LET’S BE FAIR ABOUT IT
James 2:1-13 August 2 2009
In this chapter the apostle condemns a sinful regarding of the rich, and despising the poor, which he imputes to partiality and injustice, and shows it to be an acting contrary to God, who has chosen the poor, and whose interest is often persecuted, and his name blasphemed, by the rich (v. 1-7). He shows that the whole law is to be fulfilled, and that mercy should be followed, as well as justice (v. 8-13). He exposes the error and folly of those who boast of faith without works, telling us that this is but a dead faith, and such a faith as devils have, not the faith of Abraham, or of Rahab (v. 11-26).
1. CONDEMNS A SINFUL REGARDING OF THE RICH, AND DESPISING THE POOR, IMPUTED TO PARTIALITY AND INJUSTICE, AND TO BE AN ACTING CONTRARY TO GOD (2:1-7)
James 2:1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. 2:2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 2:3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 2:4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 2:6 But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 2:7 Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
James 2:1 AS BELIEVERS. . . DON’T SHOW FAVORITISM. God does not show favoritism —nor should believers.
James 2:2 MEETING. The Greek for this term is the origin of the English word “synagogue.”
James 2:5 (2:5-13) James gives three arguments against showing favoritism to the rich: 1. The rich persecute the poor —the believers (vv. 5-7). 2. Favoritism violates the royal law of love and thus is sin (vv. 8-11). 3. Favoritism will be judged (vv. 12-13). (2:5) HAS NOT GOD CHOSEN THOSE WHO ARE POOR. . . ? See Lk 6:20; 1Co 1:26-31. THE KINGDOM. The kingdom that is entered by the new birth (Jn 3:3,5) and that will be consummated in the future (Mt 25:34,46).
The apostle is here reproving a very corrupt practice. He shows how much mischief there is in the sin of prosoµpoleµpsia-respect of persons, which seemed to be a very growing evil in the churches of Christ even in those early ages, and which, in these after-times, has sadly corrupted and divided Christian nations and societies. Here we have,
Christ’s being the Lord of glory should teach us not to respect Christians for any thing so much as their relation and conformity to Christ. You who profess to believe the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, which the poorest Christian shall partake of equally with the rich, and to which all worldly glory is but vanity, you should not make men’s outward and worldly advantages the measure of your respect. In professing the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, we should not show respect to men, so as to cloud or lessen the glory of our glorious Lord: how ever any may think of it, this is certainly a very heinous sin.
2. HE SHOWS THAT THE WHOLE LAW IS TO BE FULFILLED, AND THAT MERCY SHOULD BE FOLLOWED, AS WELL AS JUSTICE (V. (2:8-13)
James 2:8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 2:9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 2:11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. 2:12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 2:13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
James 2:8 ROYAL LAW. The law of love (Lev 19:18) is called “royal” because it is the supreme law that is the source of all other laws governing human relationships. It is the summation of all such laws (Mt 22:36-40; Ro 13:8-10).
James 2:10 GUILTY OF BREAKING ALL. The law is the expression of the character and will of God; therefore to violate one part of the law is to violate God’s will and thus his whole law (cf. Mt 5:18-19; 23:23).
James 2:12 JUDGED. This judgment is not for determining eternal destiny, for James is speaking to believers (v. 1), whose destiny is already determined (Jn 5:24). Rather, it is for giving rewards to believers (1Co 3:12-15; 2Co 5:10; Rev 22:12).
James 2:13 MERCY TRIUMPHS OVER JUDGMENT! If man is merciful, God will be merciful on the Day of Judgment (see Pr 21:13; Mt 5:7; 6:14-15; 18:21-35).
The apostle, having condemned the sin of those who had an undue respect of persons, and having urged what was sufficient to convict them of the greatness of this evil, now proceeds to show how the matter may be mended; it is the work of a gospel ministry, not only to reprove and warn, but to teach and direct. Col. 1:28, Warning every man, and teaching every man. And here,
We have the law that is to guide us in all our regards to men set down in general. If you fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, you do well, v. 8. Lest any should think James had been pleading for the poor so as to throw contempt on the rich, he now lets them know that he did not design to encourage improper conduct towards any; they must not hate nor be rude to the rich, any more than despise the poor; but as the scripture teaches us to love all our neighbours, be they rich or poor, as ourselves, so, in our having a steady regard to this rule, we shall do well. Observe hence,
With reference to the case James has been upon: Do you plead for your respect to the rich, because you are to love your neighbour as yourselves? Why then show also an equitable and due regard to the poor, because you are to love your neighbour as yourself: or else your offending in one point will spoil your pretence of observing that law at all. Whosoever shall keep the whole law, if he offend in one point, wilfully, avowedly, and with continuance, and so as to think he shall be excused in some matters because of his obedience in others, he is guilty of all; that is, he incurs the same penalty, and is liable to the same punishment, by the sentence of the law, as if he had broken it in other points as well as that he stands chargeable with. Not that all sins are equal, but that all carry the same contempt of the authority of the Lawgiver, and so bind over to such punishment as is threatened on the breach of that law. This shows us what a vanity it is to think that our good deeds will atone for our bad deeds, and plainly puts us upon looking for some other atonement.