The Sin of Partiality
2 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 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, 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,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 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? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 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. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Faith Without Works Is Dead
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
James 2 Commentary
by Hank Workman
Salvation arrives by the amazing and most abundant grace given through Jesus. All of our faults, all of our struggles, and all of our sins do not define us because of Jesus. We step into such a free relationship with Him through faith.
But as James makes it a point here, obedience should take top priority in our lives from here on out. And this is where it gets sticky, as we know all too well. We still struggle and are still in need of a daily dose of grace as we navigate through our lives. And so God’s grace doesn’t cancel out our obligation for obedience. And many times that obedience is in the form of action.
When we claim someone has faith in Christ, we may direct our thoughts toward their mindset or even intellect of things in regards to the Word. But it doesn’t stop there. That faith would be incomplete. True faith transforms every aspect of who we are and how we respond. If we don’t change, then we don’t truly believe the things we claim to believe.
We must put feet to our faith and live it out boldly and for His Kingdom. Although our deeds will never earn us salvation – true faith results in not only that changed life but good deeds as well. A wholehearted commitment both in voice and with our actions will please the Will of God.
James 2 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Not surprisingly, James fires out more questions for believers here in Chapter 2. Among them are several targeting unfair treatment based on stereotypes.
- Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?
- Is it not the rich who oppress you?
- Don’t they drag you into court and blaspheme you?
Though poor and oppressed, God chose Israel as His nation. The poor became rich in faith when God delivered them time and time again, such as in Exodus when they escaped Egypt. Jesus targeted the poor when He came with power, authority, and a message of Good News. He associated with those whom no one else wanted to be around. His mission involved ministering to the marginalized of society. The poor became rich in faith when they accepted His Message and believed in His saving power as Messiah.
I don’t believe that James argues that wealthy people cannot see God or receive Salvation. However, we do know that those who are poor in spirit posture themselves to receive a greater work. Jesus went to the needy because the proud and the arrogant rejected Him. This was Jesus’ beef with the church at Laodicea. They thought they had everything they needed but they had only filled their life with material pleasures. Naturally, the poor and needy had no way to put material pleasures ahead of God’s Kingdom because they couldn’t afford them!
This is the core principle we see illustrated when we fast. We deny ourselves the comfort of eating (which poor people deal with daily), in order to focus intently on the Lord and His Kingdom purposes. We fast and pray for a greater revelation of the Lord while giving up what is taking our attention away from Him. This concept becomes crystal clear in the first part of this chapter.
James then follows up this teaching with the famous verse regarding faith without works. Simply put, it is impossible to please God without faith and James defines what the Christian faith should look like. It’s an active faith. It’s a serving faith. It is a loving faith. We know our faith is genuine when we, just like the believers who came before us, exercise that faith by actually doing something.
With all that said, James is concerned with those who think they only need Jesus once in a while, as well as those who profess Jesus but do not act. Both were a problem in the early church and both continue to plague the modern church.