My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? 2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well,4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? 5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear? 8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. 10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. 12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.
Not only should we treat people based on God’s purposes, but we should also:
- Treat people based on Christ’s commandments (2:8-11)
Once again, James goes back to the words of Jesus. In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus was confronted by an expert in the Religious law who pretended to be interested in truth but was really trying to trap Jesus: “But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Jesus spoke truth into this trap and in a few sentences he summed up the entire law, reducing the 10 commandments down to 2. The first 4 commandments deal with the way we are supposed to love God. While the next 6 deal with the way we are supposed to love each other. Everything that God had revealed in His Word to that point dealt with how we should treat Him and others. When we treat others the wrong way, it violates God’s Word, not just part of it but all of it. Today we are trying to address social issues through a worldly system instead of through the Word. We are protesting social injustice by kneeling during the National anthem instead of kneeling to the King of Kings. Why do we treat others people like trash because we have disregarded and trashed God’s truth. Now before you get carried away with judging those who are kneeling, I have a question for you. Why do we get so worked up over the American flag being disrespected and yet have no problem dragging the name of Christ through the mud in the way that we live? In some of Jesus last words to His disciples before He was betrayed, He told them in John 13:34-35: “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” This is what James calls the royal law, and when we violate that law, we violate the Word of God. So, is it really that big of a deal when we show preference to people? Is it really that big of a deal when we treat people unfairly? I mean, what’s the harm in a little gossip? What’s the harm in only talking to people I like? Or in ignoring difficult people, or people who are different? What’s the harm in criticizing or putting other people down? What’s the harm in bragging about myself to make me look good? What’s the harm in showing partiality and setting myself up as judge and jury as to who is worthy and who is not worthy? Well is it loving, is it in obedience to Christ’s commands or am I displaying disobedience? If it’s not following His commands, then it’s breaking His commands. And verse 10 says that if you break one commandment, you’ve broken the whole law. James paints a sobering picture revealing God’s perspective on the subject. That when we fail to treat others right, spiritually we are just as guilty before God as if we had committed adultery. How serious a sin is mistreating people James likens it to murder. Now we might think that those “big sins” adultery and murder have way more temporal consequences because they’re more obvious in destroyed lives and broken homes. But what happens when we don’t treat people right? Think back to James illustration of the rich and poor man who walked into the Jerusalem church. Do you think that poor man is going to come back to church? Will he be drawn to Christ or driven away? What about the rich man, is he going to be pointed to Christ? Or because everybody else is focused on his wealth, that’s what he will focus on too? Treating others, the right way is serious business, serious enough that He reiterated it by telling us it was His only new commandment.