November 15th James 2
Prejudice and respect
1: My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2: For if there come unto your assembly (Synagogue) a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3: And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5: Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6: But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7: Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? 8: If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10: For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11: For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12: So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13: For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
Faith in action
14: What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15: If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16: And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17: Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18: Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19: Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20: But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21: Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22: Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23: And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24: Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25: Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26: For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
James cautions his Jewish brethren not to have faith in Christ with prejudice. We must never allow ourselves to be overawed by the rich and treat them with respect, while ignoring or even despising the poor. In our celebrity focused society this could not be more appropriate. He says, hasn’t God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith? James describes this as a sin, a very grevious sin. And he says brothers you might keep the whole law, but if you act in this disgraceful way to a poor man, who has no power to defend himself, then you have broken all the law. (Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, however the exhortation to non-partiality could be applied to us. We should not have prejudice to ward any brother but treat all brothers with equal respect. This does not mean lowering our respect to include all but raising respect to be applied to all.) next James turns to our treatment of the poor. James says if a poor man comes into your synagogue1 then you are not to treat him in any inferior way, if a rich man follows him in, wearing a gold ring – (a symbol of authority and power) He continues to say, its one thing to say l will pray for the hungry and homeless, but that does not fill a hungry stomach or clothe a person shivering in the cold. Faith should have action attached to it. And if a person says, l have faith - then that faith can be justifiable questioned if there is no charity expressed. (For the Jews charity was the height of righteousness) James gives the example of Abraham and Rahab who not only believed God and were justified before God but who did acts of practical charity. Faith without action is worthless.
- How should these Jews react if a rich person comes into a synagogue?
- How should these Jews respond to a poor man coming into the Synagogue?
- How is faith in God demonstrated in practical living?
1 There is no excuse of any translator to turn the word synagogue into assembly or church it is referring to a Jewish synagogue.