James continues with his practical advice of how to live the Christian life. He deals with partiality, favoritism, prejudice, and judging someone’s life by the amount of financial riches. This principle is taught in the Old Testament as well. Finally, he addresses Christian liberty.
My translation and notes on James 2:1-13
James Chapter 2
Believers Should Treat All Christians Equally
1 My brothers, do not have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, with partiality.
[The ‘faith of our Lord Jesus Christ’ is the Gospel, God’s worldview, lifestyle, doctrine, and rules of Messiah’s kingdom. The Lord of Glory is both His glory (John 1:14 and Matthew 17:1-13) and the glory of His kingdom (2 Peter 1:16-18). The Greek word for ‘partiality’ is (G4382) προσωποληψία prosopolepsia. It means partiality, i.e., favoritism—Strong. Also, see Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, and Colossians 3:25. Jacob showed partially (Genesis 37), and it caused many family problems. Nevertheless, God overruled his foolish actions in the end (Genesis 50:20)].
2 For if a man with gold ring and expensive clothes comes into yourp assembly, and a poor man with shabby clothes comes in also,
3 And youp favor him who wears the impressive clothing and say to him, “Sit over in this place of honor,” but youp say to the poor, “Stand over there,” or “Sit here under my feet.”
[This example does not teach the poor should have special privileges. It does teach us to treat each individual as an individual. We are not to base our actions to others on their “group” status].
4 Are youp not prejudiced in yourselvesp and become judges with evil thoughts?
[These ‘judges’ assume something by the way someone acts, talks, dresses, appears, etc. God’s way, the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, is to approach all people with love and kindness. Love is not tolerance for anything. Compare Revelation 2:20, Habakkuk 1:3,13, and 1 Corinthians 5:1. God’s love accepts each on their self, not on any human made standards. Would Jesus have been accepted? See Matthew 8:19-20 and 2 Corinthians 8:9. Warren Wiersbe (WIERSBE BIBLE COMMENTARY: NEW TESTAMENT) writes:
James wanted to help us practice God’s Word, so he gave us a simple test. He sent two visitors to a church service, a rich man and a poor man; and he watched to see how they were treated. The way we behave toward people indicates what we really believe about God! We cannot—and dare not—separate human relationships from divine fellowship.’ If a man say, ‘I love God,’ and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?’ (1John 4:20).
Notice the rebuke, judges with evil thoughts].
Believers Should Know Why God Treats Equally
5 Listen, my beloved brothers, hasn’t God chosen the poor of this world [to be] rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?
[Believers, whether poor and rich, have the same inheritance with Jesus. How much of this world’s financial riches and goods does not equal one’s spiritual riches. Those who love Jesus are those who live the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2)].
6 But youp, youp despise the poor. Don’t rich people oppress youp and drag youp into the courts?
7 Don’t they curse that beautiful name youp are named after?
[This is a warning to all rich people. See Proverbs 11:28, Proverbs 27:24, and 1 Timothy 6:17-18].
Believers Should Know This Was Taught in the Old Testament
8 If, however, youp fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “Yous must love yours neighbor as yourselfs [Leviticus 19:18].” Youp do well.
[This is named the ‘royal’ law because God lives by that law. Loving our neighbor as ourself would mean no cursing of parents, no killing/harming/abusing, no sexual sins, no stealing, no lying, and no coveting. There would be kindness and compassion instead of selfishness. Compare the 10 Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:1-22].
9 But if youp are partial, youp commit sin and are exposed by that law as being lawbreakers.
10 For whosoever will obey the whole law and yet fail in one [point] is guilty of all.
[Just one sin in thoughts, desires, words, or deeds carries the death penalty physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually for eternity. As others have pointed out by the time, we are 20 years old, we have lived approximately 7,300 days. If we commit 5 sins a day (lies or whatever), we have committed 36,500 death penalty offenses].
11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” [Exodus 20:14 and Deuteronomy 5:18] also said, “Do not kill.” [Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17] Now if yous do not commit adultery, yet yous kill, yous have become a violator of the law.
God’s Judgment Under the Law of Liberty
12 So speak and act like those who will be judged under the law of liberty
[What we say and what we do are BOTH important. We must be consistent. The Greek word “liberty” is ἐλευθερία eleuthería (G1657) and is translated “liberty” because freedom is a release from something and an internal attitude while liberty is a permission still under accountability. The law of liberty is the Law of Jesus (the rules in the New Testament].
13 For the judgment [is] without mercy to those who have shown no mercy, and [the law of liberty] exults mercy over judgment.
[Wilbur Pickering PhD notes: Perhaps 20% of the Greek manuscripts have ‘mercy’ in the nominative case, making it the subject of the verb (as in most versions), but some 80%, including the best line of transmission, have ‘mercy’ in the accusative case, making it the direct object (which to me makes much better sense). This accords with God’s description of Himself in Exodus 34:6-7—He keeps mercy to the 1000th generation, He punishes to the 4th; the proportion is 250:1].