"Ask the Children of Isra'il how many a clear sign We have given them. And whoever changes the blessing of Allah after it has come to him, then Allah is severe at punishment. Adorned is the present life for those who disbelieve and they laugh at those who belieye while those who fear Allah shall be above them on the Day of Resurrection. And Allah gives, to whom He wills, without measure."
Immediately earlier, it was said that opposing truth after clear signs have come, deserves punishment. The first verse here (211) cites the case of the elders of Bani Isra'il who were punished for their hostility to truth despite clear signs given to them.
Rather than follow the blessed guidance given to them, they chose to stray away from it and, as a result, underwent punishments, for instance, they received the Torah which deserved being accepted but they denied it, consequent to which, they were threatened with Mount Sinai coming down upon them. Again, they heard the Word of Allah which they should have loved and respected but they tinkered with doubts in it and consequently, were struck dead by lightening. Then, again, they were delivered from the Pharaoh through a passage-way made by parting the river, but they showed no gratitude, instead, took to the calf for which they were killed. Further again, they should have been grateful when Mann and Salwa was sent for them but they disobeyed and spoilage set in. When they showed their distaste for it, it stopped coming, throwing them into the toil of growing their own food. Lastly, the chain of prophets that appeared among them from time to time should have been a matter of great satisfaction for them, yet they started killing them for which they were punished, having been deprived of power.
In the wake of such misdeeds, some of which find mention in the earlier part of Surah al-Baqarah, the divine law is that one who changes the blessings or clear signs of Allah, specially after it has come to him when he should have followed its guidance rather than turn back and go astray, then, the ultimate must come to pass, that is, Allah Almighty punishes such a deviant severely.
In the second verse (212), the real cause of the opposition to truth has been identified as the love of dunya (the worldly life) and its material gains. One of the effects of this attitude shows up in the derogatory stance taken against those who love their faith. The reason is simple. When materialism overpowers, the urge for faith evaporates. In fact, people would go to the limit of abandoning their faith when it happens to be against their worldly interests and would even have the audacity to laugh at those who love and practice it. So, it should not be strange that many chiefs among the Israelites and the ignorant among polytheists would make fun of poor Muslims. It is in this context that the Holy Qur'an says: 'Adorned is the present life for those who disbelieve' because of which 'they laugh at those who believe', although, these Muslims who have said no to kufr and shirk shall be in a state better than that of the disbelievers on the day of Qiyamah (Doomsday), for the disbelievers will be in Jahannam (Hell) and the believers, in Jannah (Paradise).
The last sentence carries a warning for those who pride on their brute economic strength because it is Allah who 'gives, to whom He wills, without measure'. So, all this depends on divinely-ordained destiny and not on personal excellence or influence. As such, it is not necessary that one who is respected for personal possessions happens to be a recepient of honour with Allah as well. The truth is that real honour cannot be anything other than what turns out to be valid in the sight of Allah. That being that, would it not be a plain 'absence of sense' if one stands on the crutches of worldly riches and claims honour for himself and looks down upon the less fortunate as mean? The real consequence of such attitude shall be unravelled on the Last Day.
It has been reported that Sayyidna 'Ali Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him said: 'Anyone who takes a Muslim man or woman low in status because of his or her hunger, Allah Almighty will put him to disgrace before a gathering of all, from the first to the last. And anyone who falsely accuses a Muslim man or woman of a weakness, Allah Almighty would put him on a high mound until he falsifies himself.'
(al-Qurtubi) (Ma'ariful Qur'an)