2 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
In this passage, James addresses a timeless issue of the human condition....an attitude of favoritism. As old as history itself, James faced the same matter that churches and you and I and everybody else have to guard against today. Favoring one group over another. Preferential treatment for the such and such's or so&so's. James calls it judgment. And he warns us not to do it.
So let's unpack this passage...........
In verses 1-3, James explains the predicament - preferential treatment based on superficial values. Here, it's rich over poor but it could be lots of other things. Position. Skin color. Gender. Belief system. Anytime we base a person's value on something other than what God values, we find ourselves in this same predicament....an attitude of favoritism.
In verses 4-7, James explains the Problem that causes this predicament -our value system is different than God's.
The Greek word for "judge" is "krino" - it means to separate into categories ,to make distinctions among, to cause a division between the parts. It's like deciding what something is and slapping a label on it so as to know what to do with it then. Only the "something" is a "someone" and the "it" is a "who".
And when we do it, it's because we have an agenda.....James is a bit more harsh with his words - he says we have evil motives.
I think James is right.
We are inclined to treat people in ways that we believe will benefit ourselves.
So we assess someone else's value. And then determine if their label could offer an advantage to our own position. If so, we are tempted to adjust our behavior in a way that leverages the other person's assets.
And James just shakes his head at us, warning us that we are deceived. He knows the principle from Proverbs 29:5 applies A man who flatters his neighbor Is spreading a net for his steps. By trying to gain favor from people we think can give us an advantage, we are actually setting a trap for ourselves.
The only One qualified to determine a person's value is God, the Only Righteous Judge.
And the basis of His acceptance is.......Mercy.
Not some superficial issue like skin color or position or net worth.
So what's the Prescription for the Problem that causes this Predicament of preferential treatment?
James writes out the Divine Remedy in verses 8-11.
The Royal Law.
Loving one's neighbor as one's own self.
Instead of favoritism which is loving one's neighbor in order to help one's own self.
Failure to keep the Royal Law is a serious matter and James reminds us of that. In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus explains that all of God's Holy Word can be boiled down to just a couple of principles:
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets
Love God....and Love Others. As much as we love ourselves.
That's the prescription that will heal the problem. And that will get rid of the predicament.
Wow. That's powerful stuff.
One more thought.
Depending on how well we live out the Royal Law, James has a Prognosis for our lives. Verses 12, 13. These are definitely worth repeating as we close out today....So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Anybody you need to show some mercy to today?
The evaluation of your life depends on it.