James 2: No Favoritism

26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

No Favoritism; 2:1-7

1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 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. 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,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 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? 6 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? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

Just Love; 2:8-13

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 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.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

The Christian community is to be distinguished by love.  James calls love the “royal law,” for Jesus himself commanded it.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34, 35

James has, as a believer, deliberately chosen a “law of liberty.”  That law relies on God’s mercy and not the ruthless demands of the old code.  It follows that if we are to enjoy mercy, we must apply mercy to others.  To judge others is to deny them the liberty and the mercy on which we rely.

No love makes a simple demand.  We are to value each person for himself or herself.  Since favoritism involves judging some as less worthy of our love and concern, it is totally ruled out in the believing community.

Chapter 2:14-26. Faith and Life 

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 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? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 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. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless ? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 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. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 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? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

True faith will always be revealed in what one does.

Abraham, who not only believed that God exists, but he trusted himself to God to the extent that he offered his son Isaac on the altar.”  This response of Abraham to God showed the nature of faith:  “his faith was made complete by what he did.”  James’ thought is that faith is like the roots and trunk of a tree, which is “perfected” or made complete when it produces fruit.

The fruit of good works, produced by the dynamic power of faith, justified (vindicated”) Abraham as a righteous person.  God had pronounced Abraham righteous, but it was only the works he did which enabled others to see the reality of the change within him.

James then is not contrasting faith with works, or teaching a salvation by works.  He is simply pointing out that biblical faith involves a dynamic inner transformation, which by its nature must be evidenced by a change in one’s life.  In this sense faith and works are always complementary.

[New Year 2019!!  Forget the past and move forward.  Jump into the newness.  Walk with confidence.  I’ll walk by faith.  James is Jesus’ human brother.  I want to pay attention to what he says.  mercy.  no favoritism.  good works.]