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The Book of James

Chapter 2

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 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,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: 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? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

With big bushy hair and unruly eyebrows, Susan Boyle wouldn’t be called attractive by society’s standards. She was a 47 year old woman from Blackburn, Scotland, who stepped out onto the stage of Britain’s Got Talent to cynical laughter and jeers. She didn’t look like anything special and the audience was immediately prejudiced against her. Even the judges had little patience for her and hurried her on to start her act. The music began; Susan took a deep breath then let loose the song with the voice of an angel. She shocked everyone! The audience was on their feet. Tears flowed freely down cheeks. Her voice touched their souls. Within days millions wanted to hear her sing and she became the Internet’s most watched video clip.

James warns us against prejudice. Our human nature causes us to judge ourselves against others. We often look at others in one of two ways; ‘what can they offer me’ or ‘how do I compare to them’. We have preconceived notions of who will be successful based on money, appearance, and prestige. Two thousand years ago, the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders were expecting the Messiah to be a powerful King; strong, wealthy, powerful. Their minds were immediately prejudiced against the idea that Jesus could be the Messiah because in their minds he was just a meek and lowly carpenter. James chastised the early Christian church for falling into the same mindset; judging people against worldly values.

Christ was never one to show favoritism. Jesus didn’t choose his friends and companions by the money they made, their influence, or other worldly basis. He knew their hearts and based his decisions on that alone. He often exalted the meek and the downtrodden. For James, and for us, Christianity is a religion for all men, and God shall surely judge us all equally no matter our station in life. And if we are to imitate Christ, we must make no more fuss over looks, wealth, or celebrity than we would for a groundskeeper at the park.

In verse 8 James reminds us that Christ commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is an important notion. It commands us to love the person, not that person’s wealth, power or attractiveness.

Questions to ponder:

  • When was the last time you caught yourself judging another harshly? In God’s eyes, how do you think he would compare you with this person?
  • How can you better align your thoughts of others with God’s?
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