we can come into the presence of Jesus and be allowed to remain. There can be no greater humiliation than being rejected by the ultimate source of grace. That said, to me the use of “low” and “high” as words to describe the conditions of poor and rich men seems insufficient when words like “exalted” and “humiliated” are available.
This post is an excerpt (Question 9.3) from my book Ask James one.